Escondido Falls

Santa Monica Mountains / Malibu, California, USA

About Escondido Falls


Hiking Distance: 4.25 miles round trip; scramble
Suggested Time: 2-3 hours

Date first visited: 2009-02-08
Date last visited: 2019-04-07

Waterfall Latitude: 34.0432
Waterfall Longitude: -118.77935

Escondido Falls could very well be the tallest waterfall in the Santa Monica Mountains.

It consists of a lower drop of about 40-50ft as well as a much taller upper drop of at least 150ft or more.

Escondido_Falls_141_04072019 - The Upper Escondido Falls
The Upper Escondido Falls

If you include the hidden middle tiers between the two main drops, then this waterfall could very well be over 200ft tall!

Like with most coastal waterfalls in Southern and Central California, the underlying cliffs supported mossy growth.

This tended to give such waterfalls “character” as Julie likes to say.

The Escondido Falls Experience

The word “escondido” is Spanish for “hidden,” and it seemed to be quite an appropriate name for this waterfall.

Escondido_Falls_005_04142012 - Large homes overlooking the Pacific Ocean have concealed the Nature of Escondido Canyon
Large homes overlooking the Pacific Ocean have concealed the Nature of Escondido Canyon

That was because Escondido Canyon sat behind some super big homes with gorgeous ocean views that typify the prime real estate of the Malibu area.

Indeed, such developments concealed the wilderness behind these homes, which also concealed the underlying Nature that seek to undermine such structures.

Moreover, the upper waterfall itself was elusive to the uninitiated, and it required a bit of a risky adventure to reach.

The Lower Escondido Falls was very easy to reach as it only required a hike of roughly 3.5 miles round trip.

Escondido_Falls_042_02082009 - The Lower Escondido Falls when we first saw it back in February 2009
The Lower Escondido Falls when we first saw it back in February 2009

Thus, it tended to receive the vast majority of its visitors.

Over the years, we’ve seen this waterfall go from a relatively obscure local hike into a very busy spot, especially on the weekends.

That means parking can be an issue without an early start.

Also, being a rainfall-dependent waterfall, it tends to flow only on years where we’ve had an appreciable amount of rain in the Winter months.

Escondido_Falls_032_04142012 - Someone had climbed up to an upper grotto behind the Upper Escondido Falls for a photo op
Someone had climbed up to an upper grotto behind the Upper Escondido Falls for a photo op

Given the combination of a pretty dry climate with an unpredictable Climate Change-induced feast or famine wet versus dry year pattern, only on certain years could we expect the falls to flow nicely in the Spring.

At other times of the year, or on poor rainfall years, we generally don’t expect this waterfall to perform.

Escondido Falls Trail Description – hiking from PCH into Escondido Canyon

After parking the car (see directions below), we had to walk up the Winding Way Road.

This road was really a residential street passing by a handful of multi-million-dollar homes with ocean views.

Escondido_Falls_018_04072019 - Walking along Winding Way Road, which was flanked by the opulence of grand Malibu homes
Walking along Winding Way Road, which was flanked by the opulence of grand Malibu homes

We had to walk this stretch because no street parking was allowed throughout this road.

For roughly the first 3/4-mile of the hike, Winding Way Road climbed to an apex before descending into Escondido Canyon.

Depending on the amount of rainfall and the timing, the hillsides flanking Escondido Canyon may bloom with large mats of yellow and purple wildflowers.

According to a staff member we spoke to here, he mentioned that most of the yellow flowers were actually the invasive black mustard.

Escondido_Falls_032_04072019 - About to leave Winding Way Road and descend into Escondido Canyon
About to leave Winding Way Road and descend into Escondido Canyon

However, the native flowers we’ve seen here include lupines, sunflowers, and even the odd California Poppy.

As the Winding Way Road descended into the canyon, we then left the road and took the signed trail as it entered the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.

The trail used to leave the road past the last house along Winding Way Road, but they’ve since re-routed it to the current spot (perhaps to respect the privacy of that last homeowner).

