Red Box, Angeles National Forest - July 2011

A friend I hadn't seen in a while was looking for a shady, cool hike and for people to come along so we headed out to Angeles National Forest to hike to Switzer Falls in Bear Canyon.

Driving along the recently reopened Angeles Crest Highway was really great since I'd never been to this area before. I'm always amazed how quickly you can be in the wilderness - we'd been in Studio City only twenty minutes before.

When we arrived at the ranger station to get our day pass for parking ($5) she asked where we were headed and when we told her Switzer Falls she advised us not to take that trail - and instead to go to Red Box which is just a little farther on the Highway.

In her words, "Switzer is the local zoo today", which I suppose meant there were a ton of people there and we'd have to wait in line to see the waterfall. We were looking to get away from crowds of people so we took her advice. Here's where we ended up:

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After stopping by the nature center at the parking lot and getting some info about what to expect on the trail, we started out. The woman at the nature center told us the trail would be 2.5 miles one way, down to Valley Forge Campgrounds.

Spanish Broom lined the trails

Chaparral Yucca
(Hesperoyucca whipplei)
After walking at least a mile or two on what turned out to be the fire road we started to think we might have taken the wrong trail. Still, there were many flowers, butterflies and lizards with little streams and small falls along the path so we kept on. My hiking partner is a bit of an expert on Southern California flowers so I enjoyed hearing their names and finding ones she'd not seen before.

Scarlet Keckiella
(Keckiella ternata)

Grinnell's Beardtongue
(Penstemon grinnellii)Notice the little hairy tongue. :)California Cudweed
( Gnaphalium californicum)

Some sort of Checkerspot
(Genus Euphydryas)

Once we got to a section that was in full sun and didn't appear to be descending into the canyon anytime soon we turned around to see if we could explore the more shaded areas we'd passed near the beginning of the hike.

Once we got back to one of the stream crossings we noticed another trail that we hadn't been on so we crossed over to it and quickly encountered some people. It turns out they'd taken the trail we were supposed to be on (!!) so, since we had some time before we needed to get back to LA, we followed it for a while to the creek.

Alligator Lizard
(Genus Elgaria)

Humboldt's Lily
(Lilium humboldtii)

Nightshade (Genus Solanum) of some sort

Part of it's called the Gabrielino Trail (I gather from the sign below) but is referred to as the Valley Forge Trail on the Angeles National Forest website and the trailhead is marked "Red Box". I'd definitely go back to explore it some more. Really a pleasant, shaded trail. Just take note of the poison oak that lines the trail.

We took this trail back up to the parking area which wouldn't have been bad if it had been the only trail we'd taken, but since we'd also had our little 4 mile detour before, it was a little steep. Let's just say we were relieved to see the stone steps up to the parking lot!

Our search for a "cool, shady hike" turned into quite a scorcher, but in the end we found our creek and it was worth it just to spend some time out in this beautiful area. Just so you don't make the same mistake, here is the (incredibly obvious) trailhead marker. :)

For more of my photos from this location, see my Flickr set here.


  1. Thank you for the info and pics. I'm sure I would have made the same mistakes. Thanks for the heads up.


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