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©1990 Christopher Nyerges
Waterfalls are popular attractions throughout the hills of the Angeles National Forest to our north. While there are many waterfalls that one can drive to in the forest, there are at least three which are relatively close and require minimal hiking. These are Switzer's falls, Millard Canyon Falls, and Sturtevant Falls.
To get to Switzer's falls, you drive up the Angeles Crest Highway out of La Canada. In a little over 10 miles, you come to the Clear Creek Ranger Station, situated at the junction of the Angeles Crest Highway and the Angeles Forest Highway. The latter will take you northward and out to the desert, so you want to continue on the Angeles Crest Highway, as if you were traveling to Mount Wilson. In about a mile, you'll see the road to Switzer's Camp on your right. You'll need to park in the dirt turnout, and walk down the road to the picnic area.
This is a lovely spot, situated along the stream and under the cool canopy of oaks and alders.
Hike down stream for one mile, until you get to the campsite designated Commodore Switzer's Camp. This was once a bustling weekend spot around the turn of the century, and many of the old foundations of cabins and homes remain. The falls are just down stream, but don't attempt to follow the stream. A sign posted by the U.S. Forest Service informs you how many people have died falling from the top. It's dangerous to walk down stream, so you should follow the trail, which crosses the stream at the camp, and continues up on the hillside.
Parts of this hillside trail are fenced-in to protect hikers from falling. At one of these fenced areas, you can look down and see the waterfall. Generally, it flows year-round. If you want to go under the falls, you continue on the trail for about a mile until the trail comes back down to the river, and then you turn and hike back upstream to the falls.
I should point out that the hiking upstream is strenuous in parts, and small children are not recommended here. In fact, as you hike upstream to the main waterfall, you'll pass several smaller waterfalls and good swimming holes underneath.
On a hot day, this canyon is a wonderful place to be. Weekdays are the best times to visit because the area is less crowded then. On some summer weekends, this place can get crowded and you might as well be at a crowded public beach.
The Millard Canyon waterfall is reached by driving to the Lincoln Avenue offramp from the 210 freeway in Pasadena. Drive north on Lincoln Avenue to Loma Alta, and then travel east on Loma Alta. Look for the hanging orange light in the street, which is Chaney Trail, and then travel up Chaney Trail for a mile. In one mile of this curving mountain road, you come to the T-intersection, where you go left, or down the road to the campground. Park in the parking area, and then follow the steam, hiking upstream.
This is a flat hike, passing through aromatic bay trees and oaks. You'll reach the waterfall in about a mile of hiking, which most people can do in 30 minutes or so. Children can handle this hike, and so you'll often see crowds here on the weekends. The attraction is obvious when you get here, since the cool spray of the waterfall is refreshing. If you want to avoid crowds, try going on a weekday, or simply hike on the trail beyond the waterfall.
If you go to Millard Canyon waterfall, please don't leave your trash and litter behind. This is a beautiful place made unattractive only when large numbers of visitors are too lazy mentally and physically to pick up after themselves. Don't be a part of the problem.
Another very attractive waterfall in the Angeles National Forest is the Sturtevant Falls north of Arcadia. It's a little further afield, though still a relatively short drive. Travel east on the 134 Freeway, and continue on the 210 East. Get off at Santa Anita Avenue, and travel north. At the foothills, Santa Anita continues but now becomes a winding mountain road. Travel for just a few miles to the top, which is Chantry Flats campground. Park where you can, and then travel down the road one mile to the stream, and then continue upstream.
You'll pass many of the old cabins that still stand, most of which were built nearly a hundred years ago. It's like walking back in history.
Just follow the trail upstream and eventually you'll come to the Sturtevan t Falls, an awesome waterfall that cascades out of the rock. There is a large area beneath for swimming or wading. This can be quite crowded and popular on the weekend too, but it is large enough to accommodate many hikers.
Children can handle this hike if you go slow and make sure you have enough water for them. When you return up the steep road, you'll notice that there are benches along the way for resting. Rest often with children since it may be tough for them. As a matter of fact, this hill has been nick-named "Cardiac Hill" due to its steepness. If you're out of shape and overweight, the name of this hill should be a warning to you.
A final note about the waterfalls: Search and Rescue teams report that the waterfall sites continue to be the greatest attractions in the Angeles National Forest, and continue to be the locations where they are called out to perform rescues the most often. So if you travel to these locations to enjoy the coolness and the beauty and the majesty, always stay on the trails and avoid reckless behavior. You don't want to become another statistic of a search and rescue team!
forget to take
Local Hiking Trails
The CCC Road
The Switzers Area
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