In wet years, Cooper Canyon Falls sends quite a torrent of water over it’s brink during the spring runoff, before settling down to a trickle by fall. In this drought year, the falls are already pretty small, and may be gone by fall.
None of which should stop anyone from doing this hike: the views are pleasant, and the little grotto formed by the falls is like a tiny Garden of Eden. Pack a lunch and make a day of it.
The trail to the falls starts at the end of Buckhorn Campground. To get there, drive Highway 2 north into the Angeles National Forest until you reach the signed campground turnoff on the left at mile post 58.3. Work your way down through the campground, following the signs to the day-hike parking lot at the end.
Starting from an elevation of 6,400, you descend north along the Burkhart trail. As you continue downward, the views will actually get wider, with Pleasant View Ridge spreading out in front of you. After a little over a mile, the trail swings west and you descend to the Cooper Canyon Creek.
Descending Burkhart Trail
Turning east, you pass over a small creeklet coming in from the right and finally arrive at a junction with the Pacific Crest Trail. To the left, the PCT will continue up Cooper Canyon to the Cooper Canyon primitive campground. Our path continues straight along the PCT to the east.
Creek deep in Cooper Canyon
The trail to the falls is a use trail not too far from the junction. Keep looking to your left and you will eventually see the white rock that forms the brink of the falls. Just beyond this, look for some use paths that cut down the steep slope to the falls. Near the bottom, a rope is in place to help you descend the wet slope.
If you miss the use paths, the PCT will eventually take you back down to the creek; from there you can rockhop back up to the falls. As of this writing DO NOT continue on the PCT: the area is closed for endangered species preservation.
Stay for a few hours and enjoy the cool grotto around the falls. There are some nice water smoothed boulders to eat lunch or take a nap on, or you can splash around in the shallow pool below the falls.
Cooper Canyon Falls in Fall 2005 (There is slightly less water as of this writing.)
When you are ready to go, simply hike the above trail in reverse back (up, unfortunately) to Buckhorn Campground. I suggest not doing this during the heat of the day: the Burkhart Trail is very exposed in places and can be very hot during the mid-afternoon.
Total Distance: 3.0 miles
Elevation Gain/Loss: 600′/600′
Directions: From Interstate 210, exit Highway 2 North in La Canada Flintridge. Follow the highway to milepost 58.3 to the signed Buckhorn Campground on the left. Drive through the campground, following signs to the day-hiker parking at the end. Note: when exiting the campground, be sure to look for the exit signs just left of the (non-working) telephone. The entrance and exit roads are separate, one-way roads.