Newton Canyon Falls

Santa Monica Mountains / Malibu, California, USA

About Newton Canyon Falls


Hiking Distance: 1 mile round trip; scramble
Suggested Time: 45-60 minutes

Date first visited: 2010-03-07
Date last visited: 2023-03-18

Waterfall Latitude: 34.07715
Waterfall Longitude: -118.81653

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

Newton Canyon Falls was one of those waterfalls that somehow eluded us many years ago on our first attempt.

But after finding it on our subsequent visits, we wondered how on earth we managed to miss it, especially given how close it was to a busy road let alone a busy trail!

Newton_Canyon_Falls_007_03072010 - Newton Canyon Falls
Newton Canyon Falls

Maybe it had something to do with the fact that our first attempt occurred in late Spring during a pretty dry Winter so perhaps it wasn’t flowing back then.

Nonetheless, on our later visits in 2010 and 2023, we came during early Spring after a very wet Winter so for sure we weren’t going to miss it this time around!

This waterfall was somewhat hidden from the Backbone Trail alongside the Kanan Dume Road, which links Hwy 1 to the 101 Freeway through the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

That said, when it’s flowing, you can’t miss it because you can certainly hear it when hiking Backbone Trail as it descends into the head of Newton Canyon before climbing back up.

Hiking and Scrambling to Newton Canyon Falls

Newton_Canyon_Falls_014_03182023 - Looking towards a water tunnel or bridge where the Backbone Trail bottomed out at the head of Newton Canyon beneath the Kanan Dume Road (the flat area at the top of this picture)
Looking towards a water tunnel or bridge where the Backbone Trail bottomed out at the head of Newton Canyon beneath the Kanan Dume Road (the flat area at the top of this picture)

After parking the car (see directions below), we followed the Backbone Trail downhill on a switchback before descending further towards a creek that may or may not have water going over the trail.

Since the Kanan Road was perched alongside and above the Backbone Trail during this stretch, it was quite noisy given the amount of traffic that the road sees.

However, the scenery was already interesting along this short 0.4-mile stretch of the Backbone Trail as we could see into both Newton Canyon immediately below as well as Zuma Canyon further in the distance.

Shortly after the creek, there was an unmaintained branch trail that left the Backbone Trail to the left and descended into Newton Canyon.

Newton_Canyon_Falls_005_03072010 - Julie ducking branches from overgrowth on a narrower trail of use after leaving the Backbone Trail and pursuing the Newton Canyon Falls
Julie ducking branches from overgrowth on a narrower trail of use after leaving the Backbone Trail and pursuing the Newton Canyon Falls

On my March 2023 visit, I noticed that there’s now a sign with strong language telling you not to go down this unofficial path (it definitely wasn’t there on my prior visits in 2010 and before).

Of course, this path is the easiest way to get down to the base of the hidden Newton Canyon Falls, and I could see by how worn this trail is, people continue to go down there (signage or not).

In any case, I resisted the direct paths going right down to the creek that would eventually deposit you at the top of Newton Canyon Falls.

However, there are much easier and more gradual use-trails that we followed for about 300ft or so (maybe a minute or two) before we identified a manageable use-path descending towards the creek in Newton Canyon.

Newton_Canyon_Falls_032_03072010 - At the bottom of a scramble, Julie and I then had to stream scramble our way upstream to the bottom of Newton Canyon Falls
At the bottom of a scramble, Julie and I then had to stream scramble our way upstream to the bottom of Newton Canyon Falls

With some trial and error to find the scrambling route that we were most comfortable with, we eventually reached the bottom where we immediately were next to the stream within Newton Canyon.

From there, we pretty much scrambled our way upstream (both alongside it as well as inside it) which involved going over some deadfalls and termite-rotted trees.

Ultimately, we found ourselves right before the base of Newton Canyon Falls, which was surrounded by trees (so it’s hard to get a clean photo of it) as well as dripping cliffs and some patches of poison oak.

If this waterfall is the goal of this rather short excursion, then you can go back up the way you came, which would make the total hiking distance about a mile round trip.

Newton_Canyon_Falls_027_03182023 - On my mid-March 2023 visit back to Newton Canyon Falls, the atmospheric river storms made this waterfall have such a high flow that it had a pair of plunges side by side!
On my mid-March 2023 visit back to Newton Canyon Falls, the atmospheric river storms made this waterfall have such a high flow that it had a pair of plunges side by side!

Of course, you can extend your hike further along the Backbone Trail, where you might catch teasing glimpses of Newton Canyon Falls, especially after the Woolsey Fire burnt most of the vegetation that otherwise would have concealed the falls.

