At the Y-fork, Forest Service Road 3N16 divides into 3N16A on the right our return route and 3N16B on the left. Begin the loop on the left fork, passing the vehicle gate. Follow the dirt road parallel to the north side of the ridge. The gentle uphill slope gains 300 feet in 0.7 miles to the remains of the Vetter Mountain Lookout. Just before reaching the summit, pass the posted Vetter Mountain Trail on the right, the return route. Veer left, then right, forming an S-pattern to the open overlook with sweeping 360-degree vistas.
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After savoring the views, return to the Vetter Mountain Trail. Leave the road and zigzag down eleven switchbacks on the footpath. Stroll down a seasonal drainage through chaparral and under oaks to F.S. Road 3N16A.
The trail continues across the road and leads 0.7 miles to the lower Charlton Flat Picnic Area. For this hike, bear right on the dirt road. Head up the serpentine road among oaks and pines, completing the loop at the Y-fork.
Hiking distance: 3.6 miles round trip Hiking time: 2 hours Configuration: out-and-back Elevation gain: 750 feet Exposure: mostly forested canyon Difficulty: moderate Dogs: allowed
Maps: U.S.G.S. Waterman Mountain Harrison: Angeles High Country Trail Map
Cooper Canyon Falls drops 30 feet off a moss-covered rock wall into a lush
grotto with a pool. The cataract is set within the San Gabriel Wilderness in a deep canyon northeast of Waterman Mountain. The pristine, 6,000-foot-high landscape is rich with a fragrant forest of towering incense cedar, Jeffrey and sugar pine, fir, oak, alder, and perennial cascading waters. The Burkhart Trail descends through Buckhorn Canyon to Cooper Canyon and follows Cooper Creek to the waterfall, where the trail joins with the Pacific Crest Trail.
The Pacific Crest Trail runs for 2,650 miles, from Mexico to Canada, passing through California, Oregon, and Washington.
To the trailhead
From the Foothill Freeway (Interstate 210) in La Canada, exit on the Angeles Crest Highway (Highway 2). Drive 34 miles north to the signed Buckhorn Campground on the left. Turn left and wind one mile down the narrow paved road to the day use trailhead parking area. An Adventure Pass is required for parking.
From the far end of the parking area, head northeast on the signed trail. Follow the sandy footpath on the west side of the forested canyon high above Buckhorn Creek. Steadily descend among the towering cedars, pines, firs, and pockets of ferns. Pass overlooks of the stream-fed Buckhorn Canyon, which offers views of beautiful outcrops. When the outcrops on the east canyon wall come into view, three spur trails on the right descend to the stream by small falls and pools. The Burkhart Trail veers left into Cooper Canyon, then switchbacks to the right. Traverse the south canyon wall, and parallel Cooper Creek to the base of Buckhorn Canyon by majestic cedar trees with multiple trunks grown together. Rock hop over Buckhorn Creek above its confluence with Cooper Canyon Creek. Continue downstream to the east, passing more cedars. At 1.7 miles is a T-junction with the Pacific Crest Trail. The left fork leads 1.1 mile to Cooper Canyon Camp. Go to the right and walk 100 yards to the top of Cooper Canyon Falls on the left. Continue 30 yards to an unsigned fork. (If you reach the crossing of Little Rock Creek, you have gone 0.2 miles past the fork.) The short, steep spur trail on the left descends to the base of the falls in a vertical rock bowl. If descending to the base, use caution, as this path has loose rock and is steep.
Hiking distance: 4.6 miles round trip Hiking time: 2.5 hours Configuration: out-and-back Elevation gain: 600 feet
Exposure: mostly forested canyon with some exposed sections Difficulty: moderate Dogs: allowed
Maps: U.S.G.S. Condor Peak Harrison: Angeles Front Country Trail Map Harrison: Mt. Wilson Trail Map
Switzer Falls is a gorgeous 50-foot, two-tiered waterfall deep in Arroyo Seco
Canyon. The upper falls drops through a narrow gorge into a pool naturally carved into the rock. The 15-foot lower falls is tucked into a steep-walled rock grotto with a small pool.
The trailhead to Switzer Falls is located off the Angeles Crest Highway (Highway 2) at the mouth of the canyon by the Switzer Picnic Area. The hike follows Arroyo Seco Creek through intimate creekside habitat with granite boulders, numerous pools, and the shade of alder, oak, maple, spruce, and willow trees. The trail leads to primitive Commodore Switzer Camp, traverses sheer rock walls, passes overlooks of the upper falls, and doubles back along the creek to the base of the lower falls. The trail follows a section of the Gabrielino National Recreation Trail, a 28-mile trail that runs through the Angeles National Forest.
To the trailhead
From the Foothill Freeway (Interstate 210) in La Canada, exit on the Angeles Crest Highway (Highway 2). Drive 9.9 miles north to the signed Switzer Picnic Area turnoff on the right. (The turnoff is located 0.5 miles past the Angeles Forest Highway.) Turn right and wind a half mile down the paved road to the parking lot at the end of the road. An Adventure Pass is required for parking.
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