The Mount Waterman Ski Area is a cool place. Yes it suffers from the same curse that afflicts all Southern California ski areas - unreliable snowfall. However, it's the terrain that makes the place cool. First, there's the drive. It takes over 30 miles of mountain driving to get there. Then there's the mountain. It's steep. All of the face runs are expert only terrain. If you've skied Mount Waterman, you may be curious about the hiking on the mountain.
Unlike the skiing, the hiking trail starts out on a different part of the mountain, near the Buckhorn Campground. The Mount Waterman Trail is a loop trail. Just up the dirt road at the trailhead coordinates is the Mount Waterman Trail, which crosses the dirt road near a gate. If you go right on the Mount Waterman Trail, the trail wraps around to the front side of the ski. If you go to the left the trail climbs up the back side of the mountain, away from the ski area. We'll go right for this hike description.
Eventually the trail makes its way to the top of the mountain, or so it seems. Near the Mount Waterman ski lodge the trail flattens out quite a bit. It's obvious that you're not at the top of the mountain. However, as you near the lodge it feels like you've made it, just for a second. While at the lodge, the bathrooms are usually open and the drinking fountain usually works. There are also picnic tables to sit at if you want to eat lunch.
Not too far to the south of the Mount Waterman ski lodge the trail takes you to the top of Mount Waterman. The peak is very rocky and worth a little exploring. To the south the mountain drops off steeply into the canyon that separates Mount Waterman from Twin Peaks. There are lots of very nice views from here. Unfortunately, the 2009 forest fire's eastern boundary was just west of the ski area on the slopes of Mount Waterman, so you will likely see some scorched trees nearby.
From the peak the trail is a fairly gentle set of switchbacks all of the way back to the trailhead. While descending the switchbacks, more than half way down the mountain, you may notice what appears to be a rope tow to the east of the trail. It is indeed a rope tow, but it has nothing to do with Mount Waterman. The rope tow belongs to the Buckhorn Ski Club and you have to be a member to ski there. The club even has its own lodge that member can stay in. It's not the best looking place, but at least the members don't have to put up with crowds.
Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.
To hike Take Highway 2 east from Highway 210 in La Canada. Drive approximately 35 miles until about 1 mile past the Mount Waterman Ski Area. I have parked at a small parking area across the street from the trailhead near the Buckhorn Campground. If you have a GPS plug in the trailhead coordinates and you can miss the parking area. Note that an Adventure Pass is required to park on Forest Service land.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.
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