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. As you approach Buckhorn Day Use Area (a spot for picnics), cross Angeles Highway to a white gate at the start of a dirt road up Mount Waterman (Mount Waterman Road). Walk 150 yards up this road and turn onto Mount Waterman Trail, a dirt single track splitting off to the left. Mount Waterman Road continues up Mount Waterman and can be used at the end of this hike as a return route across the summit.
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. As you ascend, look northeast over Buckhorn Campground toward the mountains making up Pleasant View Ridge.
Looking down over Angeles Crest Highway toward Pleasant View Ridge
After one mile, the soothing trail reaches a ridge running east from Mount Waterman and curves to the right. New views to the south open up below the trail. The broad expanse of Bear Creek Canyon runs away from you, bordered by rugged ridges and peaks. Beyond the San Gabriel Mountains, you can look across the San Gabriel Valley toward the silhouette of Santiago Peak in the Santa Ana Mountains. This is one of the better views of the hike, so pause to appreciate it.
Looking down Bear Creek Canyon from the ridge on the east side of Mount Baldy
Mount Waterman Trail heads west up the ridgeline and maintains the ascent. 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 the rest of 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 climbing atop boulder stacks to see over the trees and take in the surroundings.
Continuing straight (bearing to the right) at the split, Mount Waterman Trail maintains a gradual course toward the center of the mountaintop. Mount Waterman has a large C-shaped summit with dispersed boulder formations. 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.
Rock formations 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, take a dirt road through Mount Waterman Resort on the north side of the mountain. 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. Straying off the left side of the trail here, you can find excellent views from the edge of the mountaintop and look north and west over lower ridges toward the drainage of Rock Creek and the desert below.
Gazing northwest from Mount Waterman
Hike north, passing several less used roads on the right that connect to the top of a chairlift. At 3.35 miles from the start, bear right at a split to stick with the main road down Mount Waterman. Hike past a few disc golf basket and descend toward Mount Waterman Village, where a small lodge is perched at the top of the main chairlift for Mount Waterman Resort, which has a very brief ski 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. Descend for almost another 3/4 of a mile to the junction with the bottom of Mount Waterman Trail, just up from Angeles Crest Highway. Close Mount Waterman Loop and hike down the final stretch of the road to return to pavement. Turn left up Angeles Crest Highway to walk back to the parking area.
The drive up the Angeles Crest Highway to Mount Waterman takes about an hour and is a pleasant trip for a day when you have time to head deeper into the mountains. Far as it is from LA, Mount Waterman’s visitors may wish to stay overnight at Buckhorn Campground. A shorter trail at the campground heads down to Cooper Canyon Falls, providing another good hike in the area. Dogs and bikes are permitted on the trail on Mount Waterman. A National Forest Adventure Pass map be required to park along Angeles Crest Highway. No permit is required to hike to the summit of Mount Waterman, so get out and enjoy!
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 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. Walk along the road toward Buckhorn Day Use Area, which is just past the parking area. Cross Angeles Crest Highway to the start of Mount Waterman Road, a dirt road on the south side of the highway that is blocked by a white gate.
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)
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