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The Beautiful Escondido Falls & Hiking Trail – A Visitor’s Guide

Nicki & Karen » July 8, 2019

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Southern California is a beautiful destination that’s known for its amazing weather. Even during the hottest summer days, the coastal and mountain breezes help to keep the area cool and comfortable, which allows you to enjoy the outdoors with ease. Now that summer is in full swing, it’s the perfect time to go outside and enjoy the breathtaking scenery that Southern California has to offer.

Residents and visitors alike love to get out and enjoy the natural beauty of such destinations as the Malibu Creek State Park, which offers up panoramic views of the ocean as well as the Santa Monica Mountain Range. If you live anywhere within the Conejo Valley or Malibu, you’ll have easy access to the Malibu Creek State Park, which makes it easy to take a day trip or weekend getaway to the park without needing to travel a lengthy distance.

While there are many amazing destinations and hiking trails throughout the Malibu Creek State Park, among the most popular hiking locations is the beautiful Escondido Falls and trail. Locals love these falls and hike because of how scenic the area is and because the trail itself is enjoyable to hike for people of all skill levels. Before you start your journey, brush up on the details of this park with this extensive visitor’s guide.

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Starting Your Journey

When you’re about to go on a hike at the Escondido Falls Trail, keep in mind that the out-and-back trail is open all throughout the year and can be accessed from dawn until dusk. Admission to the trail is entirely free, which makes it a fantastic place to visit when you’re searching for something to do in the summer that doesn’t require you to spend money. If you want to take your dog with you on the hike, the trail is open to dogs as long as they remain on a leash throughout.

If you hike all the way to the end of the trail before going back, you’ll travel approximately 3.7 miles, most of which are very easy to hike. The elevation gain is only a little more than 600 feet, the majority of which occurs towards the very end of the trail.

While the trail is considered to be easy, the area surrounding the waterfall is known to get muddy from time to time, which is why you’ll want to be cautious when walking around there. You can mitigate these issues by wearing high-traction hiking footwear during the hike.

When you arrive, you’ll notice a small parking lot just off of the Pacific Coast Highway. If the lot is full at the time of your arrival, there are numerous parking spots nearby along the Pacific Coast Highway. Keep in mind that there aren’t any restrooms at the parking lot or throughout the trail. Now that you’re fully prepared for this hike, you can travel to Escondido Falls without any worries!

The Escondido Falls Trailhead

In order to start your hike, you’ll want to make your way to the Escondido Falls trailhead, which you can get to by taking the I-10 Freeway west until you arrive at the Pacific Coast Highway. From here, you’ll want to take a right turn onto Winding Way, which will place you at the parking lot. Once you’ve arrived at the parking lot, you’ll likely notice a sign that highlights the entrance to the Winding Way Trail.

The Winding Way trail is a paved road that extends for upwards of a mile before you arrive at the Escondido Falls trailhead. Along the way, you’ll be able to view some spectacular Malibu estate homes that are among the most luxurious in Southern California.

The trailhead can be found soon after you reach a cul de sac at the end of the road. The actual trail begins just after you see the sign that’s marked as “Edward Albert Escondido Trail and Waterfalls”. While the trail is somewhat easy to hike, you’ll want to take an ample amount of water with you if you’re thinking about hiking the entire trail.

Chick here to view the Escondido Falls trailhead on a map.

The Escondido Falls Hike & What to Expect

The first mile of the Escondido Falls hike is a very pleasant one that takes visitors through a substantial amount of foliage and local wildflowers as well as beautiful trees and small river crossings. Any of these areas make for the perfect backdrop for taking photographs of the surrounding scenery.

The trail itself is very wide, which makes it simple to hike even on days when it’s heavily-trafficked. The canyon that you descend into provides a large amount of shade, which will be a welcome reprieve from the journey that you’ve taken to get there. Keep in mind that the river crossings are slightly trickier in the immediate aftermath of a thunderstorm. Along the way, you’ll spot some beautiful fennel and mustard plants that add even more color to the scenery.

The First Waterfall of Escondido Falls

A little over a mile into the hike, you’ll arrive at the first waterfall, which is a picturesque area where the water cascades nearly 50 feet in multiple sections. You’ll know that you’re getting closer to this point in the hike when the trees become much denser than they’ve been throughout the rest of the hike. Thus far, the elevation gain is around 150 feet, which makes this hike doable even for beginners. If you’re an inexperienced hiker who just wants to enjoy the sights and sounds of nature, the first waterfall marks a good stopping point since the rest of the hike is considered to be more difficult.