In any case, depending on the conditions, this trail can be muddy and slippery given the trajectory of the slope combined with the lack of asphalt after having left the road.

Escondido_Falls_040_04072019 - The impressive wildflower bloom as we left the Winding Way Road and descended into Escondido Canyon
The impressive wildflower bloom as we left the Winding Way Road and descended into Escondido Canyon

It can also be dry and eroded with the odd mini-gully cutting right through the middle of the path.

Nevertheless, the entire area can also be blanketed with wildflowers both on the hillsides and even flanking the immediate trail.

This was the case on a recent visit in 2019, which was a wet year yielding one of the best wildflower blooms we can ever remember.

Escondido Falls Trail Description – hiking the Escondido Canyon Trail to the lower waterfall

Once the initial descent into the canyon bottomed out, we then crossed a creek, which I suspected was part of the same creek responsible for the waterfalls.

Escondido_Falls_080_04072019 - In the spring, Escondido Canyon can be filled with wildflowers both native (like the lupines on the lower left) and non-native (like the black mustards shown on the right)
In the spring, Escondido Canyon can be filled with wildflowers both native (like the lupines on the lower left) and non-native (like the black mustards shown on the right)

This was the first of a handful of creek crossings, especially if the creek has an appreciable amount of water (a good sign that the Escondido Falls would be flowing).

Overall, we counted about five such creek crossings, which were mostly trivial though having Gore-tex boots as well as trekking poles certainly helped.

The trail was mostly flat with very minor undulations as it generally climbed a couple hundred feet over the next mile.

As the trail followed the creek upstream, we tended to see a fair amount of trees providing some degree of shade.

Escondido_Falls_094_04072019 - Passing through an area badly affected by the Woolsey Fire, which burnt most of the vegetation around the Escondido Falls Trail
Passing through an area badly affected by the Woolsey Fire, which burnt most of the vegetation around the Escondido Falls Trail

We also encountered a few clearings which presented the best places to spot wildflowers as well as the odd home perched atop the ridges overlooking Escondido Canyon.

That said, on our most recent visit in 2019, which followed the Woolsey Fire, we noticed a lot of the trees that once provided us shade had burned.

Eventually after about 1.5 miles from the trailhead, we started to catch glimpses of the Upper Escondido Falls high above the canyon.

In our first couple of visits, there was enough vegetation to conceal most of this upper tier.

Escondido_Falls_101_04072019 - The Woolsey Fire burnt most of the vegetation that normally would have concealed the Upper Escondido Falls when viewed from the main trail
The Woolsey Fire burnt most of the vegetation that normally would have concealed the Upper Escondido Falls when viewed from the main trail

However, after the fire, it seemed like this upper drop was clearly visible.

Eventually after around 1.75 miles or so, we finally arrived at the base of the Lower Escondido Falls and its 40-50ft mossy drop.

This waterfall provided a nice backdrop for photos as well as letting the kids play in the water.

The only concern I had with the water quality of the creek had to do with how much of its contents consisted of suburban runoff from the homes perched above Escondido Canyon.

Escondido_Falls_116_04072019 - The very busy scene at the more-accessible Lower Escondido Falls
The very busy scene at the more-accessible Lower Escondido Falls

Anyways, this is where most people would turn back and return to the trailhead, which would make the overall hiking distance on the order of about 3.7 miles round trip.

Escondido Falls Trail Description – scrambling to the upper waterfall

In order to access the base of the Upper Escondido Falls, we had to go on a steep climb for about a quarter-mile.

We have to caution you that if you want to continue, it’s not for everyone as it contains dropoff hazards as well as rockfall hazards (especially from other people kicking rocks down).

I’d recommend not attempting to go to the Upper Falls in tennis shoes or running shoes due to insufficient grip on the steep and slippery slopes.

