Hiking Adventure: Switzer Falls/Bear Canyon

THE GOODS:  A moderately difficult route through lush canopies along a river make this a peaceful but satisfyingly strenuous day hike.

Last Sunday we set off for a hike off the Angeles Crest Highway, which we took from from La Canada to the Switzer Falls Gate – it was easily findable on Google Maps.  There’s a large parking lot with pit toilets; I didn’t see any running water though so come prepared.

Setting off from the parking lot, the trail to Switzer was easy to follow and we passed many other hikers on the trail – even a group of Boy Scouts who apparently had spent the night out at the Bear Canyon campground.  Even though we passed a lot of people, it didn’t feel overly crowded like a Runyon Canyon hike; the other groups of hikers were well spread out. It was mostly quiet and peaceful.

On this trail, watch out for poison oak!  Especially in the first part of the hike, we saw so much of it, so be warned.  I would definitely recommend wearing long pants to do this hike, and be aware of where you are stepping as the trail is somewhat narrow in parts and you do pass fairly closely to poison oak clusters.

We followed the signage to Switzer Falls, which ended up to be more of a trickle than a real waterfall due to our ongoing drought.  Nonetheless it was a nice resting point where other folks had posted up to have lunch.


After taking a break here, we continued back to the junction and followed the signs down into the canyon along the creek, heading for Bear Canyon.

The hike to Bear Canyon was a great reminder of the wonderful wilderness we still have in many parts of Los Angeles County.  On this part of the trail, we saw virtually no other hikers.


It was probably another hour of hiking, following the riverbed trail while looking up at the clouds hugging the mountaintops, climbing over rocks and mini creek crossings, until we found Bear Canyon campground.

It’s a nice little campground with picnic tables and 4 or 5 places to pitch your tent. There are stoves and fire rings at all of the campsites.  We stopped for lunch here, eating at one of the handy picnic tables.  I was so happy to see people did pack out their garbage, we didn’t find any trash at the campsite!


After our break at the campground, (by the way, SO MANY MOSQUITOES there – another great reason to wear long pants on this trail!) we started our journey back up to where we started.  Remember all that walking down hill that you did to get into this canyon? Well prepare yourself as now you have to climb up and out!  It was rewarding to finally finish. The sun never came out the whole time we were on this hike – took us about 4 hours of hiking/scrambling in total.

All in all, I would do this hike again!  It was fun to explore and not really see too many hikers on the 2nd part of the trail into the campground.  Just bring food, lots of water, and long pants.  Oh, and it’s dog friendly.  You’ll be great!

More info at Modern Hiker.


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