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Waterfall Hikes in LA ~ San Gabriel Mountains

Words by Christina Huntington // Photography by Sarah Prikryl

Spring has officially sprung in LA! After one of our wettest winters in recent history, the waterfalls of LA are overflowing! Located just 30 minutes from the heart of the city, there are no excuses not to get out there and enjoy them. Grab your dog, grab your friends, go run around the mountains and splash in some waterfall pools like kids again. Added bonus: the hills are alive with spring wildflowers of every color! So let your inner Fräulein Maria out to play…mountaintop twirling totally optional.


Just a few miles into the San Gabriel Mountains past La Cañada Flintridge near Mt. Wilson, Switzer Falls is one of the most impressive waterfalls in Los Angeles. The mostly shaded Gabrielino Trail winds you next to and through a gushing stream in Arroyo Seco Canyon for the first part of the hike. (HOT TIP: you criss-cross the stream continually on your hike. Wear proper footwear and be prepared to get your feet wet…it’s part of the fun!) When you come to the major fork at the stream, take the right-hand trail headed up the mountainside to see the waterfall lookout point.

A breathtaking vista of the San Gabriel Mountains that could easily double for the Swiss Alps awaits you at the top. There’s less shade up here, so be prepared with the appropriate sun-protection layers. Take the left-hand fork on the mountaintop trail to begin your descent down to Switzer Falls. Just a short walk in from the base of the mountain, all 50 feet of Switzer Falls is currently flowing like crazy. There’s a large pool of water on the lower level to splash and play around in.

When we went, it ended up becoming an adorable puppy party with all the mountain dogs jumping in for a gleeful swim. A short climb will lead you to the smaller upper level pool for the daring adventurer who might want a more private splash. Whether you opt to soak in the falls or not, this entire waterside hike is so refreshing and invigorating, you’ll be singing “the hills are alive with the sound of waterfalls” in no time!

The Switzer Falls hike totals between 4.5-5 miles round trip and is fairly easy. Be sure to purchase a $5 Forest Adventure Pass at the info center on the main road of Angeles Crest Hwy ( CA – 2) before entering Switzer Picnic Area. One pass required per car to be displayed on your mirror.

Purchase your Forest Adventure Pass at: Clear Creek Information Center, Angeles National Forest – San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, Angeles Crest Hwy, La Cañada Flintridge, CA 91011

Park your car at: Switzer Picnic Area, Angeles National Forest – San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, Switzer Truck Trail, Altadena, CA 91001. Park on the lower level by the picnic area or the two upper-level overflow lots.


A short but gorgeous wind up Santa Anita Avenue from Arcadia and Sierra Madre opens up onto Chantry Flat recreation area—a stunning mountainscape with hikes through Big Santa Anita Canyon to Mt. Zion and Mt. Wilson. For the waterfall enthusiast, the hike to Sturtevant Falls twists through lush mountaintops shrouded in low-hanging clouds that feels like hiking through the heavens. This inverted hike crosses down through many beautiful vistas before leveling out onto a little emerald wooded wonderland—complete with tiny hidden homesteads tucked amongst the trees. Sturtevant’s 50-foot waterfall is an impressive tumbler, gushing over slate rocks into a pool below. The world’s tiniest frogs reside in the boulders on the mountainside and are worth getting up close and personal with. If you’re a mountain lover, this hike will deeply satisfy all your cravings for a gorgeous woodland wander right here in our own backyard!

The Sturtevant Falls hike totals around 3.6 miles roundtrip and is fairly easy, as long as you can handle hiking back on an incline. Be sure to purchase a $5 Forest Adventure Pass at Adams Pack Station located right off of the parking lot.

Purchase your Forest Adventure Pass at: Adams Pack Station. Angeles National Forest – San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, Chantry Flat Rd, Arcadia, CA 91006

Park your car at: Chantry Flat Recreation Area, Angeles National Forest – San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, Chantry Flat Rd, Arcadia, CA 91006. Parking can get very packed in the lots. Be prepared to park on Chantry Flat Road and walk in.

HOT TIP: After your hike, you can take the rest of your afternoon to explore Sierra Madre or Montrose–two tiny nearby mountain towns that remain charmingly frozen in time. Turn your day into a treasure hunt as you discover all the lovely little restaurants and storefronts of their quaint main streets and make all of your Back to the Future dreams come true!

HAPPY ADVENTURING!! xoxo, Sirens & Scoundrels

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