Escondido_Falls_054_02082009 - A pair of people making the steep climb up towards the upper Escondido Falls
A pair of people making the steep climb up towards the upper Escondido Falls

The scrambling path followed a steep gully on the east side of the creek (to the right of the waterfall).

The trail became progressively steeper the higher up we went, and it required the use of all of our limbs to climb up rocks while trying not to lose our footing (which was really easy to do).

There were about three or four sections during the climb up to the Upper Escondido Falls that Julie and I thought were potentially hairy.

In one particularly eroded section, we had seen a rope set up to make it less likely to slip and fall into a dropoff right above the brink of the Lower Escondido Falls.

Escondido_Falls_019_04142012 - A particularly tricky part of the scramble to the Upper Escondido Falls involving us having to hold onto the rope (which may or may not be there since it's not an official aid)
A particularly tricky part of the scramble to the Upper Escondido Falls involving us having to hold onto the rope (which may or may not be there since it’s not an official aid)

That rope may not be there, however, nor could it be relied upon as it was not a sanctioned aid.

Once we were past these obstacles, the “path” went around a bend with a nice view of the canyon below us.

It then hugged a narrow ledge towards another stream crossing with a small middle-tier cascade fronting it.

After the middle cascade, there was another steep climb with a particularly tricky section up some more rocks with particularly large spaces between “footholds”.

Escondido_Falls_110_04142012 - Climbing up a particularly steep section right after the rope part
Climbing up a particularly steep section right after the rope part

We definitely had to exercise caution here given how easy it was to slide back down and take a potentially nasty fall.

Once we traversed this nearly vertical rock-wall obstacle, Julie and I were able to follow the path along the stream until we arrived at the base of the Upper Escondido Falls.

Given the adventure it took to get here, we definitely lingered for as long as possible before facing the same obstacles on the way back down.

In this instance, going down seemed just as challenging (if not more) than going up due to the dropoff exposure and slick footing.

Escondido_Falls_157_04072019 - Looking up from the bottom of the Upper Escondido Falls
Looking up from the bottom of the Upper Escondido Falls

In any case, with the Upper Escondido Falls included in the overall excursion, the round trip hiking distance was more on the order of 4.2 miles.

The Effect of Fire on the Upper Escondido Falls Scramble

After the Woolsey Fire took place in late 2018, when I re-visited this upper waterfall in 2019, I didn’t recognize the “path” that we were used to doing in all our prior visits (as described above).

In fact, the fire managed to burn off most of the vegetation, which meant that the very greenery that actually stabilized the soil of this steep hillside was no longer there!

As a result, the scrambling became even more treacherous, especially if not wearing proper footwear.

Escondido_Falls_121_04072019 - After the fire, most of the vegetation that once stabilized the steep hillside to the Upper Escondido Falls was gone. Thus, the steep scramble became even more dangerous due to the resultant erosion
After the fire, most of the vegetation that once stabilized the steep hillside to the Upper Escondido Falls was gone. Thus, the steep scramble became even more dangerous due to the resultant erosion

I saw numerous people doing this unprepared while irresponsibly kicking down rocks towards unsuspecting hikers down below in the process.

Not only was the ascent even more trickier (i.e. more slippery and more eroded) than it had been in the past, but the descent also seemed even more dangerous than before.

Looking back on that experience, I personally wouldn’t recommend doing this scramble until the hillside has had a chance to re-vegetate and re-stabilize the soil.

That said, I’ve seen a lot of people (prepared or not) doing this scramble and causing even more erosion.

Escondido_Falls_125_04072019 - The drama isn't over after reaching the Upper Escondido Falls, because you still have to go back down the steep, eroded hillside to return to the Lower Escondido Falls
The drama isn’t over after reaching the Upper Escondido Falls, because you still have to go back down the steep, eroded hillside to return to the Lower Escondido Falls

Therefore, it might take a long time (if ever) before such soil stabilization could occur.

