Difficulty PG13 Distance more than 10 miles General information: Dogs allowed Rating: 7-8 San Gabriel Mountains Season: Fall/Early Winter Season: Late Winter/Spring

Coldwater Canyon Truck Trail (Angeles National Forest)


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Looking down into the canyon
Looking down into the canyon
Shade near the bottom of the Coldwater Canyon Truck Trail
Shade near the bottom of the Coldwater Canyon Truck Trail

Coldwater Canyon Truck Trail (Angeles National Forest)

  • Location: Angeles National Forest south of Mt. Baldy.  From the 210 Freeway, take the Baseline Road exit and go west for 0.7 miles.  Take a right (north) onto Mills, go 1.1 miles and bear right onto Mt. Baldy Road.  Go 8 miles and take a hard left on Glendora Ridge Road (right before Mt. Baldy Village) and drive a mile to Cow Canyon Saddle and park in the big lot on the right side of the road, where space is usually ample.  A National Forest Service Adventure Pass ($5 per day or $30 for the year) is required for parking. Click here to purchase.
  • Agency: Angeles National Forest, San Gabriel River Ranger District
  • Distance: 11.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 2,000 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (distance, elevation gain)
  • Suggested time: 5.5 hours
  • Best season: October – May
  • USGS topo maps: “Mt. Baldy”
  • Recommended gear: sunblock; sun hat; insect repellent
  • Recommended guidebook: Afoot & Afield Los Angeles County
  • More information: here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 7
0:00 - Trail head at Cow Saddle (click thumbnails to see the full sized version)
0:00 – Trail head at Cow Saddle (click thumbnails to see the full sized version)

This hike follows a fire road from Cow Saddle, in between Lookout Mountain and Sunset Peak, down into the Sheep Mountain Wilderness. Although the trail’s ending–at a gate blocking off entrance to private land–may seem a little anti-climatic for such a long hike, the sights along the way, which include dramatic mountain and canyon views, make the effort worthwhile. One doesn’t have to do the entire hike for it to be enjoyable, although the full trip makes for a great workout. Be advised that there is virtually no shade along the route.

0:06 - Bear left and continue down into the canyon (times are approximate)
0:06 – Bear left and continue down into the canyon (times are approximate)

From Cow Saddle, follow the trail leading out of the parking area. At the base of Lookout Mountain (0.3 miles), turn right and pass by a metal gate. The descent is gradual (with a few uphill stretches), following the southwest side of Lookout Mountain, with a nice view of Sunset Peak across the canyon.

0:07 - Passing the metal gate
0:07 – Passing the metal gate

At 2.8 miles, you reach a saddle where the trail veers away from the ridge. A gap in the canyon wall provides a nice view to the west. The descent becomes a little steeper, twisting around the ridges. At about 4.7 miles, you get a nice view of Cattle Canyon coming in from the north. Another half mile brings you to the base of the canyon, where the trail continues to the left (the right fork heads up into the canyon, leading to a tungsten mine.)

1:05 - Looking west from the saddle
1:05 – Looking west from the saddle

After crossing the wash, you find the welcome shade of some alders and oaks, with a seasonal stream running near by. This makes a nice place to take a break (and also a good turnaround point), but if you decide to sit under the trees, watch out for poison oak. Soon after, the trail reaches a metal gate (5.9 miles) blocks off further progress.

1:50 - View of Cattle Canyon before the descent to the junction
1:50 – View of Cattle Canyon before the descent to the junction

Text and photography copyright 2013 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

2:15 - View of the mountains from behind the gate at the end of the trail
2:15 – View of the mountains from behind the gate at the end of the trail
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