Mount Waterman hike Angeles National Forest San Gabriel Mountains National Monument Trail

The round summit of Mount Waterman offers boulders to climb and views to enjoy. Mount Waterman Trail provides a pleasant route to the top, passing through a sylvan mixed forest of incense cedars and Jeffrey pines as it ascends 1,265 feet over 2.75 miles. Descend the same way for a 5.5-mile out and back hike or return by a dirt road for a 5.65-mile (or longer) loop. Twin Peaks Trail extends from Mount Waterman Trail to the impressive summit of Twin Peaks East and can be used to and an second summit and another 6 miles of hiking (round trip) to this trek. The trailhead is an hour’s drive up Angeles Crest Highway from Los Angeles and provides a secluded hiking experience.

Park at a large pullout along Angeles Crest Highway and walk east down the road, cross the road in front of Buckhorn Day Use Area (a small picnic area) to reach a gate at the start of a dirt road up Mount Waterman. Walk up this road for 0.08 miles and turn left onto Mount Waterman Trail, a dirt single track. The dirt road continues up Mount Waterman and can be used as a return route for a loop on the mountain.

Mount Waterman Trail runs parallel to Angeles Crest Highway at the start, but quickly curves uphill and away from the sounds of passing motorists. The trail is even and hard packed – easy on the feet. And the ascent is gradual – easy on the legs. At a quarter mile from the start, a picnic table is positioned just off the left side of the trail, just before the trail crosses a boulder-covered drainage.

After one mile, the soothing trail reaches a ridge east of Mount Waterman and curves right. New views to the south open up below the trail. The broad expanse of Bear Creek Canyon runs south bordered by rugged summits and ridges in the San Gabriel Mountains. Beyond these mountains, you can look across the San Gabriel Valley toward Santiago Peak in the Santa Ana Mountains.

Mount Waterman
Were it not for the clouds, this photo would look down thousands of feet upon Bear Creek Canyon

Mount Waterman Trail heads west up the ridgeline, continuing to ascend. After two miles, the trail comes to a marked junction. To the left, a trail descends toward Twin Peaks and the Three Points Trailhead on Angeles Crest Highway. This trail can be used to extend the hike by six miles round trip, with a gradual 1,145-foot descent followed by a steep 1,230-foot ascent to the summit of Twin Peaks East. To reach the top of Mount Waterman, turn right. It is another 0.75 miles to the 8,038-foot summit via the shortest route.

The upper section of Mount Waterman Trail remains gradual, heading north before curving to the west. The trail crosses a crest and offers nice views northeast across Cooper Canyon toward Pallett Mountain and Pleasant View Ridge. At 0.65 miles from the previous junction, a split in the trail leaves hikers with two options. A steeper path turns up the mountain to the left leading to the highest southern end of Waterman. Take this route to summit the mountain after just 2.75 miles of hiking. The highpoint of the mountain is not prominent enough to offer completely sweeping views, but a panorama can be pieced together by exploring other areas of the mountain top.

Continuing straight (bearing to the right) at the split, Mount Waterman Trail maintains a gradual course toward the northern side of the summit. Mount Waterman has a large C shaped summit with several rock formations for bouldering. At 0.95 miles above the Mount Waterman Trail Junction, the single-track trail comes to an end at a T-junction with a dirt road. Bear left to explore the south side of the summit or turn right to hike the loop across the mountain.

Mount Waterman
A rock formation at the top of Mount Waterman

If you are opting for an out-and-back hike on Mount Waterman, climb atop a nearby rock pile to gain views over the canyons to the west. Then head south toward the highpoint of Mount Waterman, which isn’t much higher than the rest of the broad mountaintop. Take in the southward view of Twin Peaks and the westward view toward Mount Hillyer. From here, return down the steeper path to get back to the V on Mount Waterman Trail. Proceed back down the trail through the marked junction, along the ridge, and down to the trailhead for a hike of around 6 miles round trip.

To make a loop of the hike to Mount Waterman, you may return via a dirt road through the Mount Waterman Resort. After bearing right at the top of Mount Waterman Trail, 2.95 miles from the start, come to a T-junction in the dirt road after another tenth of a mile. Bear right again to head north along the mountain. If you stray off trail here, good views north and west can be found from the edge of the mountaintop. Hike north, passing several less used roads on the right that connect to the top of a chair lift. At 3.35 miles from the start, bear right at a split to take the main road down Mount Waterman. Hike past a few disc golf basket and descend toward Mount Waterman Village, where there is a small lodge at the top of the main chairlift for this ski area with a very brief winter season. Bear right to continue down the road. After another 1.15 miles of switchbacks, and 4.85 miles from the start, come to an intersection in the road and turn left. The road to the right is an alternate route down Mount Waterman. The road descends for almost another 3/4 of a mile to cross the start of Mount Waterman Trail near the bottom of the road. Close the loop and hike down the final stretch of the road to reach Angeles Crest Highway. Turn left up the road to return to the parking area.

Far as it is from LA, Mount Waterman’s visitors may wish to stay at Buckhorn Campground. The drive up the Angeles Crest Highway takes about an hour and is a pleasant trip for a day when you have time to head deeper into the mountains. A shorter trail at the campground heads down to Cooper Canyon Falls, providing another good hike in the area.

To get to the trailhead: From the 210 Freeway in La Cañada Flintridge, head northeast on Angeles Crest Highway (CA 2) for 35 miles. Pass the Mount Waterman Ski Area and park in the small lot off the north side of the road, just past mile marker 58. If you reach the entrance for Buckhorn Campground you have gone too far. Hang an adventure pass from your rear-view mirror, cross the road and start up the gated fire road on the south side of the highway.

