The Ultimate Scenic Getaway: Switzer Falls

This week's hike in the San Gabriel's looks at Switzer Falls, a popular picnic area with many outdoor enthusiasts.

A friend of mine from Chicago, Kristy, came to visit this week. While in Los Angeles, Kristy hoped to see a waterfall, the recent burn areas, and a lot of wildflowers while keeping the hike between 5 and 7 miles. I knew the perfect trek for Kristy: Switzer Falls.

We drove out to the parking area for Switzer, which lies just past the junction of the Crest Highway and Angeles Forest Highway. On weekends, this area is full of cars, but, during the week, parking is much easier; there were only 8 cars there on this day. We parked and began the relatively steep hike down the paved driveway towards the Switzer picnic area. After walking a quarter of a mile surrounded by wildflowers and burned trees, we reached a bridge, which marks the beginning of the heavily-wooded Switzer Falls Trail.  

We hiked down the well-marked and relatively flat trail, crossing back and forth across the healthily flowing creek. Kristy proved that someone could hike this trail without getting wet by choosing careful routes across boulders in the stream. On the other hand, I was a little less concerned about staying dry and simply trudged across most of the creek crossings.  

After about a mile, the trail veered away from the rushing water and began to climb up along the canyon wall. We passed the closed junction for the Gabrileno Trail and were treated to a close up view of areas that burned early on in the life of the devastating Station Fire. Below, the rushing upper Switzer falls made their presence known.

We continued on, following the trail’s descent downward, back into the canyon, to a junction with the Bear Canyon Trail. We stayed to the left, avoiding this branch, and began, once again, crossing in and out of the now wider creek, until finally we reached the picturesque lower Switzer Falls area. Here, we saw a 50-foot waterfall and its smaller falls, feeding into various pools that perpetuated its majestic power.  

There is a use trail to the right of the lower falls that heads up to higher pools, but this trail appeared to be a casualty of the aforementioned fire almost two years ago. 

Nonetheless, Switzer’s beauty has outlasted multiple catastrophes in the Angeles National Forest, and its waterfalls exist as a lasting sign of Mother Nature’s persistence. Kristy and I soaked in the wonders of this area before heading back to the car, satisfied by the immense beauty of our casual hike to Switzer Falls.

Hike At A Glance

Difficulty Level (1-10): 4

Distance: 5.5 miles roundtrip

Scenery: This trail goes through a picnic area and juts in and out of a creek.   Waterfalls and wildflowers abound, making this an extremely scenic hike.

Best time to go: Year-round, but it is best in the warmer months; It would be easy to feel cold in the winter here, with going in and out of the creek.

Trail condition: Well-marked throughout most of it.  Trail builders have done a bang up job fixing this up since the Station Fire.

Other considerations: Be very careful of all the poison oak in the creek bed!   Also, this area is extremely crowded during the weekend but very accessible during the week.

Getting there: Take SR 2/Angeles Crest Highway north from La Canada.   About a thousand feet past the intersection with Angeles Forest Highway/Clear Creek lies a parking lot on the right with an outhouse.   You can park here and follow the paved driveway down to the trailhead.   Display your required Adventure Pass in your car (an Adventure Pass may be purchased from REI, most ranger stations, or many local sporting goods stores for $5/day or $30/year).

R Terry June 19, 2011 at 12:02 AM
I enjoy these short "travelogs". You might consider including in the series of photos a map of the area to better illustrate where you are and how to get there.
Matthew Cavanaugh June 19, 2011 at 04:27 PM
Thanks Terry - That's a great idea!
Pat September 08, 2011 at 08:08 PM
What type and/or brand of hiking boot do you recommend for hiking thru creeks?


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