Dog on the Escondido Trail. (CC) HermitSMoores
“Escondido” means “hidden” in Spanish, but there’s nothing remotely discreet about the approach to one of Southern California’s most stunning waterfalls, which just happens to do its thing near a “mansions of the stars” strip of real estate in Malibu.
Hikers with leashed canines are a common sight along the uphill stretch of Winding Way leading after three-quarters of a mile to the Escondido Canyon Trail and the tallest cascade in the Santa Monica Mountains. Ogle the homes of the rich and famous as you will, but come prepared (with hiking shoes, camera, pickup bags and snacks) for the 3.2-mile round-trip trek into the canyon.
Once on the gentle trail, you’ll follow a creek upstream, crossing it several times, and get a glimpse of the first set of falls after about half a mile. The lower tier, gushing 50 feet into the fern-lined pool below, is reached after another half-mile walk. But it’s the upper falls, a Hollywood-worthy, three-tiered limestone cascade that tumbles 150 feet over moss-covered limestone boulders, that hikers come to see.
You’ll have to work a bit to get the view: the final 200 feet of vertical gain requires some serious scrambling and rock-hopping. You may see some ropes tied to trees to aid you in the climb. Agile pets won’t have a problem, but exercise extreme caution if you follow the fearless teens often seen clambering in the slippery grotto behind the veil of the falls. Definitely not recommended for your four-legged friend!