While you’re always going to have conflicting or bad advise from the Socials (i.e. social media) by people who have also done this scramble, don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Authorities

Escondido Falls resides in the Escondido Canyon Park near Malibu in Los Angeles County, California. It is administered by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Escondido_Falls_004_04072019 - On our April 2019 hike to Escondido Falls, we already started seeing nice wildflowers by PCH, which was an indication of what was to come.  Note that this photo and the next several shots were taken on this day
Escondido_Falls_007_04072019 - Looking up the hillside towards some of the homes alongside Winding Way Road as the hills were matted with yellow wildflowers at the start of our April 2019 visit
Escondido_Falls_015_04072019 - The crew walking up the Winding Way Road en route to the Escondido Falls during our April 2019 hike
Escondido_Falls_019_04072019 - Some attractive flowers blooming alongside the Winding Way Road as we continued to make our way to Escondido Canyon en route to the Escondido Falls in April 2019
Escondido_Falls_021_04072019 - Continuing along the Winding Way Road, which was busy with lots of people in addition to our own group en route to Escondido Falls in April 2019
Escondido_Falls_025_04072019 - Approaching the Escondido Canyon after cresting the Winding Way Road as we suddenly were treated to impressive wildflower displays on the canyon's hillsides during our April 2019 hike to Escondido Falls
Escondido_Falls_030_04072019 - Looking down into the colorful Escondido Canyon from the Winding Way Road during our April 2019 hike to Escondido Falls
Escondido_Falls_033_04072019 - Descending past this sign and onto the start of the trail to Escondido Falls in April 2019
Escondido_Falls_041_04072019 - Context of people descending into Escondido Canyon en route to the Escondido Falls while looking ahead at the impressive wildflowers blooming on the canyon walls during our April 2019 hike
Escondido_Falls_047_04072019 - Julie crossing the creek at the bottom of Escondido Canyon en route to the Escondido Falls in April 2019
Escondido_Falls_048_04072019 - In addition to all the yellows that we've seen on the canyon walls of Escondido Canyon, we also saw some purple wildflowers like these during our April 2019 hike to Escondido Falls
Escondido_Falls_049_04072019 - Other nice wildflowers in bloom during our April 2019 hike to Escondido Falls
Escondido_Falls_052_04072019 - The crew approaching the next stream crossing on the way to Escondido Falls in April 2019
Escondido_Falls_055_04072019 - Another one of the stream crossings on the way to Escondido Falls during our April 2019 hike
Escondido_Falls_059_04072019 - It seemed like the fire that ripped through here in late 2018 freed up some nutrients while also making it easier to appreciate the superbloom of wildflowers in Escondido Canyon during our April 2019 hike to Escondido Falls
Escondido_Falls_061_04072019 - Passing beneath some burnt trees affected by the Woolsey Fire during our April 2019 hike to Escondido Falls
Escondido_Falls_066_04072019 - The trail to Escondido Falls was starting to show signs of growth going onto the trail itself in the rush for all of the plants to get sunlight now that a lot of trees were cleared by fire as seen during our April 2019 hike
Escondido_Falls_069_04072019 - Still more beautiful wildflowers flanking the trail to Escondido Falls with yellow superbloomed hills in the background as seen in April 2019
Escondido_Falls_070_04072019 - Looking back at an open part of Escondido Canyon with lots of wildflowers in bloom during our April 2019 hike to Escondido Falls
Escondido_Falls_074_04072019 - The water-eroded Escondido Canyon Trail flanked by lots of wildflowers as seen in April 2019. Notice the homes atop the hills in the background, which may have narrowly escaped getting burned by the Woolsey Fire
