Switzer Falls might be the best know waterfall hike in Los Angeles County. This 50-foot waterfall is reachable via a 4.5 mile out-and-back trek that follows a shaded babbling creek down into a wooded canyon. This is one of the most popular hikes in front country of the San Gabriel Mountains. There is a picnic area at the trailhead, which gets crowded too.
The trail to Switzer Falls begins at Switzer Picnic Area, ten miles up CA 2 from Altadena. Cross the bridge and walk down Bear Canyon on a road that was paved 80 years ago (and is losing its battle with nature and time). This first stretch of the hike is in the shade, with a few crossing of the Arroyo Seco and the opportunity to visit resort era ruins.
After a mile (and a few dozen wild blackberries if you are hiking in the summer) the trail leaves the creek and climbs up the canyon wall. You will be exposed to plenty of views and sun as the trail runs along the steep wall of the canyon. From here you will gain a view of the top of Switzer Falls. The trail continues along Bear Canyon and heads back down to the creek. Follow the trail as it turns upstream toward Switzer Falls. Here you will find fellow hikers enjoying the small pools and cascades beneath the falls.
With a bit of maneuvering, one can climb above the pools and follow the creek a bit further to the base of the falls. It is worth noting, that most hikers do not make it all the way to the falls because there is no trail and the creek is tricky to climb. Other waterfalls in the Angeles are easier to access, but this has not seemed to damper the popularity of the Switzer Falls Trail.
The pools beneath Switzer has been tagged with graffiti, which is something I prefer to leave behind on the streets when I hike to the streams.
To get to the trailhead: From the 210 Freeway in La Cañada Flintridge, take the Angeles Crest Highway (CA 2) northwest for 10 miles to the Switzer Picnic Area. Descent to the parking lot, display your adventure pass and begin hiking. If the lot at the picnic area is full, there is additional parking at the top of the road.
Trailhead address: Switzer Truck Trail, Angeles National Forest, Tujunga, CA 91042
Trailhead coordinates: 34.266239, -118.1457 (34° 15′ 58.46″N 118° 08′ 44.52″W)
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