Escondido Falls Trail is a short hike in Malibu that leads to a viewpoint of Escondido Falls – one of the most scenic waterfalls in Southern California! Located just an hour’s drive east of Los Angeles, the Escondido Falls hike is a popular outdoor activity, especially on the weekends.
The Escondido Falls Trail is less than 4 miles long and fairly flat so it’s the perfect location for a morning workout or if you’re seeking a nature escape in the Santa Monica Mountains with your family or friends.
In this hiking guide, we cover how to get there, where to park, Escondido Falls hike difficulty, and what to expect if you plan to visit this beautiful waterfall!
Hiking Tip: Before heading out on the hike, we recommend downloading an offline map from the AllTrails hiking app. This way you will always have access to the trail map, even if you lose reception or get lost!
Escondido Falls Trail Highlights
Here are a few quick Escondido Falls Trail highlights before we dive into more details:
- Length: 3.7 miles round trip
- Elevation Gain: around 530 feet
- Time Needed: 2 hours
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Dogs allowed?: Yes, this trail is very dog-friendly
Escondido Falls Trail Parking
The Escondido Falls Trail is located in Malibu off Pacific Coast Highway 1. There is a small parking lot marked as ‘Visitor Parking for Escondido Falls’ on Google Maps where you can park your car for the hike. However, this parking lot can only fit about a dozen cars so it’s usually full, especially on the weekends.
You might get lucky and find a parking spot if you come early in the morning or on a weekday. If you do, there is a pay machine where you can pay the $12 parking fee with cash or credit card.
Most people end up parking along Pacific Coast Highway and walk to the Escondido Falls Trailhead. If you park along PCH, keep an eye out for ‘No Parking’ signs. They do give out frequent tickets in this area to cars parked where they’re not supposed to be.
At the visitor parking lot, there is one large porta-potty for hikers. This is the only restroom in the area so be sure to use it beforehand. There are no other restrooms once you head into the trail.
Google Map Location: Escondido Canyon Trail, Malibu, CA 90265
About Escondido Falls
Escondido Falls Trail is a 3.7-mile long out-and-back hike that travels directly to Escondido Waterfall. This trail is best done in spring after a season of heavy rainfall when Escondido Falls is flowing full of water.
Escondido Falls Trail Map:
This year we visited Escondido Falls in April and the timing was just right! I’ve done this hike in the summer before and the waterfall was completely dry, only down to a few trickles.
The trail has around 530 feet of elevation gain, starting with a steady climb through a residential area. During the first 0.8 miles, you’ll be walking along a winding road passing extravagant Malibu residences.
The Escondido Falls hike is short enough that you can finish it in a couple of hours. Despite how busy it can get, we like to do this hike on the weekends so we can head for brunch in Malibu afterward!
Once the trail turns away from the residential neighborhood into Escondido Canyon, there will be multiple small river crossings along the way. If you plan to do this trek in spring after recent rain, be sure to wear waterproof hiking boots to cross the creeks safely.
There are some shaded sections along the trail, but much of it is exposed to the sun. Be sure to bring a hiking hat, sunscreen, and plenty of water bottles for the adventure, especially when the weather starts getting warmer. During the summer months, try to do this hike early in the morning to avoid the hottest parts of the day.
The Escondido Falls Trail is also very dog-friendly so you’ll see many people hiking with their four-legged friends. If you have a smaller dog and the creeks are overflowing with water, you can pick them up when crossing.
Our Experience Hiking Escondido Falls Trail
Here is the detailed breakdown of the Escondido Falls hike covering what the trail is like and what you can expect to see!
After finding some street parking along Pacific Coast Highway, we made our way to Winding Way Road. We followed this wide paved road for 0.8 miles before turning into Escondido Falls Trailhead. Along the way, you’ll pass a lot of giant mansions that all have ‘Private Property’ signs in front of them.
Once you turn left into Escondido Canyon Park, the trail will follow a narrow dirt path. Due to recent rainfall, much of it was overgrown with flowers and weeds, some that were taller than us!
After you hike down a steep slippery hill, at the bottom you’ll reach the first creek crossing. We had to cross Escondido Canyon Creek five times going each way so you’re bound to get your feet wet.