Escondido_Falls_085_04072019 - Continuing along the trail to Escondido Falls flanked by the superbloom during our April 2019 visit
Escondido_Falls_090_04072019 - Checking out some of the California Poppies that were also blooming in Escondido Canyon during our April 2019 hike to Escondido Falls
Escondido_Falls_093_04072019 - Hiking beneath more dead or burnt trees on the way to the Escondido Falls during our April 2019 hike
Escondido_Falls_097_04072019 - Starting to see the Upper Escondido Falls further up the hillside as we were getting closer to the base of the Lower Escondido Falls on our April 2019 visit. Typically, it would have been much harder to see the Upper Falls this soon, but the Woolsey Fire burnt off a lot of the foliage that otherwise would have blocked the view
Escondido_Falls_107_04072019 - Due to the Woolsey Fire in late 2018, indeed it was much easier to spot the Upper Escondido Falls towards the end of the official trail on our April 2019 hike
Escondido_Falls_109_04072019 - Approaching the very busy base of the Lower Escondido Falls as seen in April 2019
Escondido_Falls_111_04072019 - Lots of people at the base of the Lower Escondido Falls during our visit in April 2019
Escondido_Falls_119_04072019 - Looking down at some people precariously descending to the base of the Lower Escondido Falls after having made their scramble to the Upper Escondido Falls as seen in April 2019
Escondido_Falls_120_04072019 - Partial view down towards the Lower Escondido Falls during the eroded scramble to the Upper Escondido Falls in April 2019
Escondido_Falls_122_04072019 - Looking down at some people struggling on the eroded hillsides in their efforts to reach the Upper Escondido Falls post Woolsey Fire in April 2019
Escondido_Falls_123_04072019 - Just to give you an idea of the erosion and steepness in April 2019, here was one lady who really gingerly made her way back down this slippery rock slope
Escondido_Falls_124_04072019 - Looking up at other people trying to find their way to the Upper Escondido Falls up above me in April 2019.  I had to be very watchful of rocks being kicked down the slope by people scrambling from a higher position
Escondido_Falls_126_04072019 - Looking ahead closer to the Upper Escondido Falls after having made it to a ridge via a route that I didn't recognize given the damage and erosion after the Woolsey Fire as seen in April 2019
Escondido_Falls_127_04072019 - Looking back at a couple of hikers who have made it to the ridge before the Upper Escondido Falls in April 2019
Escondido_Falls_129_04072019 - Looking up at a trio of people still wanting to climb even higher beyond the Upper Escondido Falls (possibly to its top) as of my April 2019 visit
Escondido_Falls_131_04072019 - Finally at the Upper Escondido Falls in April 2019
Escondido_Falls_139_04072019 - Looking up at the context of someone who managed to scramble his way up to the brink of the Upper Escondido Falls during my April 2019 visit
Escondido_Falls_146_04072019 - While there may be dozens of people at the base of the Lower Escondido Falls, only a handful of people made it up to the Upper Escondido Falls given the treacherous post-fire climb that was involved as of April 2019
Escondido_Falls_151_04072019 - Looking up towards the top of the Upper Escondido Falls during my April 2019 visit
Escondido_Falls_161_04072019 - Long exposed look at the base of the Upper Escondido Falls as seen in April 2019
Escondido_Falls_166_04072019 - After having my fill of the Upper Escondido Falls, I now had to go back down the steep and eroded post-fire-soil-depleted slope on my April 2019 visit
Escondido_Falls_168_04072019 - Looking across Escondido Canyon during the scramble back down to the base of the Lower Escondido Falls in April 2019
Escondido_Falls_169_04072019 - People descending on the eroded gully after having attempted to go up to the Upper Escondido Falls in April 2019
