11 Best Waterfall Hikes In Malibu, California

waterfall hikes in malibu
Isha
Isha 
Contributing Writer
Updated
| 8 min read

Situated along the stunning Pacific coastline of sunny Southern California, Malibu is possibly one of the most famous beach cities in the world. Home to movie stars, celebrities, and the who’s who of Hollywood, Malibu is all about glamour, beach, and the sun. The city also has some of the top beach houses and top Airbnb luxe accommodations for those looking to stay in the area. However, there are many other things to do in Malibu; so why not try something new while you’re in the area, and go on one of these Malibu hikes with a waterfall view. Falls might be the last thing you’d expect, but you’re sure to find these secret spots breathtaking. With towering mountains, deep canyons, and a variety of plant and animal life are some of the city’s breathtaking waterfalls. A network of trails within the mountains and state parks will give you unfettered access to some of California’s best waterfalls. While there are many waterfall hikes to choose from, it can be quite difficult to choose the right one to match your fitness levels, available time, ease of access, etc. To simplify this task, we’ve shortlisted the best ones for you. So, grab your hiking boots and check out the best waterfall hikes in Malibu, California.

Travel Advisory

Trip101 recommends assessing the risks before hitting the hiking and trekking trails. Please be especially aware of the difficulty levels, the locations’ ground conditions, as well as the seasonal risks.

1. Escondido Falls

waterfall hikes in malibu | escondido falls
Source: instagram

Winding past some of the fanciest houses in Malibu and situated in the Santa Monica Mountains, the Escondido Falls hike is one of the most popular hiking trails in Malibu. Divided into Lower and Upper Falls, The Escondido Falls are 150 feet (45 meters) tall and are regarded as one of the most impressive falls in Southern California. The Lower Falls can be reached via an easy shaded path interspersed by several creek crossings. The gushing waterfall is very picturesque and also hides some explorable caves behind it. The Upper Falls are located on private property and visitors are advised not to climb up.

The starting point of this Malibu hike with waterfalls can be accessed just off the famous PCH (Pacific Coast Highway), where you walk along the Winding Way until it opens up into a wider, more natural canyon trail that leads to the Lower Escondido Falls. The total round-trip hiking distance is around four miles (6.4 km) and the approximate time required is about two hours. Some tips for your waterfall hike: Parking at Winding Way is limited, so start early or be prepared to find alternate parking along the PCH. Also, when walking along the Winding Way, be sure to stay on the dirt road and off the paved path.

Escondido Falls

Address: 27200 Winding Way, Malibu, CA 90265

Website: Escondido Falls

Opening hours: 6am - 7pm (daily)

Price: 8 USD (for parking at Winding Way)

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2. Solstice Canyon

waterfall hikes in malibu | solstice canyon
Source: instagram

In Malibu, hiking on a waterfall trail is a great adventure. Another marvelous spot is Solstice Canyon hike in Santa Monica Mountains. Ending in a 30-foot tall (9.1-meter) three-tiered waterfall, this easy 2-mile (3.2 km) hiking trail is very family-friendly and suitable for people of all fitness levels. Winding past two sets of ruins – the off-limits Keller House and the oldest building in Malibu, Robert’s House – the Solstice Canyon is a fuss-free 2.5 mile-long (4 km) trail that takes just under 2 hours to complete. The delightful waterfall is right next to the second set of ruins and also doubles up as a great picnic spot in the shade of the surrounding boulders.

Access to the Solstice Canyon trailhead is from the Solstice Canyon parking lot on Corral Canyon Road in Malibu. The trail from there is pretty much a flat-surface paved road. The small parking lot at the start of the hike can hold only 20 cars and gets full very quickly over the weekends. You would need to park a mile away (adding to the hiking time) if the parking lot is full. An expert tip would be to either reach very early or do the hike on weekdays instead.

Solstice Canyon

Address: 3455 Solstice Canyon Rd, Malibu, CA 90265

Website: Solstice Canyon

Opening hours: 8am - sunset (daily)

Price: free

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3. Paradise Falls

waterfall
Source: Photo by Flickr user Steve Hardy used under CC BY-ND 2.0

Over 30 minutes away from Malibu, Paradise Falls features several trails that lead up to the 40-foot-tall (12-meter) falls. One of them is a 2.1-mile (3.3-kilometer) hike while the other is a 2.5-mile (4-kilometer) loop that goes through a cave.