Extending the Excursion to Zuma Canyon Falls

As suggested in our California Waterfalls book, we could have followed the stream downstream towards the top of more cascades and waterfalls, ultimately culminating in a pair of 20-25ft waterfalls (one of which she called “Zuma Falls”).

However, every time we considered pursuing them, we either didn’t have the time, or the conditions were too sketchy to continue.

You see, when the creek was in high flow (as it was in March 2023 when I last made the attempt), there was a cascade obstacle that was just too risky for me to keep going.

Newton_Canyon_Falls_048_03182023 - Looking upstream at an intermediate waterfall as I pursued going downstream towards additional waterfalls within Newton Canyon during the high water flow of my mid-March 2023 visit
Looking upstream at an intermediate waterfall as I pursued going downstream towards additional waterfalls within Newton Canyon during the high water flow of my mid-March 2023 visit

Even if I made it to the tops of the waterfalls further downstream past this cascade obstacle, I’d still have to figure out a way down without necessitating a search and rescue effort (not to mention the ubiquitous poison oak overgrowth there).

Indeed, as far as pursuing the waterfalls in the lower reaches of Newton Canyon, there’s a really fine balancing act between too much water and too little water.

Moreover, there was also a safety factor since we are talking about an unsanctioned scramble, after all.

Anyways, as far as pursuing other waterfalls in the adjacent Zuma Canyon, since that involves hiking further along the Backbone Trail, I’ll talk about those in a separate write-up.

Authorities

Newton Canyon Falls resides in the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and Santa Monica Mountains National Recreational Area near Malibu in Los Angeles County, California. It is administered by the MRCA as well as the National Park Service. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit the MRCA website or NPS website.

Newton_Canyon_Falls_007_03182023 - Context of the Backbone Trail with Newton Canyon to the right and Zuma Canyon in the distance during my mid-March 2023 visit. Note that this photo and the next several shots were taken from this visit
Newton_Canyon_Falls_011_03182023 - From the switchback, there was a clearer look into the Zuma Canyon where its creek was definitely rushing in mid-March 2023
Newton_Canyon_Falls_012_03182023 - After the switchback, the trail went back in the direction of the Kanan Dume Road. This time Newton Canyon is on the left
Newton_Canyon_Falls_015_03182023 - Now the signage with stronger language to not take the use-trail deviating from the Backbone Trail at this point was erected right in front of that use-trail as of mid-March 2023
Newton_Canyon_Falls_017_03182023 - Looking towards a partial view of Newton Canyon Falls during the unsanctioned scramble down to its base in mid-March 2023
Newton_Canyon_Falls_018_03182023 - Approaching the base of the Newton Canyon Falls gushing as I had never seen it in mid-March 2023
Newton_Canyon_Falls_034_03182023 - Looking across the Newton Canyon Falls with double-barreled flow after the atmospheric river storms as seen in mid-March 2023
Newton_Canyon_Falls_038_03182023 - Direct look at the Newton Canyon Falls in high flow during my visit in mid-March 2023
Newton_Canyon_Falls_009_iPhone_03182023 - Looking back at an intermediate cascade while scrambling down towards more cascades and waterfalls within Newton Canyon
Newton_Canyon_Falls_041_03182023 - This was the cascade obstacle in Newton Canyon that aborted my attempt at going any further downstream during my visit in mid-March 2023
Newton_Canyon_Falls_044_03182023 - During my March 2023 visit, I met a friendly lady and her daughter along with their two dogs at this 'secret' spot in Newton Canyon. Maybe one of these days, I'll attempt to find the other waterfalls when the conditions are less riskier
Newton_Canyon_Falls_054_03182023 - Another partial look back towards Newton Canyon Falls as I made my way back up to the Backbone Trail after having had my fill in mid-March 2023
Newton_Canyon_Falls_059_03182023 - Looking down where Newton Canyon merged with Zuma Canyon as seen from the Backbone Trail during my visit in mid-March 2023
Newton_Canyon_Falls_113_03182023 - Final uphill stretch on the return hike back to the Backbone Trailhead to end my visit in mid-March 2023
Newton_Canyon_Falls_002_03072010 - Julie starting on the hike and scramble to Newton Canyon Falls by entering the Backbone Trail in March 2010. This photo and the rest of the photos in this gallery took place during that visit
Newton_Canyon_Falls_003_03072010 - Looking over the scenic Newton Canyon towards Zuma Canyon in the distance on our March 2010 visit
Newton_Canyon_Falls_004_03072010 - Julie leaving the Backbone Trail for the Newton Canyon Falls at the sign during our March 2010 visit
Newton_Canyon_Falls_011_03072010 - Made it to Newton Canyon Falls
Newton_Canyon_Falls_010_03072010 - Another look to the Newton Canyon Falls
Newton_Canyon_Falls_015_03072010 - Julie squats in front of Newton Canyon Falls for some context
Newton_Canyon_Falls_020_03072010 - Checking out Newton Canyon Falls from the other side of its stream
Newton_Canyon_Falls_030_03072010 - Last look at the Newton Canyon Falls before scrambling back up to the Backbone Trail


There were a couple of ways to access the nearest parking lot for the Newton Canyon Falls, which starts at the parking area for the Backbone Trailhead.