Escondido_Falls_179_04072019 - Back at the Lower Escondido Falls in flow in April 2019 after having finished my Upper Escondido Falls scramble
Escondido_Falls_182_04072019 - The kids enjoying themselves in the creek just downstream of the Lower Escondido Falls in April 2019
Escondido_Falls_184_04072019 - Looking up at the context of the eroded gully climb to the Upper Escondido Falls as quite a few people were doing this scramble as of April 2019
Escondido_Falls_198_04072019 - The crew hiking back along Escondido Canyon after having their fill of the Escondido Falls in April 2019
Escondido_Falls_200_04072019 - Getting to re-experience the wildflower superbloom in Escondido Canyon on our return hike from Escondido Falls in April 2019
Escondido_Falls_212_04072019 - Making it back to the Winding Way Road after having gone through Escondido Canyon on our way back from Escondido Falls in April 2019
Escondido_Falls_231_04072019 - The crew hiking back along Winding Way Road after having had their fill of the Escondido Falls in April 2019
Escondido_Falls_242_04072019 - This was what Escondido Canyon looked like with the superbloom in April 2019 as we headed back to PCH to conclude our excursion
Escondido_Falls_260_04072019 - Heading back down the Winding Way Road with PCH and the Pacific Ocean up ahead towards the conclusion of our April 2019 visit to Escondido Falls
Escondido_Falls_265_04072019 - Looking up at some of the black mustard blooms along the Winding Way Road en route to PCH to end our April 2019 visit to Escondido Falls
Escondido_Falls_266_04072019 - The crew making it back to PCH at the end of our April 2019 visit to Escondido Falls
Escondido_Falls_001_04142012 - The small trailhead parking for Escondido Falls at the base of Winding Way Road as seen during our April 2012 visit. This photo and the next several photos took place on this day
Escondido_Falls_002_04142012 - Julie walking up the Winding Way Road en route to Escondido Falls in April 2012
Escondido_Falls_008_04142012 - On our April 2012 visit to Escondido Falls, they moved the sign and re-routed the trail to this spot. Therefore, we wouldn't be hiking the paved road all the way to its end like last time
Escondido_Falls_010_04142012 - Julie on the re-routed trail into Escondido Canyon during our April 2012 visit
Escondido_Falls_013_04142012 - An April 2012 look at the Lower Escondido Falls
Escondido_Falls_018_04142012 - Julie starting the steep ascent to the Upper Escondido Falls during our April 2012 visit
Escondido_Falls_024_04142012 - One of the hidden middle tiers of the Escondido Falls on the way up to its upper drop during our April 2012 visit
Escondido_Falls_029_04142012 - Looking up at the Upper Escondido Falls at an angle when we finally made it up there in April 2012
Escondido_Falls_035_04142012 - Looking straight up to the top of the Upper Escondido Falls in our visit in April 2012
Escondido_Falls_043_04142012 - Another direct look up at the top of the Upper Escondido Falls as seen from its base in April 2012
Escondido_Falls_082_04142012 - Me looking up at Upper Escondido Falls in April 2012
Escondido_Falls_085_04142012 - Long exposed look up towards the top of the Upper Escondido Falls as seen from its bottom during our visit in April 2012
Escondido_Falls_096_04142012 - More focused look up at the top part of the mossy Upper Escondido Falls as seen in April 2012 when it had a lot more vegetation around it
Escondido_Falls_098_04142012 - Graffiti by the Upper Escondido Falls, which was an unfortunate sight as of April 2012. Hopefully this and plastic bottles left behind doesn't become a major problem here, but I somehow doubt that urban blight won't get worse
Escondido_Falls_101_04142012 - Last look at the Upper Escondido Falls while going back down during our April 2012 visit
Escondido_Falls_102_04142012 - Julie managing a tricky descent where you have to sit and scoot your way back down from the Upper Escondido Falls during our April 2012 visit
