Newton Canyon Falls

Santa Monica Mountains / Malibu, California, USA

About Newton Canyon Falls

Hiking Distance: 1 mile round trip; scramble
Suggested Time: 45-60 minutes

Date first visited: 2010-03-07
Date last visited: 2010-03-07

Waterfall Latitude: 34.07715
Waterfall Longitude: -118.81653

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

Newton Canyon Falls was one of those waterfalls that somehow eluded us many years ago on our first attempt. But after finding it recently, we wondered how on earth we managed to miss it.

Maybe it had something to do with the fact that our previous attempt occurred in late Spring during a pretty dry Winter so perhaps it wasn’t flowing back then. Nonetheless, on our most recent visit, we came during early Spring after a very wet Winter so for sure we weren’t going to miss it this time around!

This waterfall was somewhat hidden from the Backbone Trail alongside the Kanan Road (this road links Hwy 1 to the 101 Freeway through the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area). As we made the brief hike and scramble to the falls, we could definitely hear how noisy it got from the highway traffic on Kanan Road, which was perched nearby above the trails here.

After parking the car (see directions below), we followed the Backbone Trail downhill past a creek (usually dry) and towards a trail sign at a fork. The Backbone Trail continued to the right, but we took the trail of use to the left. After a minute or two on this branch trail, we had to look for one of several scrambling trails that branched to the left.

After some trial and error to find the scrambling route that we were most comfortable with, we then reached the bottom of the descent where we immediately were next to a stream. Next, we pretty much scrambled our way upstream (both alongside it as well as inside it) which involved going over some deadfalls and termite-rotted trees. After a couple of minutes of this, we were right before the base of Newton Canyon Falls.

The total hiking distance for just this falls was about a mile round trip. Short but sweet, in my mind.

There were actually more waterfalls in the area, but we didn’t have the time to do them nor did we feel like partaking in additional scrambling. As suggested in our California Waterfalls book, we could have followed the stream downstream towards the top of more cascades eventually getting to another 25ft waterfall known as Zuma Falls. Plus, had we continued on the Backbone Trail, we could’ve seen the Upper Zuma Falls which was dry on our first visit (and we didn’t take photos of it so no evidence of that either). After 2.5 miles on the Backbone Trail, we could’ve connected with the Encinal Canyon Road.


The first time we drove to Newton Canyon Falls, we came from the Highway 1, which began as the 10 Freeway westbound ended near the Santa Monica pier. We then followed Hwy 1 for roughly 17 miles, where we then turned right onto Kanan Dume Road and followed it for a little over 4 miles. We went past a tunnel where the car park and trailhead was close to the tunnel exit on the left side of the road. Overall, this 24-mile drive would take about an hour.

The second time we came, we made the approach from the US101 near Oxnard or Camarillo exiting at Kanan Road and following it roughly 8 or 9 miles past two tunnels and eventually reaching the car park for the Backbone Trail on our right just before the third tunnel. From the I-10 and I-405 junction just south of Westwood (of UCLA fame), this 38-mile drive would also take about an hour.

For context, Santa Monica was 16 miles (about an hour drive due to traffic) west of downtown Los Angeles or 7 miles (roughly 30 minutes drive with traffic) southwest of Westwood Village.

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Bottom up sweep of the falls from the right side

Bottom up sweep of the falls from the left side

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Tagged with: santa monica mountains, malibu, los angeles, california, southern california, waterfall, backbone trail, kanan, zuma falls

Visitor Comments:

Got something you'd like to share or say to keep the conversation going? Feel free to leave a comment below...

Not Worth The Effort May 17, 2010 7:55 am by Donna - Took my 2 dogs to this fall on 5/15/10. Would advise others against taking their dogs on this hike. The climb down to the falls through the brush is too steep and slippery for dogs and one of my dogs slipped and hurt her hip. Also my husband got a deep cut from a branch… ...Read More

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