Switzer Falls

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Lower Switzer falls
Bear Canyon above Switzer Falls

Text and photography copyright 2011 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Switzer Falls

  • Location: Angeles National Forest near Mt. Wilson.  From I-210 in La Canada Flintridge, take the Angeles Crest Highway (highway 2) northeast for 10 miles to the road for the Switzer Picnic Area (mile marker 34.19).   Turn right and drive a mile downhill to the picnic area.  The trail leaves from the western end of the lot.  A United States Forest Service adventure pass ($5 for a day or $30 for the year) is required. Click here to purchase.
  • Agency: Angeles National Forest, Los Angeles River District
  • Distance: 3.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 700 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 2 hours
  • Best season: All year
  • USGS topo map: “Condor Peak”
  • Recommended gear: Hiking Poles; Insect Repellent
  • Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield: Los Angeles County: A Comprehensive Hiking Guide
  • More information: here
  • Rating: 7

This popular waterfall hike offers both nice wooded canyon scenery and panoramic views of the San Gabriels from a trail that gets quite close to the precipice.  Is there a fence?  Sometimes.

From the parking area on Angeles Crest Highway Highway, head down the road to the camp.  At the far end of the lower parking lot, look for a footbridge crossing the creek and heading into the canyon.   Unfortunately, there’s a lot of trash at the campground (bear?) and throughout the route, you are likely to see carvings in the alders and oaks that line the creek.   If you are willing to overlook these, the Switzer hike is one of the better trips in the front country of the San Gabriels.

At about half a mile from the campground, the trail appears to head uphill to the left, but this in fact a false trail, and it is here where you make the first of several creek crossings.  Another half mile, and several creek crossings later, you begin a few switchbacks and climb to a junction.  Here, nice views of the canyon below open up, and you can see the upper Switzer Falls.  Unfortunately, it’s impossible to safely reach this cascade.

Soon, you come to a junction where you will head left (downhill).  At the bottom of the hill, head left and make a few more creek crossings and rock scrambles to arrive at the lower waterfall.  The creek flows down about 20 feet of a rock surface into a large pool that can be a nice place to swim on a hot day.  To see a video of the waterfall, click here.

When ready, retrace your steps to the trail.  Most of your work will be on the return trip, but the climbing is broken up between the beginning and end of the hike, and with enough water and sun protection, the hike is certainly fairly easy to do.  While the trail suffers from some of the signs of overuse similar to those at Sturtevant Falls and Hermit Falls, the location is more remote, so while you are likely to have some company on busy summer weekend days, you can still get a little bit of solitude and quiet.


  1. I find this easy hike to be delightful and have used it many times to introduce beginner hikers to a wilderness hike (altho not too wild). At the first water crossing look back and see the broken wall of an old building that visitors stayed in back in the 40’s. It is now dystroyed. There was also a store for visitors and as you hike on look across the canyon to see the remains where a church and organ once sat. The history here is rich. Too many people now are not good for the wild and leave behind trash and even destroy trail. Go further and you enter Bear Canon, a trail not too kept up today. None the less, I love this historical trail with all it has to offer. Keep on Trekin!

  2. We did this Wednesday and were surprised at how lovely it is. We have driven by the entrance on CA 2 so many times, and always thought this would be too public. Sure, there were some noisy picnickers, but generally we mainly ran into families and others delighting in this gorgeous canyon. We continued the hike up to Bear Canyon Camp – another 2 miles, or adding 4 miles round-trip. The first mile out of the falls may be some of the prettiest in the range. The rock hopping is fun, the trail clear, the large and well-maintained camp a nice turn-around point. It all took us longer going in than we normally expect, partly because of stopping to see the remains of Switzer’s and the falls and all the rock hopping.

    1. Yeah, Switzer is a good one! I’ve explored a little bit farther past the falls, I should probably revisit that area and maybe rewrite the hike all the way up to Bear Canyon camp.

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