One of my most favorite ways to explore a new area is to go on a hike. You get to experience the most pure parts of the area and see the landscape from a different perspective. I was excited to try out the Escondido Falls trail because it is well-known for being a beautiful and rewarding hike. With my roommates and some of their family that was in town, we headed out for the coastal drive to Malibu.
Once arriving there is a small dirt lot right off of PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) but it fills quickly and the rest of everyone else just parks along the street. From there you make your way on a paved street through a quiet neighborhood, this is about a 15 minute walk before getting to the true beginning of the trail.
The hike to the first waterfall is tame. A few fallen logs, dried up river beds but mostly foilage and trees and peaceful nature sounds. This would make a great beginners hike or for anyone looking for more of a nature walk. We saw lots of dogs, young children and families for this part of the hike.
The first waterfall is a meandering drip, as we are in a drought after all. However, after a good rain, the falls would be more robust and even more picturesque.
If you’re lookng for a bit more of an expedition, continue up the rocks to your right. This is where having decent hiking shoes would be reccomended. I recently invested in a pair of trail running shoes and they made all the difference. Let me tell you, I got my money’s worth in one hike and my feet were happy the whole way home. To get to the second waterfall you will go up and down rocks and boulders and loose dirt paths and it is completely worth it if you’re able. Approximately 100 feet tall, the second waterfall has a steady water stream and a great spot for photos, as you will see we took advantage. This is a good hike, challenging but enjoyable.
Further, you can choose to climb up into the cave behind the waterfall. This is more dangerous than it looks, about 50 feet high but has a great view. You make it there by climbing a tree then shuffling yourself along the side of the mountain by holding onto a tree root with precarious foot to rock placement. A more difficult adventure but completely voluntary. If that didn’t scare you back down the mountain, there’s more.
To get the best view of the entire landscape including ocean, clouds and trees, you can continue up the mountain to the top of the waterfall. I do not recommend this for anyone unfamiliar with hiking and rock climbing or scared of heights. I am both those things and still did it but I had no idea what I was getting myself into. It did not look nearly as treacherous as it is and I was promised beautiful photos, so up I went. You know you’re a photographer when…
I am not exaggerating when I say it was the most difficult physical challenge I have put my body through. The terrain is rugged, steep, not much to grab and involves a spot where you have to brace yourself between two boulders using your body weight and slowly slither yourself up to the next plateau. There was a point where you literally have to hug the mountain to resist gravity and falling backwards. Let’s just say I have a new level of respect for Mother Nature. It was terrifying and exhilarating all at once. I almost turned back multiple times but going back down seemed just as scary so I figured I might as well make it worth the trip and just do it.
So I did.
The view, stunning. Definitely worth it. Maybe it’s the increased altitude, maybe it’s the possibility of death with one misstep, but it was breathtaking. It was a cloudy day, marine layer still going strong, so the sky and ocean was not as distinct. No less, an amazing spot to take it all in and if you’re like me, contemplate your sanity for being up there in the first place.
Hiking is one of the few activities where I can truly turn off my brain and just be content in nature. One foot in front of the other, one deep breath at a time. I walked away with more than just pictures, something less tangible but equally beautiful, my perspective of what I am actually capable of completely shifted.