Escondido_Falls_105_04142012 - A section with a narrow ledge as we made our way back down from the Upper Escondido Falls in April 2012. I didn't recall seeing this ledge anymore during our April 2019 visit as a result of all the erosion and soil destabilization from the Woolsey Fire
Escondido_Falls_109_04142012 - Pretty view of Escondido Canyon during the descent back down from the upper waterfall in April 2012
Escondido_Falls_111_04142012 - Made it back down to the Lower Escondido Falls during our April 2012 visit
Escondido_Falls_112_04142012 - Ocean views while walking the residential Winding Way Road back to the Escondido Falls Trailhead as seen in April 2012
Escondido_Falls_113_04142012 - Julie almost making it back at the Escondido Falls Trailhead in April 2012
Escondido_Falls_001_02082009 - Looking back at the trailhead parking lot for Escondido Falls during our first time here in February 2009
Escondido_Falls_002_02082009 - Looking up at the uphill Winding Way Road at the start of our hike to Escondido Falls during our first time here in February 2009
Escondido_Falls_003_02082009 - Sign warning us not to park beyond this point along the Winding Way Road en route to the Escondido Falls in February 2009
Escondido_Falls_005_02082009 - Looking over one of the large properties along the Winding Way Road en route to the Escondido Falls during our visit in February 2009
Escondido_Falls_011_02082009 - At the apex of the Winding Way Road climb as seen during our visit to Escondido Falls in February 2009
Escondido_Falls_013_02082009 - The old official trail to Escondido Falls used to pass by the last residence before dropping into Escondido Canyon as of our February 2009 visit
Escondido_Falls_017_02082009 - Julie traversing one of five stream crossings that we counted en route to Escondido Falls in February 2009
Escondido_Falls_018_02082009 - Julie negotiating the muddy footpath when we did the Escondido Falls hike in February 2009
Escondido_Falls_030_02082009 - Our first look at Lower Escondido Falls in February 2009
Escondido_Falls_045_02082009 - After crossing the creek at the base of the Lower Escondido Falls, we got this more open look at the waterfall during our February 2009 visit
Escondido_Falls_056_02082009 - Just to give you an idea of how much more stable the trail was back in February 2009 (when there was lots more vegetation around the scramble up to the Upper Escondido Falls), here was a look back at the trail of use leading higher up Escondido Canyon
Escondido_Falls_058_02082009 - Given all the vegetation in Escondido Canyon in February 2009, it was also much harder to see the Upper Escondido Falls from the official trail
Escondido_Falls_064_02082009 - This photo shows you just how overgrown and hard-to-see the elusive Upper Escondido Falls was from the official trail as seen in February 2009
Escondido_Falls_067_02082009 - Looking back at the bend at the bottom of the descent past the last home on Winding Way Road. The trail had been re-routed since we encountered this bend back in February 2009
Escondido_Falls_070_02082009 - Looking towards Escondido Canyon during our visit in February 2009
Escondido_Falls_073_02082009 - Looking back towards the descending Winding Way Road after the apex of the road's ascent as we were heading back to the trailhead after having our fill of the Escondido Falls hike back in February 2009
Escondido_Falls_076_02082009 - Looking towards the Pacific Ocean while hiking back to the trailhead parking lot along Winding Way Road during our first time here in February 2009
Escondido_Falls_079_02082009 - Continuing our return hike downhill along the Winding Way Road after having had our fill of Escondido Falls back in February 2009
Escondido_Falls_082_02082009 - Looking towards the Pacific Ocean at what I think might be Catalina Island as seen during our Escondido Falls hike in February 2009
Escondido_Falls_083_02082009 - Returning to the trailhead parking lot for Escondido Falls at the conclusion of our first time here in February 2009

