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.
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.
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:
Or view Los Angeles trails and campgrounds in a larger map
|Cooper Canyon Falls|
This 3-mile hike leaves from Buckhorn Campground and visits a short waterfall in an enchanting glen of tall pines.
|Winston Ridge and Winston Peak|
This 4.85-mile partial loop bags a summit and a scenic ridge in the high San Gabriel Mountains.
This 6,215-foot summit can be reach from two trailheads for a 3 to 6.25-mile hike gaining between 575 and 1,000 feet.
This 3.8 or 4.4-mile hike ascends from Charlton Flats Picnic Area to Vetter Mountain, where there are exceptional 360-degree view from the site of an old fire lookout tower.
|More trails in the San Gabriel Mountains|
Explore other destinations in the range.
This 8.25-mile round trip hike ascends 2,834 feet to one of the tallest summits in the San Gabriel Mountains and a monument to Lord Baden-Powell, a BSA icon and the founder of the Scout Movement.
|Mount Baldy Loop|
This 11.3-mile hike incorporates the Devil’s Backbone and the Baldy Bowl – Ski Hit Trail into one see-all loop.
|Santa Anita Canyon Loop|
This 9.5-mile loop visits two peaceful creeks in sylvan canyons, passing a 60-foot waterfall and plenty of beautiful wilderness.
This 6.25-mile loop summits the tallest peak in the Santa Monica Mountains.
This 3.6-mile hike travels an easy-to-follow fire road, climbing 900 feet to panoramic views of the Santa Monica Mountains and San Fernando Valley.
This 7.4-mile hike ascends from Santa Ynez Canyon to a sandstone summit in Topanga State Park with panoramic views of the Santa Monica Mountains.
|Stunt High Trail to Saddle Peak|
This 7.5-mile hike combines Stunt High Trail and a section of the Backbone Trail to visit the 6th tallest summit in the Santa Monica Mountains.
This 38-site campground is an hour drive up the Angeles Crest Highway from LA and a great weekend spot for summer tent camping.
|Horse Flats Campground|
This 25-site campground in the Angeles National Forest in the San Gabriel Mountains offers first-come first-serve equestrian-friendly sites.
|Coulter Group Campground|
This single-site campground accommodates up to 50 people per night, offering fresh mountain air and sweeping views at 5,300 feet.