Escondido Falls Hike in Malibu: A Beautiful Three Tiered Waterfall

Escondido Falls is one of the best hikes along the entire coast of Malibu. The hike itself is a relatively easy 4 miles round trip, but it leads you to one of the best waterfalls in Southern California. The waterfall has three tiers, one that is easy to access and two more that should only be attempted with caution. If you make it to the top waterfall, you will be at one of my favorite spots in Southern California though; here is all the information so you can do it yourself.

Details

  • 4 miles round trip
  • 300 feet of elevation
  • Be very careful if you go on from the first waterfall and wear shoes with good grip as you will be climbing in loose dirt
  • Location: Escondido Canyon Trail, Malibu, CA 90265

Getting There

Parking for this hike is in the small lot on Winding Road off Pacific Coast Highway or simply on Highway 1 itself if the lot is full, as it was for us when we journeyed there. I recommend putting “Visitor Parking for Escondido Canyon and Falls” into your Google Maps, which should take you to the parking lot on the corner of Winding Road and PCH. From here you simply start walking up the road.

The Trail

The first mile of the trail is along the paved road that takes you through the Malibu hills. Unfortunately, you can’t park closer to the actual trail so you have to walk along the road like this.

It is pretty crazy to see all of the mansions they have back here though. There are houses with huge pools, tennis courts, horses and even a batting cage, all with spectacular views of the ocean just outside their window.  Once you reach the cul de sac type end of the road, you will continue a little further till you see a sign that marks the start of the actual trail.

The Trail

From here you will walk through about a mile of foliage, small river crossings, and beautiful trees. It is a nice leisurely hike that has shade almost the entire way.

I was a fan of this part of the hike as it is fun to see all of these natural elements while being so close to the city. I do imagine this trail being more intense after it rains though as the river crossings would be worse and the trail itself would be muddy.

Just enjoy the beautiful walk, and after about a mile you make it to the first waterfall.

The First Waterfall

If all you do is make it to the first falls, the hike is still worth it. This waterfall is amazing when there is a good flow as the water cascades down in multiple sections.

It is like a small version of the third falls and it’s pretty spectacular. Do note that I have been in the summer when it was dried up and it was much less impressive with stagnant water at the base.

From here you will want to find the steep trail to the right if you are going to continue. I will note again that you need to BE CAREFUL if you do. Many people are not prepared for this part of the hike, and while it is not that bad, you need to take your time as it is slippery.

You will also be crossing some narrow ledges, and I saw all sorts of people do it while I was there, but you just don’t want to get in over your head. That being said, if you can make it, the trail will reward you.

The Second Waterfall

After most of the sketchy parts, you will reach the second waterfall. This is the least impressive of the three as it is only about 25 feet tall.

It is an excellent place to stop and catch your breath though, and it was flowing pretty good the last time I was there.  Continue scrambling over more rocks, and you will reach the third falls.

The Main Escondido Waterfall

The third falls is the real gem here. It is truly one of the best waterfalls in Southern California. Not only is it about 150 feet high, but it has a beautiful amount of plant life that lives on the falls. This alone is something that has to be experienced before you can believe it.

The water cascades over the moss and foliage, trickling down the mountainside in a breathtaking way. You will need a wide angle lens to capture this waterfall as it looks a lot smaller in pictures than it is in real life.

For example, the cave-like section on the right side is probably 15-20 feet tall itself. After taking it all in, you will want to head back the way you came. Again, while heading down be careful as the slippery dirt is worse on the way down. The adrenaline you have from seeing such an awesome SoCal waterfall should help you though.

Video

Here is a video I made of my last hike to the falls.

Let me know if you have been in the comments and what you thought of this spot. Also, if you want to see more waterfalls, check out this post.

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About JoshMc

Thanks for checking out the blog, I am happy to be sharing my adventures with you! You can get to know me by reading my about me, which includes a video and additional information on the site, myself and my full disclosure. Also, follow along on Twitter here or read all of my posts on this blog here.

  • Beautiful images, thanks for sharing them. Looks like a great place to be.

  • Kenneth C. Bae

    Dear Martina,

    Thanks for your comment on the Escondido Fall in Malibu.

    I am scheduled to visit the Fall tomorrow(June 1st), for which
    please furnish me with further sharings, if any.

    Thanks in advance.

    Sincerely,

    Kenneth

  • Great shots! Wish I had gone there while I lived in Cali

    • Thanks I appreciate it! There is always a reason to come back to Cali 🙂 I like your site too!

  • wEEZER66

    I would have never known about any of these places….thanks for sharing…
    I would love to shoot some infrared at the falls…perfect for it.
    Louise

  • nanonerd

    What a super cool hike!

    To add more info: from parking area, the hike is about 1 hr 15 min to get to the 3rd waterfall. Add in some rest/view time, and it’s a good 2.45 – 3 hr hike round trip … But it’s not flat terrain. You will have to go up and down some good sized hills and some parts are pretty steep (you have to grab branches, ropes) … it seems a bit challenging but it’s all manageable. Lots of people take dogs and one group had a bunch of young kids (8-10 yrs) and they all managed it.

    Once you get to the first waterfall, getting to the third one is only about another 15 min up some rocky areas, but definitely worth it. We went on Thanksgiving and the 2nd waterfall was completely dried up. From here, just keep climbing up and another 5 min later, you will reach the 3rd waterfall.

    It would be good to have signs posed in some areas but somehow, we managed and also, you can always ask the people coming back which way to go, how far, etc. One note, after the first waterfall, if you keep going up, you will come to a steep section with rope to assist your climb. When you get to the top of this section, go left. I talked to someone coming down from the right side and they said that they climbed to the top but there was no waterfall.

    Lastly, if you want more info, go to Yelp.com … there’s a lot of comments there …

    Enjoy … 😉

    • Thanks for the great recap and info!

  • Don

    We hiked to the falls. The falls was turned off. That was two years ago.