Skip to main content

E is for Escondido Falls: A Free to See #AtoZChallenge Post


A brown sign reads: Edward Albert Escondido Canyon Trail and Waterfalls Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority

I'm living in southern California this year, and decided to use my exploration of the area as my focus for the #AtoZChallenge. I'm concentrating on free to see places, though I will include locations that require a parking fee. This is the fifth post in the series. 

My mental image when I hear the word "hike" is of walking through a forest, smelling the damp ground, seeing the green understory, and hearing the sound of a nearby stream. Imagine my delight when I found the Escondido Canyon Trails and Waterfalls!

I went on a Monday in April after a very rainy weekend. This was my first time (second attempt--on the same day--as I'll explain later) making this hike, so I'm not sure my experience was typical. I imagine the water would be less abundant if you were to go later in the season. 

First of all, a note about parking: there is a tiny paid parking lot off of Winding Way in Malibu, California. I had planned to park there, but it was completely full. Instead (and this is a free option) I parked on the side of the Pacific Coast Hwy. I parked in the closest available legal spot, but because so many cars were already parked, I ended up hiking quite a ways before I even got back to Winding Way. 

Once I walked to the parking lot, I realized I had left my hiking poles in my car. Thinking I didn't want to retrace my steps, I decided to just carry on to the trailhead. After all, I didn't see anyone else carrying hiking poles, so how bad could it be? Of course, everyone else seemed to be at least 20-30 years younger than me, and none of them had probably ever fallen flat on their face during a 5K "fun" run (like I have done!) But deciding to ignore all that, I kept on. 

The hike to the trailhead is about a mile along the aptly-named Winding Way. There is no parking allowed along the road. You climb up for most of the way, then descend down at the end where you will find the sign for the trailhead (pictured above). However, even though you are walking uphill much of the way, you are rewarded with sweeping ocean views and multi-million dollar homes to gawk at. I heard a child ask his father, "Why don't we get a house up here?" 🤣

A beautiful ocean view over the green trees

Just one of the mansions you'll see on the walk to the trailhead

Once I reached the trailhead, I was eager to get started on the "real" hike. (It's only about another mile to the waterfall.) I wasn't too far into this portion of the hike when I met my first stream-crossing. There were log stumps placed in the water, and I was able to hold onto an overhead branch. I was wearing my hiking water sandals, but still didn't want to fall off the slippery stumps. I managed to get across, thanks in part to some literal hand-holding by a stranger on the other side, and continued along my way. 

The second stream-crossing came soon after, and it was at this point that I decided to turn around, go back to the car, retrieve my hiking poles, and then come back and try again. The bank was just too steep and muddy, and I didn't want to fall and hurt myself.  I already felt foolish, and I didn't want to add injury to insult. I must admit, I wasn't 100% sure I was going to return, but then I thought of how disappointed I would be if I didn't see the waterfalls (and besides, what would I write for letter E?!), so back up the hill to the trailhead I went. I felt a little bit like Buddy the Elf describing his adventures: "Then I traveled through the seven levels of the Candy Cane forest, past the sea of twirly-swirly gum drops, and then I walked through the Lincoln Tunnel." (AGAIN!)

This is the second stream crossing, with its close steep bank (which is steeper than it appears in this photo), that caused me to turn around to retrieve my hiking poles

The second attempt to get to the waterfall was much easier with hiking poles. I was so much more confident. Even though my feet got wet at times, it was a choice, not a fall, that took me into the water. There were five stream crossings in total, plus two places I needed to just hop over flowing water. 

The trail was mostly in the shade, with the occasional sunny (yet muddy) spots.

A muddy section of trail between green shrubbery
The sound of running water was abundant, and just before I reached the waterfall, I got a glimpse of the upper falls. 

The upper falls is visible from the trail

Soon thereafter, I arrived at the base of the lower falls. I was refreshed as a slight breeze carried a mist of water from the falls to my face. 
The lower falls cascades into a pool of water beneath
Signs are posted instructing hikers to not hike further to the upper falls, so I turned around at the lower falls. Would I hike Escondido Falls again? Yes, but next time I will remember my hiking poles from the get-go!


  1. You really took one for the team by going back to get the poles! Wow! And you had to walk a mile just to get to the trailhead? You are totally winning this challenge!

    1. Blogging definitely holds me accountable! It was a really cool hike, though--and the second mile back up to the trailhead actually felt shorter than the first time!

  2. Looks like a scenic stroll. I'll make do with the virtual visit to this site with you. My poor old legs and chest can't manage up hills and down dales

    1. I didn't used to need my hiking poles as much as I do now, either. I'm not a fan of falling down! :-)

  3. It does sound wonderful, and worth coming back to see.

    1. I'm enjoying the hikes here, especially in the cooler, wetter spring.


Post a Comment

Conversations are so much nicer when more than one person does the talking. :-) Please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts; I'd love to hear from you!

Popular posts from this blog

Ten Things of Thankful: Autumn Edition

It's autumn time, one of my favorite times of year.  I just couldn't leave this weekend as a one-post weekend.  

Ten Things of Thankful: Last Two Weeks

  Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park, as viewed from an overlook I apologize for not commenting on your blog posts this past week; John and I took a vacation to Yellowstone National Park, leaving behind our computers and, to a large extent, cell phone service. We escaped the outside world and just spent time in nature. Though we have friends near Yellowstone (who we love to visit) we made this trip just about us, so please forgive us if we were nearby and didn't stop by. The crowds were minimal (though we did mask up whenever we passed someone on the trails) and we spent our days hiking, taking photos, and watching geysers erupt. Today, we are back home and back to work, and, in the case of my computer, back to old shenanigans like not letting me import my photos. (I was able to add the above photo by using blogger on my phone, but that isn't my preferred method.) I want to write about Yellowstone and have photos I want to share, but will leave that for another

Monday Mentions: Equate Crutches

Have you ever needed crutches? I hadn't, until a week ago.  I'm pretty sure I strained a muscle while running a half-marathon.  (That sounds kind of cool, doesn't it? I'm not actually that cool; the last time I strained a muscle it was from carrying too many shopping bags at once.) In any case, I found myself in need of some crutches. I sent my husband to the store to get some. Photo: A pair of crutches leans against a wall  Not that crutches are all that complex, but because I hadn't used any before, I wondered if I could figure out how to adjust them to fit me properly. I shouldn't have worried. John came home from Walmart with their generic store brand of crutches, complete with instructions. First, I needed to take out a long bolt that went through the hand grip. Then I needed to find my height range, push down two metal pieces, and slide the crutches until the little metal pieces came up in the hole near my height range. (Having two people for this