Posted by: GeekHiker | April 30, 2008

BACKPACK: Bear Canyon

Bear Canyon Trail Camp is one of those places that really shows how remarkable the Angeles National Forest is. Situated only a few miles north of Pasadena, the camp feels remote and wild and far removed from Los Angeles.

Bear Canyon 01

Bear Canyon is a great overnighter, but can also work as a dayhike, using the tables at the campground as a great picnic spot.

The hike starts and follows the trail to Switzer Falls for about the the first 1.5 miles. Note, if you are backpacking, the Forest Service advises to park in one of the lots along Highway 2, adding an additional half mile along the road to Switzers Picnic grounds at the start and end of the hike.

As the trail crosses the creek instead of turning upstream to the falls, continue downstream along the Arroyo Seco. The trail will continue following the creek to the confluence with Bear Creek (approx. 2.5 miles from the start at Highway 2).

Bear Canyon 06
Emerald Pool below Switzers Falls

Bear Canyon 05
Along the Bear Canyon Trail

Continuing along Bear Creek, upstream now, the trail will weave back and forth, requiring a few easy creek crossings. About 1.5 miles from the confluence, you’ll arrive at Bear Canyon Campground.

Bear Canyon 02
Rushing Bear Creek

Bear Canyon 03
Afternoon light through maple leaves

Bear Canyon 04
Bear Creek near the campground

Pitch a tent anywhere in the wide shady camp area. Be sure to keep an eye out for poison oak, which was plentiful this year. Fire rings and picnic tables are supplied, but there are no restrooms. The creek had plentiful water this spring, but it may be more dry in the late fall.

Total Distance: ~4.0 miles

Elevation Gain/Loss: 1,400’/1,400′


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. If backpacking, park at one of the two lots along the highway. If dayhiking, 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. I love those retro-looking (or maybe actually retro in this case!) national park signs.

    I have noticed a lack of sandwich photos in your hike recaps lately… did you not picnic at Switzer Falls?

  2. So pretty!!! I have yet to do Switzer and I’ve lived in the area for 32 years…very sad. Do you ever lead hiking groups up Angeles Crest? I’m pretty sure I could get some friends together if you ever wanted an entourage of strangers following you. 🙂

  3. Charlotte – It’s always been a great style, hasn’t it? No, no sandwich. Some of the group stopped at the falls on the way out, but I just wanted to get my busted knee up to the car…

    Mel Heth – I’m actually not usually the biggest fan of Switzers – too many people and often graffiti. I wouldn’t say I lead “groups”, but I do occasionally take friends up to the high country in summer…

  4. Is this where you did your knee?

    Very nice photos.
    The emerald pool looks enticing.

  5. *sigh* I wish I had the time you do to hike! I wouldn’t be so frightened of this 5K on sunday…

  6. Water. Trees. Sounds like a nice hike.

  7. Just a girl – yep, that’s where the knee got all tore up. Still healing, too.

    Melinda – Heh, I make the time, never mind how behind I am on my housecleaning! LOL – but you’ll do fine on Sunday…

    Homer-Dog – It is a great dayhike! 🙂

  8. Emerald pool is WOW.

  9. If you check this, id love some info. Ive hiked the trail from Switzer park to Bear Canyon Campground a couple times now. I always do the hike starting at switzer ending at campground. Do you know of another way to access Bear Canyon Campground without starting at Switzer? Love the site by the way!

    • Millard Canyon, Tom Sloan Saddle, Drop in to Bear Canyon Campground.

      Millard can be accessed from the Mt Lowe Fire Road which can be accessed by Cheney trail to Echo Mountain at top of Lake Ave.

      • Awesome. So you would follow the fire road to tom sloan saddle?

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    this this web page conations really fastidious funny information too.

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