Accessing Newton Canyon Falls from the coast

The first time we drove to Newton Canyon Falls, we came from the Highway 1, which began as the 10 Freeway westbound ended near the Santa Monica pier.

Newton_Canyon_Falls_114_03182023 - Looking back at the limited parking spaces for the Backbone Trailhead at the start of the Newton Canyon Falls quick excursion
Looking back at the limited parking spaces for the Backbone Trailhead at the start of the Newton Canyon Falls quick excursion

We then followed Hwy 1 for roughly 17 miles, where we then turned right onto Kanan Dume Road and followed it for a little over 4 miles.

We went past a tunnel where the parking lot and trailhead was close to the tunnel exit on the left side of the road.

Overall, this 24-mile drive would take about an hour.

Accessing Newton Canyon Falls from the 101

The second time we came, we made the approach from the US101 near Oxnard or Camarillo or other parts of the Valley.

Newton_Canyon_Falls_005_03182023 - The quick jaunt to Newton Canyon Falls starts at the Backbone Trailhead
The quick jaunt to Newton Canyon Falls starts at the Backbone Trailhead

For a more Los Angeles-centric approach, we could also have also taken the 101 from its junction with the 405 freeway, which was just north past Westwood (of UCLA fame) and the Sepulveda Pass.

Anyways, we took the Kanan Road exit off the 101 Freeway, and we followed this road roughly 8 or 9 miles south past two tunnels and eventually reaching the trailhead parking for the Backbone Trail on our right just before the third tunnel.

This 38-mile drive (from the 10/405 junction via the 101 Freeway) would also take about an hour.

Although parking was limited for the parking lot of the Backbone Trail, we saw many people take advantage of a lot of roadside shoulder parking along Kanan Dume Road itself.

Newton_Canyon_Falls_001_03182023 - Although parking is very limited at the lot for the Backbone Trailhead, apparently, lots of people used the roadside shoulders on the opposite side of Kanan Dume Road to park their car
Although parking is very limited at the lot for the Backbone Trailhead, apparently, lots of people used the roadside shoulders on the opposite side of Kanan Dume Road to park their car

Nevertheless, for geographical context, Santa Monica was 16 miles (about an hour drive due to traffic) west of downtown Los Angeles or 7 miles (roughly 30 minutes drive with traffic) southwest of Westwood Village.

Find A Place To Stay

Upstream to downstream sweep from the top of an intermediate cascade that turned me around


Brief downstream to upstream sweep of the falls before doing an zoomed-in panning down of its drop


360 degree sweep from the other side of the falls showing some drippage and small waterfalls feeding into the dead-end I was at


Brief left to right sweep showing a small ephemeral waterfalll trickling into the grotto before panning over to the main falls


Bottom up sweep of the falls from the right side


Bottom up sweep of the falls from the left side

Tagged with: santa monica mountains, malibu, los angeles, california, southern california, waterfall, backbone trail, kanan, zuma falls



Visitor Comments:

Got something you'd like to share or say to keep the conversation going? Feel free to leave a comment below...

Not Worth The Effort May 17, 2010 7:55 am by Donna - Took my 2 dogs to this fall on 5/15/10. Would advise others against taking their dogs on this hike. The climb down to the falls through the brush is too steep and slippery for dogs and one of my dogs slipped and hurt her hip. Also my husband got a deep cut from a branch… ...Read More

Share your thoughts about what you've read on this page

You must be logged in to submit content. Refresh this page after you have logged in.

Visitor Reviews of this Waterfall:

If you have a waterfall story or write-up that you'd like to share, feel free to click the button below and fill out the form...

No users have submitted a write-up/review of this waterfall


Have you been to a waterfall? Submit a write-up/review and share your experiences or impressions

Review A Waterfall

Nearest Waterfalls

The Waterfaller Newsletter

The Waterfaller Newsletter is where we curate the wealth of information on the World of Waterfalls website and deliver it to you in bite-sized chunks in your email inbox. You'll also get exclusive content like...

  • Waterfall Wednesdays
  • Insider Tips
  • User-submitted Waterfall Write-up of the Month
  • and the latest news and updates both within the website as well as around the wonderful world of waterfalls


How To Build A Profitable Travel Blog In 4 Steps

Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning 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.
Read More About Johnny | A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls.