Hiking trails in LA: The best hikes with waterfalls

Looking for hiking trails in LA? Head outdoors after a rainy day and experience these five hikes with waterfalls.

Photograph: Victor Leung
Hiking trails in LA: Paradise Falls in Wildwood Park

While Angelenos are blessed with a gorgeous web of hikes with a view, we all too often find ourselves baked by the sun, with the ocean in sight and yet tantalizingly out of reach. Here are five hiking trails in LA that’ll keep you cool by journey’s end with some of the area’s most impressive waterfalls. LA hikes with waterfalls? We can’t think of a more perfect way to enjoy a too-brief rainy season.

1/5

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 Winding Way East, a private road in the Malibu hills that takes you uphill past ocean-view estates. After about half a mile the road will head downhill and there will be a clearly marked path to the left. This is the Escondido Canyon Trail, an adventurous path that crisscrosses streams—so be prepared 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. Everyone else should continue upwards via a clear 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.

Address: 27200 Winding Way

Trailhead: Park at the lot on Winding Way East a Pacific Coast Highway. The trailhead starts on Winding Way Road, take the clearly marked path.

Pets? Dogs allowed on leashes

Length: ~3.8 miles

Time: 120 mins

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Malibu
2/5

Paradise Falls in Wildwood Park, Thousand Oaks

The trail system in Wildwood Park is almost an embarrassment of riches, with four different paths diverging out from the Avenida de los Arboles entrance. Choose the Moonridge Trail for a sunny walk through scrub plains that might look familiar if you were a fan of Disney Westerns (like the classic Davy Crockett) from the ’50s and ’60s. After close to a mile, Moonridge Trail intersects with the Tepee Trail; turn left there and a few steps will bring you to a recreated tepee and a view of the Arroyo Conejo canyon. From there, it’s just a quarter mile to Paradise Falls, a dramatic 40-foot cascade that’s impressive even in the dry season. Resist the urge to swim here—the water’s not too clean—instead, have lunch and catch the Wildwood Canyon Trail to head back to the entrance. You’ll be able to satisfy your yen to explore when you hit the Indian Cave Trail in half a mile. At the end of this very brief detour is a cave—a tunnel through the rocks that’s large enough to walk through. Park officials believe it was used by Chumash Indians. The last stretch of your journey follows Indian Creek Trail, an excellent path for bird-spotting, especially during migration season.

Address: 928 W Avenida de los Arboles

Trailhead: Clearly marked, just west of the parking lot on Avenida de los Arboles. Trail maps are available here.

Pets? Dogs allowed on leashes

Length: ~2.2 miles

Time: 60 mins

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Thousand Oaks
3/5

Eaton Canyon Falls, Altadena

Don’t let the fact that the Eaton Canyon Natural Area is also home to the dubiously named Moist Canyon keep you from visiting this popular spot. The abundance of slow-moving families? It’s a legitimate deterrent, unless, of course, you are in possession of a few children yourself, in which case this is the perfect hike for you and your over-five-year-olds. Make sure that everyone is wearing shoes that can stand getting a bit moist as there are several stream crossings on the easy, under-three-mile trek—we counted nine along the route, but it varies depending on the season. Start your journey at the Nature Center parking lot and take the main Park Road Trail 1.5 miles through a wooded, rocky area that inclines gently. Once you reach the plunging 50-foot waterfall that drops into a beautiful punchbowl of rock, enjoy wading in the shallows, but avoid climbing up to the razorback trail above the falls—two people died this past year doing just that. If you’re looking for a challenge, further ahead the trail links up with the Mt. Wilson Toll Road, an eight-mile hike to the Mt. Wilson Observatory. Otherwise just turn back the way you came. If you do detour into Moist Canyon be sure to listen for gunshots—the Pasadena Police Department’s firing range borders the canyon, but they swear that it’s all perfectly safe!

Address: 1750 N Altadena Dr

Trailhead: Park at the Nature Center and cross the wash to the clearly marked trailhead.

