Hiking Above Los Angeles

Buckhorn to Cooper Canyon
Cooper Falls
Low clouds over the San Gabriel Mountains. (Roy Randall)
Trail at a Glance
Hike Length: 5 miles round trip; 900' elevation loss and gain
Classification: Moderate
Season: May-October
Topo Map: Waterman Mountain

Nestled in deep canyons north of Mt. Waterman and Kratka Ridge are woodsy hideaways where nature, at her quiet, pristine best, still reigns relatively undisturbed by the markings of humans. Buckhorn Canyon, Cooper Canyon and upper Little Rock Creek are three of the most delightful sylvan recesses in Angeles National Forest. Sparkling streams glide and dance and tumble over boulders, and cascade down miniature waterfalls, shaded by a magnificent forest of Jeffrey and sugar pine, incense cedar, alder and oak. Ferns and lush grasses sprout emerald-green along the banks and, in spring and early summer, mountain wildflowers add a dash of color.

This trip—one of the best in the San Gabriels—takes you from Buckhorn Public Campground down along the slopes of Buckhorn Canyon into shady Cooper Canyon and on to Little Rock Creek. Anglers as well as nature lovers will enjoy the jaunt, for there are rainbow trout in Little Rock Creek.

Pine- and cedar-shaded Buckhorn was once an Indian haunt, back when Shoshonean peoples frequented the range in search of scorns, pine nuts and wild game. You can still find large boulders with mortar holes worn into them, used by Indians to grind meal. After the Indian came the white hunter. Buckhorn was a back-country hangout for hunters, seeking the abundant wild game. The name "Buckhorn" dates from this period a pair of king-sized buck horns were once nailed to a tree here. Today Buckhorn is a well-equipped public campground, one of the favorites of Angeles Forest campers.


Drive up the Angeles Crest Highway to Buckhorn Campground, 34 miles from La Canada and 1/2 mile past the Mt. Waterman Ski Area. Turn left and follow the Buckhorn Campground Road through the campground to the hikers' parking area just beyond. (Do not park in the campground proper.)

Take the Burkhart Trail from the north end, of the parking area down canyon along the left (northeast) slope. Follow this trail as it descends through pine and cedar into Cooper Canyon, where you intersect the Cooper Canyon Trail, 1 3/4 miles. Take the right fork and follow the trail 1/4 mile down Cooper Canyon, through a wilderness garden of green around small Cooper Canyon Falls, to Little Rock Creek. Here your Burkhart Trail intersects the Rattlesnake Trail leading east up Little Rock Creek to the Angeles Crest Highway.

There is no trail down Little Rock Creek; however, you can explore the canyon quite a distance by boulder-hopping. Take care if it's spring and the snowpack on the higher mountains is melting; Little Rock Creek runs high then.

Return the way you came all uphill now.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 8 Jun 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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