At first, we tried to cross Escondido Creek by carefully moving across rocks and logs. On the way back, there were so many people waiting in line at the creek crossings that it felt like a traffic jam on the 405.
Instead, we gave up on the idea of keeping our feet dry and just walked through the river. Be sure to come prepared and bring an extra pair of shoes and socks to change into the car at the end of the hike.
After 1.8 miles of hiking, we finally reached Lower Escondido Falls. There is a small rocky area at the base of the waterfall where you can take a photo of the waterfall. On the weekends you might need to wait around a bit for your turn as it can get very crowded.
Escondido Falls is one of the best waterfalls in Los Angeles County making it a popular outdoor destination in the area. But it is a seasonal waterfall so in the fall and winter months there might not be any water flowing down the cliff.
When you arrive at the first waterfall, you will notice a distinct rotten egg smell from sulfur in the water. Most people hang out here for a few minutes, get a photo of the waterfall, and then start heading back.
There is a small dirt trail to the right of it and signs that say ‘Warning – Do Not Enter. Trail Ends Here’. The upper section of Escondido Falls is situated on private property that is not open to the public.
After hanging out for a bit, the location started getting very busy so we started heading back the same way we came. There were a lot more people on the trail by now, so we had to constantly move over to let people pass.
If you don’t enjoy crowded hikes, it’s best to do the Escondido Falls Trail during the week. The weekends are always going to be the busiest times for heading into nature anywhere in California.
Other Visitor Tips
Here are a few tips to keep in mind before you head out to hike the Escondido Falls Trail:
- The park is open to visitors from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset.
- This area does allow dogs, but they must be kept on a leash and cleaned up after.
- Escondido Falls is a family-friendly trail. We saw many families hiking with their little kids.
- There is only one restroom at the visitor parking lot and none once you enter the trail.
- I always pack a first aid kit, headlamp, and a portable phone charger, even on a short hike. It’s always best to go prepared!
- In the warmer months, I recommend wearing sunscreen, lip balm, a hiking hat, and polarized sunglasses to battle the harsh California sun. While some portions of this trail are partially shaded with beautiful trees, other sections are exposed to the sun.
- Much of this area is overgrown with poison oak. Bring poison oak scrub on the hike in case you accidentally touch it.
Where To Stay In Malibu
Planning a trip to Malibu from out of town and looking for somewhere to stay overnight? Here are some of the top-rated hotels in Malibu:
Malibu Beach Inn is one of the dreamiest places to stay on the coast! Situated just a short walk from the Malibu Pier, the location doesn’t get better than this.
The hotel features oceanfront rooms decorated with beach-inspired furnishings. The rooms come with private balconies where you can sip on a morning cup of coffee before heading out on fun adventures.
During your free time, you can enjoy spa services or drinks on the beachfront terrace. The hotel even has its own private beach access so you can avoid the crowds as you head down to the shoreline to watch the sunset.
Modern accommodations and upscale surf vibes await you at The Surfrider Malibu! This stylish hotel is situated just feet from the beach and the Malibu Pier.
The Surfrider Malibu features 20 boutique rooms for an intimate and luxurious stay. Every room comes with a spa rain shower, complimentary toiletries, and a private terrace or a balcony.
As a nice bonus, the hotel offers complimentary surfboards and paddleboards to its guests. After a day out hiking or catching the waves, you can enjoy dinner and drinks at the Surfrider’s Roof Deck Bar & Restaurant.
Calamigos Guest Ranch and Beach Club is situated more inland, just a 15-minute drive north of Escondido Falls. This luxurious resort sits on a sprawling 200-acre property with a choice of cottages, bungalows, and estate rooms.
The property features excellent amenities including three pools and a large spa pool. There are plenty of activities to keep you entertained on site including table tennis and billiards along with nearby guided horseback riding tours and wine tasting.
We hope this hiking guide has helped you prepare for a wonderful visit to Escondido Falls in Malibu! Here are a few other Central Coast posts that you may like:
- How To Hike The Ocean And Canyon View Trail In Malibu
- How To Hike The Solstice Canyon Trail In Malibu
- Ocean Overlook Loop Trail At Charmlee Wilderness Park
- 20 Best Waterfalls In Central California (By a Local)
- 15 Best Places To Eat In Ventura, California
- 15 Best Santa Barbara Wine Tasting Tours
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