62 Buckhorn Campground to Cooper Canyon Falls

Jordan Brown

Took a hike on 8/1/93 that rates a solid 9+; thought I would share it.

Good things: Pines, creeks, waterfall(s?), shade, modest incline

Bad things (really, what would have to change to make it a 10): 90 minute drive from my house. I prefer redwood forests to pine forests. A few bugs.

Statistics: about 1.9 miles each way (easily expandable to >2500 miles each way - it meets the PCT...), 900' elevation loss and gain, 6000' Mean Sea Level, Mt. Waterman topo.

The hike is from the Buckhorn Campground to Cooper Canyon Falls in the Angeles National Forest. This is hike #2 (or maybe 3) in the flyer they give out at the Chilao Visitor Center, except that it's worthwhile to go a bit further than that.

Directions: Get to the Angeles Crest Highway in La Canada. (Generally you do this by taking the 210 east from the San Fernando Valley, the 210 west from Pasadena, or the 2 north from the Glendale area then the 210 east.)

Drive up the Angeles Crest Highway about 36 miles. Plan on this taking an hour. Be a good mountain driver, and if there are people behind you pull into a turnout and let them pass. At around 28 miles is the Chilao Visitor Center; you might want to stop there for a while. Just past that is Newcomb's Ranch; this is a good place to grab a drink and maybe a sandwich, especially if you're like me and my hiking buddy and you tend to START your hikes at the crack of 16:00, having just woken up... Continuing, you pass the base of the Mt. Waterman ski area on your right at about 35 miles. Another mile or two brings you to the entrance to the Buckhorn campground. The sign is on the right; the road is on the left. If you get to the base of Kratka Ridge ski area you've gone too far. Proceed downhill through the campground. At one point the road forks, with left leading into obvious campground-land and right (sort of straight ahead) leading back up to the Highway. Take the left branch. If you fail and take the right branch you're stuck on a one-way road back up to the Highway and will have to loop back around. There may be signs leading you to the "Burkhart Trail"; follow them. In general, continue downhill. There are signs talking about day use fees; as we found a sign saying "Hikers: Free parking at end of unpaved road" we believe that the fee applies to the picnic and camping areas only. Continue until you find a dirt road; follow it for about another 1/2 mile to a parking area. The trailhead is straight ahead. [Update: the Adventure Pass is now required to park there.]

Follow the trail (get out of your car first, fool) descending gradually on the side of a canyon. At one point there is a trail leading down to the right; I suspect that this leads to a waterfall shown on the topo but we didn't follow it.

The trail bends to the left (and enters a different canyon, actually) and then switchbacks once to the right. You're now in Cooper Canyon. The trail parallels Cooper Canyon creek and eventually crosses the unnamed creek you were originally paralleling. At one point there's a large fallen tree across the creek which has been used as a bridge and was perhaps placed there for that purpose. Don't cross. Continue along the creek, climbing and descending a little bit, to a well-marked juncture with the Pacific Crest Trail. Turning left would take you across the creek and back towards the fallen tree, but don't do that. Turn right (more like straight ahead) and continue a ways. On the left you should see the top of a waterfall. Continue a bit further and on the left there is an unmarked and somewhat steep trail leading down. (If you cross Little Rock Creek and reach the juncture with the Rattlesnake Trail you've gone too far.) The last six feet or so vertically requires a bit of care as it's wet. This drops you into a gorgeous hollow at the bottom of the waterfall, with a modest pool.

Return the way you came, or hike to Canada or Mexico on the PCT. (I don't know which way is which :-)


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Last update: 6 March 2000.