08 March 2016

Escondido Falls

Escondido Canyon Park




Seeing the creek that wraps around the north side of Sandstone Peak full of water has me thinking of the local waterfalls. Perhaps they are flowing nicely too. I have gone right for the grandest of them all in the Santa Monica Mountains, but not on a weekend. That would be madness. On a weekday, I can find a parking spot within the little lot although there are very few left. I get my feet into a pair of shoes I do not mind getting muddy and start up the signed trail next to the road.

road up past estates
Well used trail beside the road to a few Malibu estates.

The islands are out today, even if a little grey with distance. Large Catalina and smaller San Clemente and tiny San Nicolas or Santa Barbara are shapes upon the horizon. The other islands are hiding behind Point Dume.

San Clemente Island
San Clemente Island over a long stable.

sign at the start of the trail
Finally at the end of the roadside "trail" and ready for some mud.


Over a third of the way to the falls, I can finally get on some real trail. It drops down quickly to the creek and crosses over. The creek is just a bit of mud. That is not a good sign for the state of the falls. A couple of those same escaped green parrots are squawking in one of the sycamore trees just a little further up the canyon. There is not so much mud as I was worried that there might be. Although it is a cool day, it is still nice to be under the oaks.

two green parrots
Two parrots in a sycamore tree. Sometimes it helps to look for the tails hanging down.

oak lined trail
Wide, well used trail down under the oaks.

old nest
A small nest that does not belong to a parrot.

There is a split where most go right, but it does not matter as the trail rejoins soon after. After a third creek crossing of only stiff mud, it breaks out of the trees into chaparral and the heat. There is a little of it today. The first glimpse of the very top of the upper falls looks nearly dry, but then there is the sound of running water with an accompaniment of frogs. There is still some hope of a waterfall.

dry dirt trail
Out of the trees and into the warmth of the sun.

waterfall top
The very top of the upper falls looks to be nearly dry.

flowing creek
There is water in the creek after all.

As I come under trees again, there are a few more voices. The waterfall is just up ahead. The others are leaving and I have it all to myself for at least a few minutes. This could be nice, but there is a distinctive smell to this lower fall. It is rank. It is not as bad as it has been, but it is still a bit strong.

lower waterfall
The lower waterfall, which is obscured a bit by the nearby trees.

water and ferns
Water dribbling through the ferns that grow in the waterfall.

The trail ends here, but plenty continue on. I start up the steep use trail. The ropes that have been in place before are gone. They never looked like something that would actually make anyone safer anyway. I take care in the climb, being sure that each foot is placed where it will not slip before trying to move the other and grabbing on with my hands as much as I can. The middle fall is only moist in some places and the creek below it is dry as I cross.

rocky trail
A ledge of trail into the middle fall area. This is one of the easy parts of this use trail.

middle fall
The middle fall is almost completely dry.

The part I take the most care on is not actually one of the places where there has been ropes. Just past the middle fall, the route goes up rocks slick with water flow and many feet and even a stable foot placement feels like it could slip out from under me. Above it, the route splits and I take the lower one knowing it is tight, but easier. The creek is dry here, too. Around the corner is the upper falls. It does have water.

upper falls
The upper waterfall is definitely my favorite.

The upper waterfall does not stink. There is no one here either and I can listen to the water falling onto the tiers and into the shallow pool. The sun really feels nice. The sound of the waterfall is nice. For a while, I just lay back on the gravel and dirt and bask in the warmth and the sound. (Link to bad video of the waterfall.) There are no disturbances except the passing planes.

joyous drops
And the drops leap joyously out into the air.

waterfall tiers with caves behind
The tiers and the caves are wonderful in this slowly growing waterfall.

plants in the pool
Some leafy greens at the bottom.

knobs on the cave roof
A good look into the top of one of the caves at the knobs of stalactites.

After a while, it is really time to get going again. I go back the way I came, very slowly and carefully. I can hear water below the lower fall and check that out. There is somewhat more waterfall below it and it is much more than damp. The water just finds some way to sneak around the upper middle. The spot to see this does not give a good view of the waterfall behind a sycamore, but does have a nice view out over the valley.

falling water behind sycamore leaves
A bit more waterfall almost entirely obscured by sycamore leaves.

Back to the relative safety of the trail, there are people again. I head off down the trail. Keeping right at the split, the crossing is a little muddier and there is a spur trail. Climbing this gives another view of the upper section of the upper waterfall. A little higher, and there are more island views. At the top, the clearly built trail seems to join a driveway which is gated below. I recognize the gate from seeing the other side, but decide not to investigate if there is a way out for pedestrians and head back down the way I came up.

Santa Barbara Island
The coast looks a little different from up here. Santa Barbara Island is still out there.

another waterfall view
The waterfall looks little more than damp from here.

On the way back, I pay a little more attention to the few flowers that can be found in and around the canyon today.

many ceanothus flowers
The ceanothus has been starting to pop.

tiny green flowers
Some little green flowers are very interesting.

bigger tiny green flowers
As are their nearby neighbor.


There is one car waiting for a spot as I get there, apparently not aware that there is parking available along the side of the highway. No one has yet taken that extra parking.




©2016 Valerie Norton
Posted 12 Mar 2016

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