- Location: Mt. Waterman trail head, Angeles National Forest. From La Canada Flintridge, take Highway 2/Angeles Crest Highway northeast for 34 miles and park in a small turnout on the right, by mile marker 58.02, just short of the Buckhorn Campground entrance.
- Agency: Angeles National Forest/Santa Clarita and Mojave Rivers Ranger District
- Distance: 9.6 miles
- Elevation gain: 3,600 feet
- Suggested time: 6.5 hours
- Difficulty rating: R (Elevation gain, steepness, distance, terrain, altitude, navigation)
- Best season: May – November (exercise caution on warm days)
- Dogs: Allowed, but make sure they are up for the challenge and exercise caution on warm days; also watch out for ticks
- Cell phone reception: None
- Restrooms: None (Vault style toilets are available at Buckhorn Campground)
- Water: None (The trail crosses a trickling stream above Twin Peaks Saddle but it likely wouldn’t provide enough water for filtration)
- Camping/backpacking: Twin Peaks Saddle is a good campsite and there are a few other possibilities for dispersed camping en route. Buckhorn Campground is across the highway.
- Recommended gear: sun hat hiking poles insect repellent
- Recommended guidebook: Day Hiking Los Angeles
- More information: Trip descriptions (including Mt. Waterman) here and here; Yelp page here; AllTrails report here
- Rating: 9
This no-nonsense trip throws several challenges at hikers, notably a very steep (1,150 feet in 0.8 mile) climb up and down a use trail to the summit and about 1,200 feet of elevation gain on the return trip. The reward is a chance to experience the remote upper reaches of the San Gabriel Wilderness and bag one of the Angeles National Forest’s more lightly visited summits.
The first 1.9 miles of this hike shares the route to Mt. Waterman. This pleasant stretch of trail leads through pines and cedars, picking up about 900 feet and providing some good views to the south. As you approach the junction with the trail to the summit, you’ll get your first look at Twin Peaks. Beyond it is Triplet Rocks, quickly gaining a reputation as the most difficult hiking destination in all of the San Gabriels.
At the junction, you can detour to the summit of Mt. Waterman, just under a mile and 400 feet above. To get to Twin Peaks however turn left and follow the Mt. Waterman Trail around the peak’s south ridge. The area was badly damaged in the Station Fire, but the views to the south and east are still enjoyable and there remain enough trees to provide a decent amount of shade. Turn left at the next junction and continue your descent to the saddle. On the way down, manzanitas and black oaks join the pines.
At 3.8 miles, you reach Twin Peaks Saddle, the official end of the trail. Look for a faint path leading south. It climbs to a ridge and drops briefly to another saddle – a good spot to rest for the difficult stretch ahead. The use trail now makes a straight shot uphill, intensely steep at times. For the most part the route is easy to follow; keep an eye out for trail ducks in spots where the direction may seem ambiguous. You are heading almost dead south until about the 7,300 foot line, when the route bends southeast.
Eventually you reach a ridge between the two peaks. Here your work gets a little easier. Head left and follow the trail to the summit, engaging in some moderate scrambling. The summit views may be a little disappointing if the day’s air quality is poor, but you will still get a panoramic vista of Bear Canyon, Devil’s Canyon, the L.A. basin, Mt. Lukens, Mt. Baldy and almost everything in between. On clear days, the view extends to the Palomar Mountains of San Diego County.
Ambitious hikers can bag the western summit with some cross-country hiking, but keep in mind that just going straight back is demanding – starting with the steep descent back to the saddle and then 1,150 feet of climbing on tired legs. Expect to take as long, if not longer, on the return as on the way out.
Text and photography copyright 2017 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.