I never thought I would be an “LA person”, but the hills got me. It’s true. Sure, I enjoy the sunny weather, the beaches, and the generally laid back culture of Los Angeles, but it was during my hikes in the many trails throughout the hills that surround the city that I fell completely in love with LA.
While many people rave about Runyon Canyon, I personally find that the starlets on their cell phones leave me feeling more like I hit the Strip than escaped into the hills. My favorite trails are the ones that allow me to feel truly removed from the LA hustle, and if I am looking for an extra dose of adventure, then the Edward Albert Escondido Canyon Trail and Waterfall, simply known as “Escondido Falls”, is where you’ll find me.
This lesser known trail is located in Malibu just a little north of the Colony and starts at an inconspicuous little parking lot nestled in the intersection of the Pacific Coast Highway (“PCH” to locals) and Winding Way Road. The paved path traverses upward through a hilly Malibu neighborhood of palatial homes with ocean views before descending into a grassy canyon where the dirt trail begins. The first third of the 3.8 mile round trip hike is a breeze for beginners with slight inclines, wide trails through wooded areas, and occasional creek crossings. On days that you’re only seeking a nice walk and a little bit of nature, feel free to go no further than the base of the waterfall where water trickles down a mossy rock face into the stream.
However, if you decide to continue on to the second stretch of the hike, be prepared to get dirty and to use muscles you never knew you had as you make your way up an obstacle-course-like section of trail. At several points the hike becomes a full body exercise, engaging all of your limbs in order to use tree branches and rocks for leverage as you pull yourself up steep sections of the trail. Because parts of the trail are very narrow with loose substrate and some formidable drop offs, it is definitely important that hikers be mindful of their footing as they make their way through this natural playground. After crossing the stream a couple more times and meandering through one of several possible routes, you will find yourself standing beneath a 150-foot waterfall that is undeniably impressive despite the usually minimal amount of watershed. People often picnic or mill about at the base of the fall, staring up at the giant curtains of moss that hang over cavernous openings in the cliff side.
Avid rock-climbers and adrenaline junkies can be seen making their way up the final section of the hike, which entails scrambling up a gravely gorge and climbing a somewhat precarious outcropping of rock to make it to the top of the ridge above the falls. I have always opted to forgo this last part, as I happen to be just a little bit afraid of heights, but that’s one of the great things about Escondido Falls—there is something for everyone. Enjoy a nice walk down the first third of the trail, get in touch with your inner monkey on the second section, or go full-scale dare-devil if you dare. Either way, I highly recommend taking a little trip up the coastline and checking out this hidden gem of a hike next time you are in need of an escape from the city and a reminder that, despite its status as the city everyone loves to hate, LA-life ain’t so bad.