Cooper Canyon Falls from Cloudburst
- Location: Angeles National Forest. From I-210 in La Canada, take the Angeles Crest Highway (route 2) northeast for 32.7 miles to Cloudburst Summit. Park in the turnout on the left side of the road. From Highway 138, take the Angeles Crest Highway west for 31.5 miles. A United States Forest Service Adventure Pass ($5 per day or $30 for the year) is required for parking here. Click here to purchase.
- Agency: Angeles National Forest/Santa Clarita & Mojave Rivers Ranger District
- Distance: 7.2 miles
- Elevation gain: 1,600 feet
- Suggested time: 3.5 hours
- Difficulty rating: PG-13 (Altitude, distance, elevation gain, terrain)
- Best season: April – November
- USGS topo map: Waterman Mountian
- Recommended gear: hiking poles; insect repellent; sun hat
- More information: Trip report here; Everytrail report here
- Rating: 8
Located deep in the San Gabriels, Cooper Canyon Falls tends not to get as many visitors as lower-country waterfalls such as Sturtevant and Switzer. Seeing it at its best can be a little bit of a catch-22: earlier in the year, the snow levels are likely to be high enough to present difficulty, and later, the falls are probably just going to be a trickle. But the trip is enjoyable no matter how strong the waterfall is, whether you leave from Buckhorn Campground, Eagle’s Roost Picnic Area or Cloudburst, as described here. (Note that as of this writing, the road to Buckhorn is closed, meaning that hikers must park at the Angeles Crest Highway and walk half a mile extra each way.) Keep in mind that all routes to the waterfall are reverse hikes, so plan on spending more time on the return than on the descent.
From Cloudburst, head into the woods on either the Pacific Crest Trail or the wider dirt forest road (the latter is more likely to be in good condition and easier to follow). The two meet up again in three quarters of a mile, where you’ll take a left onto the P.C.T. and head uphill. You follow the P.C.T. along a ridge where you get nice views both to the north, including some glimpses of the high desert, and to the south, including prominent Buckhorn Peak.
After a mile and a half, the trail begins a sharp, crooked descent, arriving at the Cooper Canyon Trail Camp. On the way down, you may have to climb up the hillside to bypass a fallen tree or two. Past the camp, the trail enters a pleasant wooded stretch alongside the stream. This gives you a chance to rest your legs before making another steep drop, this one on somewhat loose terrain.
The trail drops into another wooded area, where it crosses the creek. On the other side, it reaches a junction where the Burkhardt Trail comes down from Buckhorn. Stay straight and almost immediately look for a steep, rough trail heading down to the left. Make your way down carefully, using a rope to negotiate some rocks near the bottom that may be slippery.
This brings you to 35-foot Cooper Canyon Falls, which may be torrential or only trickling depending on the time of year and the amount of rainfall. No matter how much water is there, the grotto makes a pleasant place to sit and relax before turning around. You can return either by the route you came, or if you set up a shuttle, you can make it a one-way hike and continue on either to Buckhorn or to the Eagles Roost Picnic Area, 3.5 miles away on the Pacific Crest Trail.