Posted by: GeekHiker | July 9, 2007

HIKE: Switzer Falls

Switzer Falls is kind of an odd hike: it’s a waterfall you can’t really reach.

You can hike to the brink of it from above, or to a lower cascade below, but without some truly foolhardy scrambling along deteriorating canyon walls, you’ll be hard-pressed to reach the falls themselves.

Switzer Falls is a good, quick hike for those not in the mood for the long drive to higher-mountain destinations, but it can be very, very popular.

To reach the trailhead, drive up Highway 2 to the signed Switzer Picnic Area at mile 34.2.  Descend the narrow road to the picnic area, a beautiful shaded wide spot in the canyon.  Being the closest picnic area to the city on the highway, this area is enormously popular on weekends.  When the parking lot fills, the Forest Service closes the gate at the highway, and you’ll need to hike down (and later back up) to one of the parking spots on the highway.

Starting at the west end of the picnic area, head across the bridge and down the creek, occasionally crossing by boulder hopping.  This is a pleasant stretch, marred only by trash left behind by less thoughtful people.

After about a mile, you’ll reach the remnants of the old Switzer’s Camp, a popular destination in the 30’s.  From here you can continue to follow the creek down to the lip of the falls, but it’s too dangerous to go beyond this.  The rock is very unstable and it would be unwise to try to climb down.

Instead, ascend the western canyon wall for about .2 miles, then descend on the left fork towards Bear Canyon.  When you reach the canyon bottom, turn left and head upstream to a 15′ cascade (or trickle, depending on the time of year).  The cool canyon is an excellent place to have lunch.  Unfortunately, the graffiti on the canyon walls belays the area’s popularity.

Switzer Falls

Falls (almost dry now) below main Switzer Falls. 

To return, simply reverse your path.  Note that the ascent up the west canyon wall can be very hot, with white rock bathing you in bright sunlight along the mostly unshaded path.

Total Distance: 3.6 miles

Elevation Gain/Loss: 700’/700′


Directions: From Interstate 210, exit Highway 2 North in La Canada Flintridge.  Follow the highway to the signed Switzer Picnic area at mile post 34.2.  Descend to the parking area (note: narrow road) and park in the parking lot, or along the highway if the lot is full and NFS has closed the gate.  National Forest Pass required.



  1. Sounds like my kind of hike! Minus the grafitti art…

  2. A few of my friends have done this one… it’s super close to my neck of the woods. I need to try this one out soon!!

  3. If anyone is interested….

    Taking the trail downstream(rather than turning back up towards the falls) towards Bear Canyon, and following the Arroyo Seco until it hits the Gabrielino Trail and heading back to Switzer on the latter, is a very spectacular hike….

    Prolly around 17-20 miles(roughly half are off trail in the Seco) round trip. Easy overnight, moderate single day…. Only one impassable spot without climbing, but you could always just strip, throw your gear, and jump into the watering hole(It’s deep, and doesn’t dry), rather than climb it…. and there is some surprise vegetation that should make your day if you go june through august ;)….

    Hikers beware! Weather reports are your friend! If you’re caught in the narrows of the Arroyo Seco during a flash flood, death is likely, so please be very careful!


  4. […] Switzer Falls on (single) […]

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