Despite screwing up my knee… er, again… on this hike a few weeks ago, the Mt. Waterman loop is one of the prettiest dayhikes I’ve done this summer. Quiet, sparsely populated, and with excellent weather the day of my trip, it’s a pleasant ramble through shady pine forests and scenic ridges.
Ironically, I’d avoided the hike for several years. I had done the hike when I was much younger, and perhaps more goal-oriented, and found myself disappointed at the lack of a true “summit” at the top of the climb.
It’s true: the top of Waterman is a flat, rambling area with nice, but not “panoramic” views. Now, for me, the trip is more important, and the once-disappointing flattish summit is now a great hike and the perfect area for a long lunch break and extended nap.
Crossing the road from the parking area, pick up the trail at the large gray signs marking the wilderness area ahead.
The trail starts climbing gently, past areas of late season wildflowers. About .2 miles in you’ll cross the Mt. Waterman ski area service road; this will be your return route.
Cross the road and continue along the trail, passing by damaged trees from wildfires years ago.
Occasionally, large granite boulders (a relative rarity in the chewed-up granite of the San Gabriels) appear here and there. Maybe it’s just me, or is there a face in this one…
The trail continues up along the canyon, plunging through bright sunlight and deep shade. After 1.1 miles you’ll arrive at the ridge, looking down into Bear Creek Canyon. From this point south is designated wilderness area.
The trail swings west, heading up the spine of the ridge a bit before entering a series of switchbacks heading up the slope. Topping the switchbacks, the trail continues around a small knob and back to the south side of the slope. To the south you can easily see Twin Peaks separating Devils Canyon and Bear Creek Canyon.
At 1.9 miles you’ll arrive at a trail junction. The path straight ahead continues for four miles and eventually returns to the highway at Three Points Junction. Our path turns right, heading up the mountain and towards the summit itself.
Near the top, look for a use trail on the left, which will take you directly to the summit. The summit itself isn’t distinct; instead you’ll find a long spine of exposed granite, laying about like the spine of some long-dead dinosaur.
Relax, enjoy your lunch, drink in the views. But watch out for those who might also want to partake of your food!
When you’ve had your fill of the sights, continue westward along any number of use trails. They will all pretty much converge at the west end of the summit ridge, which is also the end of the service road that will be our return route.
Picking up the service road, follow it past the various ski lifts and buildings of the Mt. Waterman Ski Resort. It hasn’t run often in recent years due to the drought, but can be quite popular when a good snowfall comes through.
One of the things that perplexed me at the summit was the number of dragonflies, which are more commonly seen along stream bottoms. I scratched my head over this until I passed by this (artificial) pond along the way down.
Filled with tadpoles, and busy with birds and insects, the rim along the edge also gives excellent views down the steep north slope of the San Gabriels to the flat Antelope Valley beyond.
Continue following the road, past the central buildings of the ski resort and continue down the mountain, more steeply than the uphill path. After 2.9 miles of decent, you will be returned to the highway, just east of your car. Turn left and head back to the parking area to complete the hike.
|Total Distance: 7.2 Miles
Elevation Gain/Loss: 1,400/1,400′
Directions: From Interstate 210, exit Highway 2 North in La Canada Flintridge. Follow the highway to the trailhead at mile post 58.02. Park in the large turnout along the north side of the road or, if the turnout is full, along the highway shoulder out of traffic. Trailhead is located a few yards west on the other side of the highway. Park in the parking lot or along the road if the lot is full. National Forest Pass required.