Escondido Falls

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Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Hiking trails in LA: Escondido Falls

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Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Hiking trails in LA: Escondido Falls

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Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Hiking trails in LA: Escondido Falls

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Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Hiking trails in LA: Escondido Falls

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Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Hiking trails in LA: Escondido Falls

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Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Hiking trails in LA: Escondido Falls

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Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Hiking trails in LA: Escondido Falls

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Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Hiking trails in LA: Escondido Falls

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Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Hiking trails in LA: Escondido Falls

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Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Hiking trails in LA: Escondido Falls

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Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Hiking trails in LA: Escondido Falls

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Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Hiking trails in LA: Escondido Falls

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Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Hiking trails in LA: Escondido Falls

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Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Hiking trails in LA: Escondido Falls

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Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Hiking trails in LA: Escondido Falls

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Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Hiking trails in LA: Escondido Falls

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Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Hiking trails in LA: Escondido Falls

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Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Hiking trails in LA: Escondido Falls

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Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Hiking trails in LA: Escondido Falls

Malibu

This is one of the biggest waterfalls in Southern California—a two-tiered, 150-foot cascade that pours down a series of limestone rocks covered in bright-green moss. You’ll start on the approximately 3.8 mile journey from Winding Way East, a private road in the Malibu hills that takes you uphill past ocean-view estates. Be prepared to crisscross streams and for some serious rock-hopping. About a mile in, you’ll reach the Lower Escondido Falls, which are lovely on their own—at 50 feet they rival any of the other waterfalls on this list. This is a good place for a breather, or for the less sure-of-foot it’s a lovely ending point. Continue upwards via a route to the right of the falls (we suggest you opt for the official route—the other one is definitely dangerous!) for a steep climb that will take you to the Upper Escondido Falls. There’s a guide rope to help you pull yourself along, but be mindful of the slippery rocks. This path will take you under part of the lower waterfall and over more boulders until you reach the main event, a majestic tiered cascade that fans over moss-grown outcroppings. On a hot day there’s no better reward than wading into the pool—there will probably be a couple of dogs already paddling around!—or just stand behind the waterfall letting the cool spray hit your skin.

Recommended: See more Top hiking trails in LA with waterfalls

 

Venue name: Escondido Falls
Contact:
Address: 27200 Winding Way
Los Angeles

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Pete Xander

Boasting about the size and grandeur of the falls, then photographing it in the summer, after a dry La Nina winter with scant rainfall, does the magnificence of the falls scant justice. Also missing was any mention of the lengthy battle to open the falls officially to the public. For decades, people hiked to and enjoyed the falls, but after the development boom of the 70s and 80s in Malibu, property owners in the areas, including one in particular (known as the "Cocaine King" of Malibu) who would chase hikers off by screaming at them and waving guns at them. Years of effort by the Coastal Commission to require that property owners record easements to allow public access as conditions of approval for developments, as well as an effort by the Attorney General's office to push a prescriptive rights case by documenting decades of use despite the posting of land in the area -- the process known in property law as "adverse possession" -- finally secured the right of access for the public. Things just do not "happen" -- it takes years of effort by dedicated people to fight for public rights of access to such areas, a process begun under English Common Law in the 1100s and continuing today. Credit should have been given where it was duly deserved.