Both trails are properly marked so you won’t have to worry about getting lost while you take in the wonderful sights and sounds of nature. If you want to extend your enjoyable hike through the woods, Lizard Rock easily adds 4.3 mi (6.9 km) to your trek.

Paradise Falls

Address: 928 West Avenida De Los Arboles, Wildwood Regional Park, Thousand Oaks, CA 91360, United States

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4. Temescal Canyon Trail

Temescal Canyon Trail
Source: Photo by Flickr user punctuated used under CC BY 2.0

Located in Los Angeles, Temescal Canyon Trail is a 4-mile (6.4-kilometer) trail that’s only 26 minutes away from Malibu. Moderately challenging, it’s estimated to take hikers a total of two hours and fourteen minutes to complete. This gives you plenty of time to relax during your trek and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature.

The hike leads up to a wonderful view of downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica from the trail’s top. Do take note that dogs are not allowed on the trail.

Temescal Canyon Trail

Address: Los Angeles, CA 90272, USA

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5. Upper Zuma Falls

To reach Upper Zuma Falls, a trekker must enter through the Backbone Trail which has several access points around Malibu. This trail is 9.3 kilometers (5.7 miles) long and features wonderful ocean and canyon views along a wooded path in a creek that eventually leads to 3 waterfalls. The trail has moderate traffic so don’t be surprised if you come across a few trekkers along the way.

With the trail going along a creek, the path will come across a few waterways so don’t forget to bring waterproof shoes.

Upper Zuma Falls

Address: Malibu, CA 90265

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6. Newton Canyon Falls

waterfall hikes in malibu | newton canyon falls
Source: instagram

Situated in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreational Area, the Newton Canyon Falls are one of the lesser-known waterfalls in Malibu. About 25 feet (7.6 meters) tall, the waterfall is actually divided into two parts – Lower Newton Canyon Falls and Upper Newton Canyon Falls. A round-trip to the Newton Canyon Falls is about 5 miles (8 km) long and will take you about 3 hours to complete. This trail is almost like a hidden gem and does not see heavy traffic. It is a moderate level hike with some inclines and requiring some scrambling activity.

The trail can be accessed via the Kanan Dume road from either PCH or Freeway 101. Drive for a few miles until you reach a parking lot near a footbridge. Park your car and start hiking downhill on a vegetated trail and turn left at the unmarked junction. Some scrambling across rocks or wading through short streams will take you to The Lower Falls and a slightly steeper trail will take you to the gorgeous Upper Falls. To reach both the falls will require a lot of switchbacking and retracing your steps along the Newton Canyon trail which also becomes the Backbone Trail along the way. Before you go on this hike, a good tip to remember would be to cover up and be adequately dressed since there is a lot of poison oak brush along the trail.

Newton Canyon Falls

Address: 1689 Kanan Dume Rd, Malibu, CA 90265

Website: Newton Canyon Falls

Opening hours: 8am - sunset (daily)

Price: free

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7. The Grotto Trail

waterfall hikes in malibu | the grotto trail
Source: instagram

A classic Southern California hike is the Grotto Trail in Malibu. This beautiful hike takes you through a picturesque green canyon in the Santa Monica Mountains that ends in a 12-foot (3.6-meter) waterfall. There is another star attraction at this hike though, a natural and slightly hidden grotto made entirely of boulders that frame this pretty waterfall. The waterfall gently flows into a shallow pool at the base of the grotto, which offers plenty of exploration opportunities. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a salamander! This family-friendly hike is just a 3-mile (4.8 km) round trip and will not take more than one and a half hours.

While the trail itself is not very difficult, some cautious clambering over boulders is required towards the end of the Grotto Trail hike. To reach the Grotto Trail start point, drive up Yerba Buena Road from the PCH to reach the Circle X Ranger Station. After parking your car here, follow the signs to the Grotto to descend into the canyon and scramble over boulders until you reach the waterfall and the grotto. A few tips before you do the hike: it would be best to do this hike after heavy rains for optimum chances of seeing the waterfall in full force. Also, the Grotto Trail takes you downhill on the way in and uphill on the way out. So, make sure you have the energy to hike back up!