Trailhead address: Angeles Crest Highway, San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, Pearblossom, CA 93553
Trailhead coordinates: 34.3465, -117.921 (34° 20′ 47.39″N 117° 55′ 15.60″W)

Use the map below to view the trail and get directions:

View San Gabriel Mountains in a larger map
Or view Los Angeles trails and campgrounds in a larger map

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These photos were taken in June of 2009. Click to enlarge.

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15 Comments on Mount Waterman in the San Gabriel Mountains

  1. Todd Pratt says:

    Hiked Mt Waterman and Twin Peaks, 15+ mi, 6,000 elev up/down, left 8:15a back 3:45p return hwy 2. Sore but really great double in 1 day. Little tracks, only 3 people all day, no mammals bummer. Wish the wilderness had more animals…Overall very awesome hike and views. Feb 18 2012.

    • Natas Canyon says:

      Oh the animals are there. They don’t always pop out to say hi to humans though. That’s the problem with hiking, is most the animals can smell and hear you from hundreds of yards away. Try finding a hiding rock cropping and post up their for 2-12 hours, and you’ll see something, if you’re in the right places.

  2. Al L says:

    Warning: Groupon is selling the mt waterman coupon again. Consider the following condition before you buy, and there is no refund or exchange.
    1. check how many days Mt. Waterman open during 2011-2012 or end of 2012 ski season, the answer is ZERO.

    2. Groupon or others has fine print say “subject to weather”, they will not responsible if they don’t ever open because the weather condition. if Mt Waterman never open during the season, good luck with the groupon and they will not care.

    3. Since Mt. waterman DO NOT make snow, like there web site said “pray, pray, pray”, beside pray, you can’t do anything, ‘cos money is in there pocket.

    4. If you don’t have a SUV or larger car, make sure your car fit all the ski equipments before you buy groupon, because mt. waterman don’t have equipment rental, you need to bring your own, buy your own, or rent it from sport chalet or else and drive all the way from your rental place to Mt. Waterman. if you forgot to check Mt. Waterman condition before you rent, good luck, after you rent your stuff, bring it to Mt. Waterman, and they said they don’t have enough snow and not open, then all you can do is bring it back to the place you rent, return the equipment and lost 1 day equipment rental fee, then pray.

    5. if you go to school or work like me, busy during week day and maybe some weekend, you should prepare some vacation off, because weather don’t come in every weekend, if they open during weekday, you better take a day off to go, otherwise coupon site said, mt. waterman did open, and you can go during those days. you need to be very flexible on your schedule if you ever buy those coupon, because mt. waterman pray for snow storm, and snow storm not necessary come in holiday or weekend.

    6. Road condition is not so easy to drive like the way to Mt. high or bear mt., bring snow chain all the time in case it snow after you ski.

    7. LA has several very cold storm in the last few weeks, it’s less than 50F or in low 50F during day time, everyone else like mt. high, snow valley, big bear are opened, but Mt. waterman can’t open because they don’t have enough snow, pray, pray and pray.

    Think of these condition before you buy a contract from the coupon site, i am so disappoint because i bought groupon in late fall in 2011, i was never able to use it because they never open, and groupon has been very helpfull to suggest to give it away to someone else and won’t do anything else. i was so excited when i bought it, but after one season, i already give up my hope on my $$$, and bought a ticket to mt. high and big bear during winter break. Good luck everyone.

  3. Liz says:

    yes, but Mt Waterman, is honoring all tickets, vouchers, passes purchased from last year to be valid for this 2012/2013 winter season, because they did not open. Hopefully Mother Nature comes through this year so Mt. Waterman can open.

  4. phyl says:

    was the waterman,buckhorn area, north, damaged in the fire a few years ago? if so, is it recovering well?

  5. Tai-Ning says:

    We are coming down from SF to the LA area to do this wonderful hike next month. What is an “Adventure Pass” and how/where do we obtain one ? Thank you.

    • hikespeak says:

      Hi. An adventure pass is/was needed to visit the national forests in SoCal. Recently, the areas where the adventure pass are required have been reduced. Since it is undeveloped, it is likely that an Adventure Pass is no longer required to park at this trailhead. When you drive up Angeles Crest Highway, you will pass a ranger station where you can stop and check to see if a pass is still needed and purchase one for $5 for the day or $30 for the year. Have a good hike! More info on the Adventure Pass.

      • Tai-Ning says:

        This is very helpful. Thank you very much ! We are really looking forward to this hike, and several others near Malibu. This is a very helpful website. Keep the info coming ! Have a great day.

  6. Jeff says:

    The trail map for this hike (Mt. Waterman) is actually the map for Winston Ridge/Peak. Do you have a map for Mt. Waterman?

  7. rjsoria says:

    I am assuming the gps map located at the bottom of this article is incorrectly linked? I see Waterman Mountain on the South Side of the 2 freeway. Prior research of this trail supports that conclusion. Am I correct?

  8. Richard N says:

    any restrooms in the area?


    Been hiking up here since 1978!…Its heaven on earth…being so close to the city…great to get away only a 1 hours drive from L.A.! The only thing I do not like is the mountain bikes being allowed to cut thru the trails…I have had several close encounters…lets keep this beautiful wilderness to hikers only…if you want to be in the wilderness…hike into it!

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