Forest hikers go for the green

A mix of beauty and devastation awaits visitors to reawakening burn area.

August 10, 2011|By Stephanie Ghiya
  • A monarch butterfly alights on the seemingly innocuous purple flowers of the poodle dog bush, a toxic combination of nettles and poison oak growing wild over the burned hillsides. (Photo by Stephanie Ghiya)
A monarch butterfly alights on the seemingly innocuous…

Leading family and friends up a two-mile trail into Angeles National Forest on Saturday, Sheree Reed had only one goal in mind: to see Switzer Falls.

Of the 28 waterfall hikes in the Los Angeles area, Reed said Switzer Falls is the most family-friendly and, unlike the seasonal waterfalls in Malibu, Switzer flows all year.

“I knew [the forest] had been burned, but this area hasn’t really been affected that much,” Reed said. “This one is intact.”

With just a 10-mile drive from La Cañada up the recently reopened Angeles Crest Highway and a right turn at Angeles Forest Highway, picnickers and hikers can find the newly paved Switzer Falls Picnic Area parking lot off to the right. Due to its moist, riparian environment, the popular picnic area and hike to the falls was one of the few places in the forest left untouched by the 2009 Station fire.

Like Reed’s waterfall meet-up group, hikers, bicyclists and camping enthusiasts from the La Cañada community and beyond have returned to limited recreational use of popular forest destinations since the June 3 reopening of Angeles Crest Highway.


Walking with her dog down from the falls through dappled shade, hiker Kristi Reed (no relation to Sheree Reed) marveled that despite some burn marks, the Switzer trail is just as lovely post-fire as it was before the blaze.

“I also hike a lot in San Bernardino near Big Bear, where they had their fires the year before, and I was expecting that — which is just desolate,” said Kristi Reed. “It is a very lovely surprise that there is so much green down here.”

Gerald Reponen, assistant recreation officer for the Los Angeles River District, said that the Red Box Picnic Area and the west fork of the San Gabriel River Canyon have been opened. The public can also hike into the Valley Forge, West Fork and Devore campgrounds. The trail to Mount Disappointment, Reponen added, was also reopened.

Although the highway from La Cañada to Wrightwood has been reopened, not all areas of the forest are safe enough to be cleared for public access. According to Reponen, all of the trails on the north side of Angeles Crest Highway between George’s Gap, Clear Creek, Red Box and Shortcut Saddle are still closed.

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