Widely recognized as the most well-known waterfall hike in the greater Los Angeles area, this 14-foot cascade is accessed from the Switzer Falls Picnic and Day Use Area just off of the Angeles Crest Highway. Nestled into the Angeles National Forest and among the rugged San Gabriel Mountains, this easily accessible trail wanders from the trailhead down into a wooded canyon. A babbling creek runs adjacent to most of the hike’s trail, and the biodiversity is remarkably high.
White alder, manzanita, wild roses, and sage dot the constricted area around the trail in the Arroyo Seco Canyon, and a wide variety of birds dart in between the trees. The luckiest wanderers might catch a glimpse of elusive coyotes, bobcats, gray foxes, and black bears.
Wild blackberries grow in the summertime where the Gabrielino Trail leaves the creek and climbs up the side of the canyon. At this point, a short uphill scramble is all that stands in the way of an impressive eagle-eye view of Switzer Falls. Those who are up for a challenge may climb down the canyon wall into the cool, lazy pool at the base of the cascade.
This hike affords explorers an excellent introduction to the lower Arroyo Seco Canyon. Discovered and named by Gaspar de Portolà, it was dubbed "Dry Canyon" in Spanish because it contained less water than any other he and his crew had come by. Today the stream meanders its way out of the San Gabriel mountains, where it proceeds to slice through Pasadena, running adjacent to the Rose Bowl Stadium and through Brookside Park. Eventually it arrives at the Raymon Basin, and it represents about half of the local water supply.
The hike is a lovely juxtaposition to a day spent in the bustling city, and for short-term visitors, this is a must-see. Deep in the canyon, it's almost impossible to imagine that the city is just 20 miles away.