I wasn’t planning on doing this hike this past weekend. I knew Chris was going to be hiking with me, so I was originally planning on doing a hike that I had done with my group back in October, that also appears in “60 Hikes…”. That hike was a bit longer, and a bit farther, and he had an appointment he had to be back for by 2 p.m., so I looked into a change of venue. I wound up checking out which trails from the book have a waterfall, and Switzer Falls was one of just four. Being 2 miles shorter and, maybe, 15 minutes closer, it seemed like a good alternative, especially since we’d been in the midst of some recent rainstorms. I extended the invitation to a couple of friends, but only Kim took the bait and went with us. I was excited to try out some new hiking buddies 🙂
Something that’s good to know about this one is that you will need an Adventure Pass to park. The author mentions it briefly in the trail description, but offered no guidance on how to get one (turns out she talks about it in the very beginning of the book, which, I admit, I glossed right over to get to the hikes). So, let me save you some trouble, you can click here to find out where they’re sold near you. Be prepared to hit a couple of different spots, or better yet, call. The first one I went to said they didn’t sell them anymore, but I think she was just being lazy, and I interrupted her personal conversation. I know, the nerve I have.
Another thing that caught me off guard was that this was an actual mountain hike, or at least a hike in the mountains. About 10 miles in, to be more specific. All the mountain-y hikes I’ve done so far have either been an ascension from the base or a walk through some wilderness (all eight of them, haha), so it was a bit, I don’t know, intimidating to not be “on the ground”. I also have a slight sensitivity to car sickness which seems to be activated by my husband driving through winding mountain roads. I did NOT want to get sick before we even made it to the trailhead, and thank God I didn’t! The turnout for the Switzer Falls Picnic Area is very clearly marked, and you might be tempted to park here and make your way down the hill, which is what we almost did. We decided to check it out first, and drove down the very steep road to the picnic area where there was ample parking to choose from. Granted, it was 9 a.m. on the one sunny day sandwiched between two rainy ones in winter. If the weather gets warmer or if it’s later in the day, be prepared for that lot to fill up (it went from barely full to half full by the time we left around 1-1:30, but again, it’s winter). After a quick bathroom break, which is always an adventure in itself at these places, we got on our way.
The trailhead was easy to find, beginning with a bridge just past some picnic tables and grills. That’s when we got our first look at Arroyo Seco Creek. At the time, we had no idea how familiar with the creek we would become. We started on a paved road, passed another picnic area or two, then, I’ll be honest, things about the trail start mashing together in my head.
The recent heavy rains supercharged the creek. While the book did warn that we would have to criss-cross it a few times, it was described as “easy back-and-forth boulder-hopping”. This was not our experience, lol. I don’t fault the author at all, I’m sure she hiked it in much more favorable conditions. In fact, it even came up as a possibility that not only was some of the trail washed out, but maybe the whole thing would have been closed for recreation if the right people had beat us there, but I really don’t know how all of that works.
I couldn’t tell you how many times we went back and forth across that creek. In some places the creek was fairly tame, in others it made me wonder what qualifies a body of water as a river. Some places had a nice piece of trail to walk that followed the water, others…we were skirting along the edges of rock walls. Sometimes we crossed after carefully analyzing which series of boulders would get us the least amount of wet, sometimes it was cautiously balancing on a wet log or two…or even underneath some fallen branches. At one point we came to a bend in the creek that put us on a bit of an island. It was pretty damn fun.
Eventually the time came for some actual hiking. We took Bear Canyon Trail which led us up and along the canyon wall. If you have a thing with heights, as I do, I do not recommend looking over the edge, as I did. Though there are pieces of chain link fence in place to help avoid any unwanted falls, it can still be an unnerving bit of trail to get through. And quite sunny. It’s necessary and worth it, though. After also passing some overhead views of the actual Switzer Falls and some random water trickles from, apparently, no where, we found ourselves back on the trail and ready for the payoff.
We hiked upstream for what turned out to be a short distance before reaching the waterfall, and the first thing I thought was that I wanted to slide down it. It was practically begging to be a water-slide-fall. I really wanted to hang out by the water for a while and enjoy all the nature, it was all so peaceful, even with the roar of the waterfall. Sadly, that day was not the day for lingering, we had to get back in time for Chris to make it to his appointment. So we took our pictures and obligatory waterfall selfies and made our way back.
As we hiked back along the canyon wall, we tried to get a better view of Switzer Falls. Oh yeah, I should have mentioned that the hike doesn’t lead to the actual Switzer Falls (named for the famous explorer, Dr. Albert Falls 😉 ). It leads to a smaller waterfall than the 50-foot Switzer, which apparently you can hike to “at your own risk”. The view of the falls wasn’t great, but by the time we hiked back up, the sky had cleared a bit and gave us amazing views of the surrounding mountains. We moved far more confidently across the rocks and logs since we were now seasoned professionals, and made it back to the car right on schedule. The drive down the hill wasn’t so bad either, and even offered a pretty cool view of L.A.
(Thanks for sharing some of your pictures, Kim!)
What I Learned:
- Choose your hiking buddies wisely
- Gloves would be useful
- I can survive with wet shoes
- Always charge the selfie stick