join-booking-970x240-1.jpg


There are many ways to drive to the Escondido Falls Trailhead.

However, we’ll focus on the I-405 and I-10 junction as the starting point of these driving directions since we’ve always crossed this junction every time we’ve visited this waterfall.

So from the I-10/I-405 junction, we headed west on the I-10 freeway through the city of Santa Monica.

We followed this freeway for a little over 3 miles to its end, where the road bent north near the Santa Monica Pier vicinity and became Pacific Coast Highway or PCH.

Then, we continued on the scenic PCH, which hugged the coastline for most of its drive, and we followed it for the next 18 miles.

Escondido_Falls_008_04072019 - The main parking lot for Escondido Falls
The main parking lot for Escondido Falls

Roughly 4 miles west of Pepperdine University in Malibu, PCH then intersected with the Winding Way Road.

Given the high speeds on PCH, this road was easy to miss so if you happen to reach Kanan Dume Road, then you went too far.

Nonetheless, the important thing about this road was that the official trailhead parking for Escondido Falls was on the northwest corner of this intersection.

It looked like recently, they started charging for parking in this lot, which was $8 as of April 2019.

Escondido_Falls_009_04072019 - Charging for parking at the Escondido Falls Trailhead
Charging for parking at the Escondido Falls Trailhead

If the small lot is full, we could find street parking along PCH as long as we didn’t park in the no parking areas around the call box.

Street parking was free as of April 2019.

Speaking of no parking zones, only residents are supposed to drive beyond the parking lot area on Winding Way Road.

There are plenty of signs and wary residents keeping a watchful eye on violators who choose to leave their cars where they’re not supposed to be on Winding Way Road.

Escondido_Falls_002_04072019 - Street parking along the very busy PCH at the start of the hike to Escondido Falls by Winding Way Road
Street parking along the very busy PCH at the start of the hike to Escondido Falls by Winding Way Road

If you find that you have to park on the eastbound side of PCH, be very careful about crossing PCH on foot because people do road rage and overspeed on this road.

Anyways, the drive described on this route took us around 30 minutes (not counting the drive times required to even reach the I-405/I-10 junction in the first place).

For more geographical context, Santa Monica Pier was about 16 miles (30-60 minutes depending on traffic) west of downtown Los Angeles, 52 miles (90-120 minutes drive) northwest of Irvine, and 47 miles (over an hour) east of Oxnard.

Left to right sweep of the Upper Falls in 2019 flow before approaching the base for a closer look at it


Right to left sweep at the Lower Falls with lots of people enjoying the scene


Bottom up sweep of the Lower Escondido Falls from the trail side


L-shaped bottom up sweep of the Lower Escondido Falls from the opposite side of the stream from back in 2012


Backwards L-shaped bottom up sweep from directly in front of the Upper Escondido Falls seen back in 2012


Top down sweep from directly beneath the Upper Escondido Falls


Angled profile bottom up L-shaped sweep of the Upper Escondido Falls where you can see the wind scatter the water

Tagged with: malibu, santa monica mountains, los angeles, california, southern california, waterfall



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Visitor Reviews of this Waterfall:

911 experience at Escondido falls July 10, 2012 11:39 am by Chester Tan - The hike is not for everyone. For all the would be hikers of the Escondido canyon/falls please be advised to wear shoes with good traction soles esp if you plan to hike to the higher tier of the falls. Only this Sunday past, it was an unfortunate site to witness a girl slip and twist… ...Read More
Top of the Top (Escondido Falls) February 17, 2012 7:38 pm by Squainbrain - I've been on this hike several times. Every time we go to the bottom of the upper falls. It can be a little sketchy when using the rope to get up the hill but besides that it is very do-able. One thing I did that I noticed no one is talking about is the hike… ...Read More
Escondido Falls April 24, 2011 7:39 pm by Grayson S. - This was an incredible hike! it was very crowded the day I went but it was well worth seeing the falls!! Whenever I saw pictures of the upper falls, i did not believe the true size, it looks much smaller in photos!! When we got to the lower falls, it was very fanned out with… ...Read More
CMarie (Escondido Falls) November 14, 2010 6:27 am by Carol Moreno - This hike is AMAZING! I was happy going through this trail with a few friends as it was quite pretty. The road up is a long one and there were a few small stream crossings. It is dog friendly so that was nice because we had a small dog with us. We mainly hike trails… ...Read More
Escondido Falls- The Elusive Upper Falls February 16, 2009 8:23 pm by Evan Castillo and Jason Schwartz - This hike is in Malibu and is on the website but the pictures don't exactly show the REAL [Escondido Falls]. From the lower falls you start on a rough trail that requires some moderate climbing or scurrying up the path of steep rocks and dirt. It's nothing to dangerous though, even borderline easy. Shortly you… ...Read More

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About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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