Over the weekend, I decided to revisit the Bear Canyon Trail to Switzer Falls. One of the Angeles National Forest’s most popular trails, the area was completely closed during the Station Fire and many nearby areas were heavily damaged.
Thankfully, Bear Canyon was mostly re-opened in mid-2011, although the trail itself formed a large section of the boundary between the Station Fire Closure Zone and the open areas of the forest.
I didn’t know what shape this area would be in, but I’m very happy to report that although the canyon itself is noticeably different, it’s in remarkably good shape and definitely hike-able.
If you hit this trail again and you’ve done it pre-Station Fire, you’ll most likely notice it’s a bit less shady now – while the Canyon itself was mostly spared from fire damage, the areas above it took a hit and a lot of the taller trees that provided shade are no longer there. Also, there are a few more sections of downed trees along the trail now.
The fire damage becomes especially apparent when you can get a better view of the surrounding peaks – here is a view looking north toward the formerly forested Josephine Peak:
For further comparison – here is the start of the trail’s descent into Bear Canyon in ’06 and a nearby area from this weekend:
Even with the fire damage, though, things are starting their slow recovery – formerly gray and barren hillsides are starting to show some green sprouts, burned evergreens are regrowing along their trunks, and the views are just as drop-dead gorgeous as they were before.
If you haven’t been back to this area, definitely put it on your to-hike list for the coming season. Here are a few more pictures to get you back in the mood and remind you why this route is one of the best short hikes in Los Angeles.