27 March 2011

Escondido Falls

Escondido Canyon Park, Malibu

Locate the trailhead.

Good rains recently, so time to go see some falls. I found that there's supposed to be some impressive ones down in Malibu. It doesn't seem to me like a place to find impressive waterfalls, but the hike is short and variably beautiful or ugly depending on the reviewer. It is also quite crowded on days like this when the water should be flowing well. There is a lot to park in next to the highway and still a mile or so to walk to get up to the trail head. This part was okay. There are views of the ocean along the road before plunging into the relative backcountry.

The trail was still wet from rain the night before and the remaining clouds were keeping it nice and cool. The trail initially slopped down somewhat steeply and the mud was made of very fine stuff and nice and slick. The trail promptly came to a stream crossing. I'd already caught up with a few people and a few more were crossing the other way. This was indeed a crowded trail with often quite large groups going down it. The group coming out offered a stick to help with the rock hopping but since it looked like a simple few steps, the stick was left by the side for less confident hikers.

Nice, bright hummingbird sage.
It is spring, so there are flowers abounding. Some hummingbird sage brightly decorating the side of the trail.

The trail was wide and easy as it went upstream. A few more crossings were made, all easy. A few spots with poison oak that was easily avoided. A few trails headed off that were much smaller than the main trail. One is reported to go nowhere, one headed downstream from the first crossing and fizzles out and one just comes back to the main trail after taking a different stream crossing, so there is no danger of getting lost along the way. Eventually, the top of the falls can be seen above the trees. Comparing, it looks like this is the upper falls.

Top of the falls above the highway of a trail.
The trail is like a highway with plenty of room to roam. The top of the falls and a cascade behind it breaks through the trees to show where we are going.

Top with cascade visible. Closer view of the top from another angle.
A couple of views of the top visible through the tall trees along the trail.

Soon, we come upon the lower falls. They are tall and dribbling and a little smelly, as advertised. I take some time to have a good look at them.

Falls from a little way off with a human for size.
Coming upon the falls. Just one person at the moment, but there's a whole crowd just behind me coming up the trail.

The falls unblocked except for some trees.
Here's a look at the falls without anyone in the way.

Detail of the bottom of the falls and pool and rocks.
A rock fallen from above and some detail of the lower portion of the falls.

detail of the top
A look at the top from a better angle than before.

Some of the crowd couldn't be bothered to go back down the trail a little and took off up the side where people had clearly gone many times before. This was climbing with some fairly good handholds. Others felt they'd seen a perfectly good trail going up just down the trail and went up it. I joined the second group. No need to climb when there's a nice switchback to let you walk up. Though not so bad as to need handholds most of the way, the trail did tend to go straight up until coming to a small fall or perhaps just cascade.

Tall cascade along the way up to more big falls.
Another nice water feature on the way up to even bigger falls.

A big rock helped cross this, but not much else so one step was quite big and the crowd was slowed down on their way. A couple handhold were required to get up this next section, but still not too bad and never getting one high up. Then the next falls came into view again.

Those trees sure do know how to block a view. This looks familiar, though.

The trail is generally flat from the top of the cascade to the next falls. These are even more impressive. The bottom falls are a growing fall. These are too, in some places but in others the flow is too great and there isn't growth. On top of the growing rock are thick patches of growing moss and together they've made a strange effect.

Wide tiers of moss and growing rock.
On the left side of the falls, large tiers hang with moss and dribble water. The rock is growing here.

I couldn't stand anywhere to get all of the waterfall into the frame at once. I liked this waterfall better than the one below. It smelled less too.

a bit of waterfall
The water coming down next to the dribbled over moss hangings turning into stone tiers.

the bottom of the waterfall from the left side
The bottom of a waterfall where a half living tree is pummeled with water. I sketched this tree while I was there. Notice how the rock on the left doesn't quite come down to the level of the pool.

stepping back for a fuller picture
About all I could get of the falls at once. The trees close in and the stream curves around and the rocks are numerous.

stepping up close for a fuller picture
Alternatively, I can get up close to the falls and try to get them all in without too much splash getting on the camera, and this is the result.

I finished eating and drawing and packed up to go down as another big grouping found their way up. I tried to be extra careful coming down. It's harder to see the footholds after all.

a piece of trail along a ledge
Some of the use trail up to the cascade. This ledge is the scariest flat space. Nothing else promised a very fast fall if you stepped badly.

Coming back I felt I really hadn't gone very far. I explored down the path going downstream by the first crossing. It seemed to fork eventually with part stopping quickly in thick brush and part crossing the stream where there were no stones, just a long shallow place. It didn't seem to go far past there either, but I couldn't be sure. I decided not to follow it after all.

I crossed the last crossing and climbed out of the valley to the road. The sun had finally come out and sections of the trail were now dry and much easier to walk on than the mud.

view from the canyon to the sea via a piece of Malibu
The view out of the canyon to the ocean. This is Malibu near Pepperdine, a fairly sparsely populated area.

the canyon from the road
Looking back into the canyon. It's hard to believe there could be waterfalls up there.

Then I walked back along the road, since I was really only a little more than halfway back to the car upon getting to the road.

sketch by the falls
The sketch made by the upper falls.

©2011 Valerie Norton
Posted 17 May 2011

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