The Grotto Trail

Address: 12896 Yerba Buena Rd, Malibu, CA 90265

Website: The Grotto Trail

Opening hours: 8am - sunset (daily)

Price: free

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8. Santa Ynez Waterfall

The Santa Ynez Waterfall is situated at the end of the Santa Ynez Trail in Topanga State Park close to Malibu. Hiking on this trail is fairly easy for the most part for hikers of all levels, but during the wet season, there could be some tricky bouldering activity near the waterfall. It is generally a lightly trafficked trail, but due to its popularity with families, weekends could get busy. The hike is about 2.5 miles (4 km) long and could take about 1 hour 15 minutes for a round trip. For the most part, the trail to the waterfall is shaded and some easy creek crossings would be required too. The actual Santa Ynez Waterfall is about 18 feet tall but it may run dry during the summer.

Access to the trailhead is from Palisades Drive off the PCH. Park at the side of the residential neighborhood street and begin walking downwards until you reach the sign for Santa Ynez Canyon Trail in Topanga State Park. Descend into the canyon on a single-track trail and continue walking till you reach a junction, from where you should take right for the Santa Ynez Waterfall. You will eventually reach a creek, and staying close to it will easily take you to the waterfall. A top tip for hikers is to cover your legs since there is plenty of poison oak and brush along this trail.

Santa Ynez Waterfall

Address: Santa Ynez Waterfall Trail, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272

Website: Santa Ynez Waterfall

Opening hours: 8am - sunset (daily)

Price: free

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9. Paradise Falls

secret falls
Source: Photo by Flickr user oliver.dodd used under CC BY 2.0

Paradise Falls is a stunning waterfall located just 32 minutes from the heart of Malibu. This waterfall hiking trail is family-friendly and is perfect for novices and expert hikers alike. The hike to this gorgeous location is easy to get to since the trail goes from a higher elevation to a lower one - the real challenge begins on your hike back to the parking lot. Make sure to bring a light jacket for unexpected weather changes, some water, and snacks. A round-trip hike takes a little less than an hour. Surrounded by serene and picturesque nature, the place is a popular trail, especially during autumn and spring.

Paradise Falls

Address: 928 West Avenida De Los Arboles, Wildwood Regional Park, Thousand Oaks, CA 91360, United States

Opening hours: 7am - dusk (daily)

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10. Zuma Canyon Trail

National Parks
Source: Photo by Flickr user GPA Photo Archive used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

Zuma Canyon Trail is a phenomenal hiking area located north of Malibu, in California, along the Santa Monica Mountains. The main trail is a serene hike and involves a gradual elevation, making the overall experience quite easy and laidback. Despite being in California, it’s incredibly lush and vibrant. Rich vegetation, gorgeous rolling hills, and a cornucopia of wildflowers make up a significant portion of what trail-goers will see. Rocky bluffs, cliffs, boulders, and brush are a common feature, but so are breathtaking forests, meandering streams, and a creek with a waterfall. Zuma Canyon Trail, found within the Zuma Ridge, offers a number of side trails to explore. For those looking to see Zuma waterfall, the hike from the trail is about 7 miles (11 kilometers). Whether walking, jogging, or going on an adventure with your pets, Zuma Canyon Trail is a beautiful and refreshing way to spend some time in the great outdoors.

Zuma Canyon Trail

Address: 5721 Bonsall Dr, Malibu, CA 90265, United States

Opening hours: 9am - 5pm (daily)

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11. Corral Canyon Park

Mesa Peak Motorway (Backbone Trail)
Source: Photo by Flickr user Santa Monica Moun... used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

Corral Canyon Park is a scenic and undeveloped park located close to the Santa Monica Mountains in California and is located between Dan Blocker Beach and Malibu Creek State Park. The most popular activity for visitors is to hike its looping trails and enjoy its picturesque scenery. Everywhere hikers look, rolling green hills, vibrant vegetation, and scattered trees make up the landscape. It also connects to Solstice Canyon Trail, which is only 5 km (3.1 mi) away, where a small waterfall can be found. Tall grass and beautiful wildflowers are common, while breathtaking views of the California coast and surrounding countryside are easily accessible from a number of high hills – including Mesa Peak. Corral Canyon Park is dog-friendly and a refreshing place to visit for all types of people.

Corral Canyon Park

Address: Malibu, CA 90265, United States

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Amazing waterfall hikes in Malibu

The beautiful city of Malibu is blessed not only with stunning beaches but also with a number of verdant canyons, mesmerizing landscapes, and gorgeous waterfalls. The best way to experience all its natural beauty is through some of the best Malibu tours the city has to offer - or just hike a waterfall trail or any of its many mountain trails. Explore Malibu’s hiking and waterfall trails and you’re sure to have an adventure to remember!

Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!
Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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Isha is a former corporate employee who now leads a tranquil life centered around travel, writing, and minding her own business.

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