Many hikers will also take their first break at this waterfall, which is lined with bright green ferns. If you want to experience the first waterfall at its most beautiful, it’s recommended that you visit during the spring season, fall months, or just after it has rained. If the water has dried up, the waterfalls along this trail aren’t nearly as scenic.


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The Final Waterfalls of Escondido Falls

While the rest of this trail is considered to be more difficult than the first portion, the final waterfall is also thought of by most visitors to be much more beautiful than the first, which might be a strong enough reason for you to continue the hike. The trail continues to the right of the first waterfall. You’ll immediately notice that the area has become steeper and that the trail has thinned out. Even when it hasn’t rained, it can be difficult to keep your footing. If it has rained, high-traction hiking shoes are a must.

Along the way, you’ll have some thick roots to gain hold on that will help you keep your balance. While the previous mile of the hike had an elevation gain of 150 feet, you’ll be gaining upwards of 200 feet of elevation in just .15 miles. There are even some ropes tied to a few of the trees that will allow you to more readily make the ascent.

Once you’ve climbed the limestone wall, you’ll reach a second small waterfall that serves as a kind of introduction to the final area. After the steep climb that you’ve just had, this is a great place to rest for a short time while you regain some of your energy. While this waterfall is lovely, it’s only around 25 feet tall and is thinner than the two additional waterfalls throughout the trail.

After you relax and catch your breath, you can reach the final portion of this trail by taking a left path and crossing a creek. Make sure that you stick to the left side of the bank while you travel along large boulders and thick roots. After a somewhat tricky climb, you’ll arrive at the third and most beautiful waterfall of this trail. The Upper Escondido Falls is considered to be among the best waterfalls in California. The water descends close to 150 feet, during which it pours over lush green moss and into the pristine pool below.

If the flow of water is high during your visit, the views of the waterfall are certain to be gorgeous. The pool at the bottom of this waterfall is a wonderful place to relax and eat some snacks before you head back. The pool itself is surrounding by plant life, the most appealing of which is the fresh mint that you should notice in the area. Some of the more adventurous hikers that visit the Escondido Falls Trail climb up to a landing that’s situated just behind the water that’s falling down, which is about 20 feet above the pool. When the pool is filled, many hikers jump from the landing, which is risky but can be fun if you know what you’re doing.

If you’ve brought along your camera, this is the best area for taking pictures. You’ll also find a small cave section to the right of the falls that offers up some fantastic scenery. Depending on how quickly you hike this trail, it should take around 1.5-3 hours to finish. As you make your way back, be careful along the steeper portions of the trail.


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What to Do After Your Hike

Among the best aspects of visiting the Escondido Falls Trail is that you’ll be just nearby some of the more popular restaurants, shops, and entertainment spots in Malibu. After a long day of hiking, you’ll likely be searching for a location where you can grab a bite to eat or something to drink while you relax and rest your tired legs.

If you enjoy seafood, the Malibu Seafood Fresh Fish Market & Patio Cafe is a popular destination among residents of Malibu. From clam chowder and fried seafood sandwiches to seafood cocktails and fresh catfish, this is a fantastic place to visit when you’re searching for a calm and peaceful atmosphere. Step out onto the large patio for some picnic-table seating and breathtaking views of the ocean.

You could also stop by the Malibu Farm Pier Cafe, which is a full-service restaurant that’s open for breakfast and lunch. Consider eating on the pier itself if you want the best views. Their menu has a focus on fresh, natural, and locally-sourced ingredients, which means that all of their dishes are made with the finest ingredients. If you visit for lunch after your hike, try the grilled chicken breast sandwich or grass-fed beef burger. They also offer a vast selection of beers and wines.


We hope our guide helps you enjoy your trip to Escondido Falls! Be sure to check back on our blog for the latest local events, real estate tips, and local market insight from Nicki & Karen Southern California Luxury Real Estate!

Looking to buy or sell a home in Malibu or around the Conejo Valley? Contact our team of local real estate professionals today and we’ll be more than happy to assist with getting you the best price for your home!

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