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.
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)
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