Photo by Shawn Jones
Although the entrance is adjacent to the Pacific Coast Highway, the trails at Escondido Falls are serene vacations from the motor-crowded coast. The hike begins on a paved road between beautiful Malibu estates. After a quarter mile, the real journey begins. A mile inward, a 50-foot waterfall releases a sulfuric perfume into the air. After a short rest, hikers can choose to follow the path to Upper Escondido Falls, home to a 200-foot waterfall. On a hot day, hikers enjoy climbing to a small landing in the splash zone behind the falls. While the drought has brought the falls to a near standstill, watch for fresh mint leaves that grow at the base of the falls. Whether traveling by foot or mountain bike, Escondido Falls provides a tranquil getaway from student life.
How to get there: Head west on PCH. Once you are approaching Paradise Cove Cafe, look for parking along PCH. Turn right onto Winding Way and start walking.
Accessible year-round, the Grotto persists as a favorite among Malibu hikers. This trail proves to be perfect for all ages. The hike itself is 3.5 miles round-trip — interspersed with trickling streams and scenic overlooks. Natural caves allow hikers to veer off designated trails and discover picturesque views distinct to Malibu. Visit during the spring when leaf canopies and budding flowers embellish the trails, overlapping as they wrestle for nutrition around the volcanic rock.
How to get there: Head west on PCH, and turn right on Yerba Buena Road.
Zuma Canyon Trail
Located off Bosnall Drive, Zuma Canyon Trail explores the winding canyon opposite Zuma Beach. Zuma Canyon is a 2.8-mile hike steeped with rocky paths, making it a perfect place to witness Malibu on horseback. Although interspersed with oak and sycamore trees, Zuma Canyon Trail suffers from intense exposure to the sun which often dries up the creeks. Zuma Canyon provides numerous branching trails, which vary in elevation. For a hike under the sun, Zuma Canyon is the place to be.
How to get there: Head west on PCH. Turn right on Bosnall Drive and follow the road until the pavement transitions to a dirt lot at the base of the trail.
Solstice Canyon is just off Corral Canyon Road, and it offers numerous hikes for up to six miles round trip — all differing in elevation and difficulty. The shortest loop, the Rising Sun Trail, is a 1.4-mile loop that ends with a breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean. The history of this trail makes it unique — ruins of homes built in the 1950s remain after a devastating fire in 2007. These homes, along with the abundance of natural resources, remain pivotal to this trail’s popularity. The limited parking overflows on the weekends, so set out in the early morning and head upstream at the creek for some light climbing in the shade.
How to get there: Head west on PCH, and turn right on Corral Canyon Road.
Charmlee Wilderness Park
Stretching over 532 acres within the Santa Monica Mountains, Charmlee Wilderness Park includes hiking trails, picnic areas, clean bathrooms and a nature center exhibiting native plants and wildlife. This regional park is fit with a path through a native-plants garden at the foot of the parking lot. While Charmlee Wilderness Park allows for customized hiking loops, be sure not to miss two of the park’s most coveted sights: the Ranch House Ruins and Ocean Overlook.
How to get there: Head west on PCH, and turn right on Encinal Canyon Road. Note: parking is not free.
Hike to the Cross
Too lazy to drive? Experience Pepperdine’s campus in a new way by hiking to a wooden cross overlooking campus. The trail begins at the top of Baxter Drive. Although steep, the peaceful hike culminates with a white cross overlooking the entirety of Malibu — a “must” for any Pepperdine student. First-timers should bring somebody who knows where to turn off the path near the end of the hike.
How to get there: Find Baxter Drive across from the School of Law, and take it as high as it goes.
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