Escondido Falls trail is a moderate hike with trees, a creek, and a nice reward at the end. When the falls are flowing, they are beautiful.
The waterfall has an easy-to-reach lower tier that is 50 feet tall and a harder-to-reach upper tier that’s 150 feet tall and stunning.
Expect to hike for 3.8 miles to the base of the falls with about a 400-foot elevation gain. Most of the trail is shaded and runs along a creek. Expect to cross the creek several times – some crossings are precarious – but this is part of the fun.
The trailhead starts at the intersection of PCH and Winding Way, where you will park in a very small parking lot.
The parking fee in 2022 is $12. Pay at the new pay station using cash or credit. If the machine is not working, pay at an iron post next to the machine using checks or cash in an envelope – and post the receipt on your dashboard.
Note: On my way back from the hike, I noticed a ranger was giving tickets to parking violators
Once you park, you will start hiking on a paved road for about .75-miles passing by some impressive Malibu homes (about 15 minutes).
Your real hike starts on a dirt path next to a sign that reads “Edward Albert Escondido Canyon Trail and Waterfall.”
The trail descends through a field of fennel and mustard toward a thicket where a small creek flows. After crossing the stream, make a left turn to head upstream into Escondido Canyon.
Tip: Take note of the sign with the arrow pointing to the left towards the fall. On the way back make sure to turn right at this intersection.
The trail widens and remains relatively level as it passes through trees and fields.
Wildflowers bloom along the trail in the spring – and you will probably find a more active waterfall.
If you feel adventurous, you can try to take the small trail to the right of the falls to get to the upper falls. Be warned, though; this trail is more steep and difficult. Try to use roots for support as you climb.
But if you make it to the top, you will be rewarded with a fantastic view of the Upper Escondido Falls. The water pours over a wall of lush green moss and falls some 150 feet before landing in a calm pool.
To head back to your parking spot, you have to follow the same trail, so watch out for landmarks.
On my first hike, I missed a turn and ended up on a totally different street, and I ended up hiking the extra mile and taking an Uber back to my car.