Southern California may be known for its warm beach days and dry climate, but a hike among the Santa Monica Mountains or state parks can reveal another landscape entirely: winding paths shaded by lush vegetation, picturesque overlooks, and oftentimes, cascading waterfalls.
From falls descending more than 100 feet to those that gently tumble over mountain boulders, here are some of our favorite waterfall hikes near Malibu Beach Inn.
Escondido Falls, Malibu
At 150 feet, Escondido Falls is the tallest waterfall in the Santa Monica Mountains and easily one of the most frequented. The rushing water descends over picturesque, moss-covered rocks and cave formations that the sure-footed enjoy exploring.
Access the falls by way of a 3.8-mile roundtrip hike beginning at the small parking lot on Winding Road. The first mile of the trail is paved, taking you through the Malibu hills until you reach the sign for Escondido Canyon Trail and Waterfalls. Follow the shaded path into the forest, across several small rivers, and past two tremendous waterfalls before reaching the third and largest waterfall.
Photo: Kenneth Moore
The Grotto, Malibu
A natural grotto frames this scenic, 12-foot waterfall in tumbles of boulders and a shallow, shaded pool. Perfect for families, the 3-mile roundtrip hike to the falls descends through a verdant canyon flecked with wildflowers, then follows the West Fork of the Arroyo Sequit creek to the grotto.
Find the trail entrance at the Circle X Ranch Ranger Station parking lot, keeping in mind that while the trail is relatively easygoing, you will need to climb over boulders to reach the grotto. The waterfall is best experienced after a rain and may not be flowing during a drought.
Solstice Canyon, Malibu
The hike through Solstice Canyon is most well-known for the ruins of the Tropical Terrace house, the oldest stone building in Malibu, but close to the ruins you can also find a three-tiered waterfall that feels entirely removed from the nearby beaches. Wade into the knee-deep pool, which is shaded and surrounded by boulders, to stand beneath 30 feet of rushing water.
To reach the waterfall and ruins, park in the Solstice Canyon lot on Corral Canyon Road, then choose between a 2-mile out-and-back paved trail or the more rugged Rising Sun Trail – which first ascends the sunlit canyon before making its way to the canyon’s base.
Photo: National Park Service
Santa Ynez Falls, Pacific Palisades
This 18-foot waterfall tucked into a grotto is difficult to reach but well worth the effort. After walking through dense forest, smooth rock walls rise up on either side of you and frame the narrow waterfall as it comes into view.
Find the trailhead at the bottom of the hill on Vereda de la Montura road, then step into the lush Topanga State Park. The 2.5-mile out-and-back hike is easy at first, passing by blooming wildflowers and bay trees, but as you draw closer to the falls, you will need to climb over boulders and rock hop across the creek in several places. The waterfall is best experienced after a rain and may not be flowing during a drought.