The Most Breathtaking Waterfall in Los Angeles - but it comes with some DANGER
Updated: Nov 9, 2020
What You Need To Know About Escondido Falls
A MUST read before you head out
WATCH the complete video on Escondido Falls - here
Or check out my journey to another LA waterfall, here.
Looking for a hike that's a real adventure?
Want to discover a waterfall that is unbelievably breath taking?
When I first heard about this trail via pictures and tag post, I of course was blown away by the beauty of these falls. Yet no one mentioned the intense trek required to get to the top of this mountain where Escondido Falls begins.
So let me fill you in on what to expect.
The trail starts off from Pacific Coast Hwy in Malibu.
There is parking at the trail entrance (for $8) off Winding Way Road. This lot tends to fill quickly so we parked (for FREE) along the side of Pacific Coast Hwy.
As you walk up this paved street towards the trail, you will literally be walking through a gorgeous neighborhood with beautiful homes, landscapes and views of the ocean. There is a dirt trail along the right side of the street that residents ask guest to use so they are not in the street.
You will walk up this hill top, donned with amazing views of the mountains, Pacific Ocean and local homes, and then downward where the actual hike trail begins.
Read on below to learn all you need to know when planning your trip to Escondido Falls.
Top 5 Things you MUST Know about Escondido Falls
1. Where is it?
Located in the Santa Monica Mountains, starting at: 27200 Winding Way Malibu, CA 90265
The entry to this hike is off Pacific Coast Hwy and Winding Way Rd.
Its about a 45 min drive from Mid-City Los Angeles.
There is a paid parking lot off Winding Way Rd. as well as lots of FREE street parking along Pacific Coast Hwy.
**Note if parking on Pacific Coast Hwy, be extra careful getting out of your car because there is little room to open your car door and get out with the traffic flying by along side**
Everyone lists this hike as "easy" however if you want to hike to the Big Falls, it is nothing close to easy.
2. There is a hike and then there is a climb
If you are looking to hike to the big falls, you must be prepared. It's more of a climb than a hike.
But let's first talk about the overall hike first. Then we will get into the climb to the falls.
As I mentioned earlier, the hike starts off with an uphill hike through a beautiful neighborhood with spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean.
The residents of the area ask that you use the dirt path along the right side of the street versus walking up the paved drive they use to get to their homes.
Once you reach the top of this hill, the street begins downward towards the mountains. Near the bottom is where you will see the entrance to the trail.
The path from this point is all dirt and rather flat, therefore it is a rather easy hike to the first waterfall.
The trail has areas of shade and open areas with lots of sunlight, so be sure to wear some sunscreen.
The views of the mountains ahead and all around are beautiful; you somewhat feel like you are in a desert area vs Malibu.
This trail ends at a beautiful yet smaller 50 ft waterfall.
The hike to this point is only ~ 1.75 miles from the trail start and again is pretty easy. But it is from here when you have the choice to climb to the unbelievable 3 tiered falls of Escondido Falls.
3. The climb
Off to the right of this first waterfall is a hidden dirt hill that can easily be missed. If other hikers were not coming down from their trip, we would have missed it ourselves.
Up on top of this climb, is where the stunning 150 ft waterfall sit.
This climb is around another ~550 ft elevation, so it gets pretty high.
And given the climb from this first fall to the big falls is only another .15 miles in distance, it is another ~200 ft in elevation, making it very steep!
To be honest, this was one of the most intense climbs I have ever done and we weren't expecting it. You will literally be climbing on your hands and feet up this mountainside of slippery dirt and rocks.
There are points that are so steep, ropes have been tied to trees to help climbers to pull their way up and minimize the risk of sliding or falling down.
Other climbers are very helpful due to its strenuous endeavor. To respect the other climbers, it is best to climb in single lines spacing yourselves out incase any people or rocks slip.
Make sure you are very careful, watching each your steps, testing both rocks, branches and dirt before completely stepping down for your next step.
This is especially important when coming back down.
Once you make it to the top there is an incredible view of the mountains, before a slight decline that brings you into the opening of this breathtaking waterfall!
To give you an idea of the intensity, the time it took for us to climb to the big falls from the smaller waterfall was almost the same amount of time it took us to hike from the trail entrance to the smaller fall.
**Note: I'd recommend bringing a backpack to hold any items you bring with you since you will need both of your hands free for this climb.
4. The Big Falls
When we final got to this big fall, I have to admit I was blown away (and out of breath lol).
The color, the sounds, the smell and the feeling from the misting water splashing off the cliffs edge was so invigorating.
The waterfall is very green with a tropical look due to the green moss that grows on the rocks of the falls.
The sounds of the water cascading from each tier of the falls down to the small pond beneath it is so calming.
And the smell and feeling of the clean crisp water splashing and misting over you is so refreshing!
There is a large cave-like section at the first tier of the falls which we saw a lot of people climb into. But you must be careful.
The climb to this cave is incredibly slippery. The rocks leading to the cave have been drenched with water so they've built up a slippery layer.
I was about to start my climb to the cave when a women fell and hurt herself pretty bad. So unfortunately I didn't make it to this point.
If you do plan to climb to the cave, PLEASE BE VERY CAREFUL! Make sure you have support and don't forget you still have to climb back down the mountain before you make it to flat road again.
5. The Trip
Overall the trip from start to finish (at our car) was only about 3.5 miles, and a total elevation of ~550 ft.
We finished the trip in about 1 hour and 45 minutes. We did take time at the big waterfall to enjoy the view.
I have to admit this was one of the most amazing and rewarding hikes I have ever done!
Both myself and my friend were excited about the challenge of the climb and the reward of knowing we accomplished it (with only minor cuts on our hands from climbing through the dirt).
So, if you are planning to go please see below on a few things I would definitely recommend.
BONUS MAKE SURE YOU READ.
Before you go, remember the following:
A Hike for all ages - ONLY if hiking to the smaller waterfall.
A Hike for Experienced hikers ONLY - If hiking to the big falls, please only go if you are experienced and in good shape. This is no easy trek.
Pack Water - There are 2 inclines on this hike (if planning to climb to the second fall). Plus you will be in direct sunlight at times, so stay hydrated.
Wear Sunscreen - Even though the trail has some shaded points, there is lots of open sunlight, especially if climbing to the big fall.
Bring a Backpack - If you are climbing to the big fall you need your hands free.
Wear Climbing Shoes - The hike to the big fall is extremely intense, you will need good shoes to minimize slipping. Also know that any shoes you wear will be completely covered and filled with dirt.
Wear Old Clothes - You're going to be covered in dirt (hands, knees and feet) so wear clothes you don't mind ruining or getting dirty.
For more information on the details for this trail, visit the LA county trail site here.
So head out, be safe, have fun and enjoy all of California's beauty!!
Check out the full video, on YouTube Channel, here
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