Pets? Dogs allowed on leashes

Length: ~3 miles

Time: 90 mins

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Altadena
4/5

Solstice Canyon, Malibu

It’s easy to imagine yourself in a post-apocalyptic paradise while on this lovely Malibu hike that wends through the ruins of two properties on the way to a 30-foot waterfall that makes up for its modesty with a series of natural pools that invite exploration. From the park entrance off Corral Canyon Road, take the gentle, shaded Solstice Canyon Trail. First up is the Keller House, a hunting cabin made of stone and built by the original owners of the canyon lands. About half a mile up the trail, you’ll reach the remains of the Roberts Ranch House, built by famed architect Paul Williams (he designed the Encounter building at LAX) as a retirement retreat for grocery store magnate Fred Roberts and his wife Florence. The Polynesian-style home—once featured in Architectural Digest—was destroyed by fire in 1982. What’s left is essentially a 3D blueprint of the property: There’s a disintegrating stove, a rusty bathtub and the remains of several walls. If not for the happy splashing of your fellow hikers, the whole scene would feel eerie. Instead, it’s a perfect spot for a picnic; add a patterned cloth, serve something out of a Mason jar and boom—Instagram magic. To make a loop, take the Rising Sun Trail back. It’s a bit of a climb, but you’ll be rewarded with a view of the Pacific through the canyon.

Address: 3998 Solstice Canyon Rd

Trailhead: Turn onto Solstice Canyon Road from Corral Canyon Road. The trailhead is clearly marked from the main parking lot.

Pets? Dogs allowed on leashes

Length: ~2.5 miles

Time: 60 mins

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Malibu
5/5

Sturtevant Falls, Angeles National Forest

This is the California that pioneers and prospectors first saw: A lush canyon bisected by waterways and shaded by a canopy of trees. With a scattering of remote cabins and a thriving pack-mule service, the Angeles National Forest still retains some of the flavor of those early days. After parking at the Chantry Flat lot, start off on the Gabrielino Trail. You’ll descend into Big Santa Anita Canyon, which was a prime destination in the storied Great Hiking Era (1890s-1930s), when John Muir was a popular hero and the National Park Service was established. Roberts’ Camp, where the trail will veer towards Sturtevant Falls, was a trail resort in that period and the small cabins that you see were all built prior to WWII. They remain privately owned, linked by a six-mile-long crank-phone system and accessible only by pack mule or foot. You’ll know that you’re getting close to the falls when the stream crossings begin—soon after is the magnificent, 50-foot Sturtevant Falls, which cascades into a circular pool ringed by giant rocks. This is an in-and-out hike, so keep in mind that you’ll have to do a fairly steep, unshaded climb out of the canyon and back to the parking lot.

Address: Santa Anita Ave to Chantry Flat Rd

Trailhead: Enter the lower Chantry Flat parking lot at the end of the road, the trailhead is clearly marked from the lower lot.

Pets? Dogs allowed on leashes

Length: ~3.7 miles

Time: 120 mins

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San Gabriel Valley

Comments

15 comments
Ca H
Ca H

I have done a lot of these Waterfall and since the drought is pretty bad this year (2014) some might be extremely low or completely dry. The best time to go to these falls are after a rain fall or a heavy wet winter. You can check out some of my other adventures on my youtube channel


https://www.youtube.com/user/ryuone

john
john

great story about water falls in LA. Here's a link to photos of a couple more great falls in LA http://smu.gs/13M8Pxz

plaidbus
plaidbus

Why on earth would you publicly blab about this place? There goes the neighborhood. I shall expect the spray paint any day now. Thanks so much...

plaidbus
plaidbus

Why on earth would you publicly blab about this place? There goes the neighborhood. I shall expect the spray paint any day now. Thanks so much...

plaidbus
plaidbus

Why on earth would you publicly blab about this place? There goes the neighborhood. I shall expect the spray paint any day now. Thanks so much...

plaidbus
plaidbus

Why on earth would you publicly blab about this place? There goes the neighborhood. I shall expect the spray paint any day now. Thanks so much...

plaidbus
plaidbus

Why on earth would you publicly blab about this place? There goes the neighborhood. I shall expect the spray paint any day now. Thanks so much...

beef
beef

Damn you. Escondido is already overrun with people now that Yelp came along. And now it will be trashed!

rew
rew

Definitely a relaxing spot for lunch and a little dip =) The observatory is also a wonderful place to stop for a few if you have the grit for a weekend hike more than a few miles. Razorback trail is an established trail, but it is most definitely not for children or anyone inexperienced with rock climbing; the average death toll on Razorback in one per month. The waterfalls beyond are beautiful and deep enough for diving, and you'll find yourself practically alone on a day up there.

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KAPTN_M0RGAN
KAPTN_M0RGAN

it's a free fuckin country. & sad thing about it is.. your kids are probably going to be the ones with the spray paint. EVERYBODY isn't into destroying shit.. we like peaceful places too.. and you're not the owner btw so piss off.