Switzer Falls San Gabriel Mountains Los Angeles National Forest Pasadena California Switzer Falls Hike

Switzer Falls might be the best know waterfall hike in Los Angeles County. This 50-foot waterfall is reached via a 4.5 mile out-and-back trek on Gabrielino Trail that follows a shaded babbling creek down into a wooded canyon. This is one of the most popular hikes in front range of the San Gabriel Mountains, with a picnic area at the trailhead that gets crowded too. This upside down hike descends 650 feet from Switzer Picnic Area to the stream below Switzer Falls.

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 back in the 1930s 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 (where you can enjoy wild blackberries in the summer), Gabrielino Trail leaves the creek and climbs up the side of the canyon. You will be exposed to plenty of views and sunshine as the trail runs along the steep wall of the canyon.

At around 1.5 miles from the start, stay left through a junction where Gabrielino Trail ascends to the right. Continue along the side of Bear Canyon, enjoying a perspective of the top of Switzer Falls. Bear Canyon Trail descends to the creek. Turn upstream toward Switzer Falls and find fellow hikers enjoying small pools and cascades beneath the waterfall.

Switzer Falls
Switzer Falls

With a bit of maneuvering, one can climb above the pools and follow the creek a bit farther to the base of Switzer Falls. It is worth noting that many hikers do not make it all the way to the waterfall because there is no trail and the creek is tricky to climb.

Other waterfalls in the San Gabriel Mountains are easier to access, but this has not seemed to damper the popularity of the hike to Switzer Falls. Unfortunately, the pools beneath Switzer have been tagged with graffiti.

The hike down Gabrielino Trail and Bear Canyon Trail to Switzer Falls is 4.5 miles round trip with 650 feet of elevation change. Dogs and bikes are allowed on this trail in Angeles National Forest. A National Forest Adventure Pass may be required to park at this San Gabriel Mountains trailhead. No hiking permit is needed to visit Switzer Falls, so get out and enjoy!

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, additional parking is located at the top of the road.

Trailhead address: Switzer Truck Trail, Angeles National Forest, Tujunga, CA 91042
Trailhead coordinates: 34.26624, -118.1457 (34° 15′ 58.5″N 118° 08′ 44.5″W)

Elevation Profile
Click or hover over any spot on this elevation profile to see the distance from the start and elevation above sea level at that location, which will be highlighted on the map.
Trail Map

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These photos were taken in July of 2007 and March of 2009, prior to the Station Fire, which closed the trail for a year and a half. Click to enlarge.
Nearby Trails
Colby Canyon Trail to Josephine Peak hike Colby Canyon Trail to Josephine Peak
This 8.7-mile hike ascends an infrequently visited canyon off Angeles Crest Highway up to a saddle below Strawberry Peak and then takes a wide dirt road up to a summit in the front range of the San Gabriel Mountains with 360-degree over Big Tujunga Canyon and cities to the south.
Strawberry Meadow hike Strawberry Meadow
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Inspiration Point Mount Lowe Road hike Inspiration Point & Mount Lowe Trail Camp
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27 Comments on Switzer Falls in the San Gabriel Mountains

  1. R Peredo says:

    where do we purchase parking and how much? Switzer Falls
    in the San Gabriel Mountains

  2. dabid says:

    This is my first hike since I discovered Angeles Crest Highway and I was completely satisfied. The trail was not bad at all– I would even say easy-moderate hike. The hardest part was leaving the creek and walking back up the trail–this was only a very short part of the hike. Going to the falls was a lot a fun but slightly tricky. I thought I was at the end but then realized that trail continued. This was the part I enjoyed the most since I was hiking up and meandering up the river hoping from stone to stone. When I finally reach Switzer Falls I was impressed. Very Isolated and clean and I was lucky enough to have it to myself. The water was very clear and refreshing. I definitely recommend this one!

  3. Remember that time I sprained my ankle? | Thoughts of the Chronically Indecisive says:

    […] of us went to Switzer Falls on Monday.  I figured it wouldn’t be a stroll in the park, but nice trails more or less, […]

  4. Sassyred says:

    Very much enjoyed this hike. Again, goal is to photograph all the waterfalls and did so here. Will probably do this hike again, also, with my Australian Shepherd when he gets a touch older, still a puppy now.

  5. kenya says:

    Could someone give directions coming from Long Beach.

  6. Zoya says:

    are there any snakes?

  7. cindy says:

    What time do the gates of switzer falls close? i just dont want to get stuck walking the big hill:)

  8. Angel Valdez says:

    Adventure pass still required? And per party or each individual needs one?


  9. jessica mendez says:

    could you purchase a parking pass on site?

    • hikespeak says:

      You can purchase an Adventure Pass from the Clear Creek Ranger Station, which is along Angeles Crest Highway about half a mile before the turn for Switzer Picnic Area.

  10. Alida says:

    I am planning a family day hike with parents/children from school. The group could be as large as 30 people. Would you recommend Switzer Falls to be the right type of hike for a large group with children?

    • hikespeak says:

      This trail to Switzer Falls has narrow, steep sections and it’s a bit of a challenge to reach the waterfall. I would recommend Eaton Canyon Falls for a large group with children. Most of the trail is wide and easy, and there is a large area below the waterfall for everyone to gather.

  11. Julez says:

    Do you need an adventure pass for this hike? How much are they? I’m planning to hike where there’s beautiful waterfall with my boyfriend this Spring Break. We’re from Hawai’i and don’t want to get lost along the way or go alone really. I would like to go somewhere with a few people and not too dangerous. Any suggestion would be great.

  12. […] highly recommend a hike to Switzer Falls to introduce you to Angeles National Forest, followed by lunch at Newcomb’s Ranch – a […]

  13. dewey50 says:

    Just hiked to Switzer Falls today for the first time this year. Despite some rains this year the water level was low, still flowing, but low. I can remember 5+ years ago having a wide creek to navigate and a pool of water at the base of the falls… now it’s simple to step over the creek, and the though the waterfall is flowing, it lands in sand and becomes the creek. Here’s hoping we see an end to the drought soon.

  14. LeAnna says:

    Hiked to the base of the upper fall yesterday. I was so disappointed. I’ve been there 5 times previously (last in the mid-90’s) and loved the swimming holes and rock slides. Now all the falls and cascades dump onto sand that has filled the pools (5 that I use to visit). Fire and drought have heavily affected this beautiful little canyon.

  15. Pam says:

    At a moderate pace, how much time should be allowed for the round trip? I am trying to figure out how early in the day I should start out.

  16. Darin Schimke says:

    Coming from Palmdale…how far is the location

  17. Donna says:

    Since there were fires in that area, is Switzer Falls open. Is there a waterfall there. Due to the water drought.

  18. stacey says:

    is there still water during this time? what time do they close and how much are passes?Im planing on going today.

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