Posted by: GeekHiker | August 26, 2008

HIKE: Mt. Waterman Loop

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.

Waterman Loop 01
Start of the Mt. Waterman loop trail along the side of the highway

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.

Waterman Loop 02
Late summer wildflowers

Cross the road and continue along the trail, passing by damaged trees from wildfires years ago.

Waterman Loop 03
Damaged, but still thriving tree along the trail

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…

Waterman Loop 04
Granite boulder/head along the trail

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.

Waterman Loop 05
A flat section along the trail

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.

Waterman Loop 06
Along the ascending switchbacks

Waterman Loop 08
Young, bright needles show this year’s growth on a young pine tree

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.

Waterman Loop 10
Spiny granite boulders along the Waterman summit ridge

Relax, enjoy your lunch, drink in the views. But watch out for those who might also want to partake of your food!

Waterman Loop 09
Careful… he’s stalking your lunch…

Waterman Summit Photomerge
View from the summit. Mt. Baldy is on the left, the LA basin towards the right

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.

Waterman Loop 11
Looking down from the ski resort down toward the flat, hot Antelope Valley

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.

Waterman Loop 12
Artificial pond near the summit

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.

Waterman Loop 13
Descending the Mt. Waterman service road back to the trailhead

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.


  1. Lovely photos once again.

    There IS someone trapped in that rock…

  2. There is totallya face in that boulder! And it doesn’t look too impressed with itself either!

    Great pics!

  3. How could you mention lunch without taking a picture. Where is all the sandwich porn lately?!?!?

  4. Aww, the chipmunk is so cute…but they will sooo rob you blind. Your pictures make me miss California.

  5. Sounds like a great hike. Great pictures. I’ve tried to take a similar pine needle picture many times and have never been successful. I miss the mountains. Nebraska is a little flat.

  6. What did you have for lunch? What kind of boots to you have? I think that chipmunk is adorable.

    You take great pics.

  7. That’s a determined chickmonk!

  8. Wow that looks a heck of a lot prettier when it’s not covered in snow! I actually skied at Waterman in college. Now I’ll have to get back up there for a hike! Your pictures are beautiful.

  9. holy cow. that picture of antelope valley is AMAZING.

  10. Sorry for the delayed reaction– WOW! WOW! WOW! This looks like an AWESOME hike! And I LOVE the tree that is still flourishing after the fire. Go nature!

  11. Just A Girl – Trapped?

    Ruby – He looks kinda Mayan to me…

    Charlotte Harris – Heh, lunch was just trail mix and crackers. Sorry to disappoint.

    Anya – They’re all little thieves!

    Homer-Dog – It was a nice day, despite the knee. How far is it for you to the Rockies?

    Dingo – The boots are Montrail Torre GTX Classics. Thanks for the compliment!

    Aaron – Yeah, he was a brave little sucker.

    Mel Heth – You should definitely do the hike!

    Kristin – Thanks!

    Vicky – No worries. The tree shot is cool, isn’t it?

  12. I would say the rockies are about a long days drive from here.

  13. […] Mt. Waterman on (single) […]

  14. […] Waterman Trail.  You can also do it as a loop hike by returning on the service road, as described here. Text and photography copyright 2012 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and […]

  15. […] Mount Waterman on […]

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