Switzer Falls via Gabrielino Trail is a 3.1 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Mount Wilson, California that features a waterfall and is good for all skill levels. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.
dogs on leash
This is a relatively easy hike into one of the loveliest sections of the San Gabriel mountains. The hike meanders back and across the stream running down the spectacular Arroyo Seco Canyon. The stream is lined with oaks and alder, with the water cascading over granite into mirror-like pools. The hike travels high above the 50 foot high Switzer falls, then drops back to the stream, where hikers can double back to stand at the base of the falls. After seeing the falls, travel down stream to the intersection with Bear Canyon, and travel up this spectacularly wild, steep walled canyon for another half mile or so to enjoy its wonders. More adventuresome hikes can continue up Bear Canyon for 2 miles to Bear Camp.
Tried this trail out on a Monday at 10:20 am and we virtually had it mostly to ourselves. The trail was lightly trafficked, but the lower Falls were exclusively ours for an hour. It was wonderful!!! There was low cloud cover when we first arrived, so the trail seemed rather mystical heading in. By noon, the clouds were burning off and the sun was warming everything up. We moseyed and stopped often to enjoy the peaceful solitude, so what could have been a fairly quick hike took us 4 hours.
When you get to a fork in the trail (a narrow one leads left, and a larger path to the right leads up a small switchback and begins climbing the canyon wall), this is the fork between the upper large falls (which we didn't do) and the lower smaller falls. If you go left: My understanding is that you can't go down at all from the upper falls of you choose the left path. You can sit at the larger upper fall and look down, but that's about it. If you have time, take that trail just to enjoy the view, but divert over to the other fork and descend to the lower falls before breaking.
If you go right: You catch a distant glimpse of the large upper falls from this path. You follow a cliffside trail (don't do this is you're afraid of heights) to a junction sign. Take the left trail that descends down into the canyon. When you reach the creek at the bottom, go left to reach the lower Switzer Falls. It was beautiful there, having it all to ourselves. We hung out and had lunch for about an hour just to enjoy.
My understanding is that you can climb over the lower falls and trailblaze (creekblaze?) a bit to reach the bottom of the larger upper falls. We did not do this, so be sure to research more if you want to try it.
The hike back out of the canyon seemed daunting at first considering the steep ascent initially into the canyon, but it was actually relatively short and not too tiring.
There's amazing wild periwinkles everywhere right now, and plenty of other wildflowers along the cliff side trail.
Look out for the California newts in all the shallows of the creek. They're so cute!
Wet feet alert for this wet season.
**Oh! And don't forget your adventure pass!**
Beautiful hike. Went a little late in the day, so didn't get all the way to the falls, but what little I did still experience was fantastic. It's easy in terms of there not being much of an incline, but there are a lot of rocks and water to cross over/through so if you're not wearing the right shoes and aren't steady on your feet it might be more difficult for you. It's a great trail to take your dog. My dog hasn't done a lot of intense hiking or been exposed to rock hopping and running through creeks, but she instantly took to it and was so happy hopping around and running through the water. Even though it isn't a hard workout, it's still my favorite because the surrounding landscape and the arroyo seco river make for a really beautiful hike. A nice escape from the hustle of living in LA. *tip* There is a lot of parking , BUT you need an adventure pass to park in the lower lots which are down a pretty steep hill. There is a free open lot at the top but it's small and fills up quickly, and after hiking you will then have to trek all the way back up to your car. So if you'd rather save your energy for the actually hike, get a pass and park down in the lower lot near the start of the trail. You can get passes at REI or other local shops. A quick search on google will direct you where you need to go to buy one.
This is a great hike but it's slightly more than 'easy'. Be prepared to cross the river multiple times. And possibly get your feet wet! There is a steady decent as you get close to the falls. You'll need to hike back up quite a steep slope.
fairly moderate and well maintained. the falls were active this time of year due to rains so it's a great time to go. hiked up to the top of the lower falls but didn't go to the upper falls. beautiful scenery throughout. saw a salamander and a little centipede in the streams. great for family hike :)