From the issue Season Opener
Into Clean Air
Lace up the boots for a hike to one of Southern California’s most accessible—and surprising—peaks. Tucked in the northern San Gabriel Wilderness, the summit of Waterman Mountain is reached by an easy-to-navigate yet unnamed 4.5-mile out-and-back hike. The steady ascent from the trailhead gains a respectable 1,300 feet in elevation, but well-graded trails mean few huffs and puffs along the way. Crisp air and vanilla-scented Jeffrey pines greet you at the start. Skip across a tumbling creek early into the hike, continuing on paths shaded by giant incense cedars and ponderosa pines. Granite boulders mingle with the statuesque trees as you approach the summit. Toss in sky-high mountain vistas and chance sightings of bighorn sheep, and it’s as if you’ve discovered a hidden slice of the Sierra. The 8,308-foot summit may seem uninspiring at first because of several view-obstructing boulders, but head south down a slight slope (about 200 feet off trail) and find a shelf offering the best views of the day: From east to west arc the blue ridges of Mount Islip, Mount Baldy, Pine Mountain, the Three Tees, Cucamonga Peak, and Ontario Peak. The flat rock next to the towering pine makes a nice seat for inhaling the fresh air and the scenery. Take a sweet peak!
BONUS: Your peak-bagging reward? A draft Craftsman Ale paired with a wholesome bite to eat at a rustic favorite, Newcomb’s Ranch. Sit at the patio nestled in the woods or get cozy near the fireplace with a bowl of homemade chili.
Waterman Mountain is in Angeles National Forest. The trailhead is on Angeles Crest Hwy. (SR 2). But part of this highway is currently closed due to storm damage repair. From I-210: Instead of exiting at La Cañada, exit at Sunland Blvd. Turn right and follow Sunland Blvd. (which becomes Foothill Blvd.) for 0.7-mile before turning left on Oro Vista. Continue onto Big Tujunga Canyon for 12 miles, then turn right on Angeles Forest Hwy. After 3.8 miles, turn left on Angeles Crest Hwy. Continue for 23.6 miles to Waterman ski lift; 0.5-mile after the ski lift, there’s a small parking pull-out off the westbound lane. The trailhead is across the highway. After 2 miles, turn right at an unmarked fork, which takes you to the summit. At the summit, look for the tallest boulders to the south (left): this is the peak. The best views can be found at a shelf 200 feet downhill to the south from the peak. Return the way you came. An Adventure Pass ($5 day pass; $30 annual pass) is required for this trail. You can usually buy passes at Newcomb’s Ranch, but call ahead to ensure they have them available. Newcomb’s Ranch (626-440-1001) is 7 miles west of the trailhead on Angeles Crest Hwy. Both the hike and Newcomb’s Ranch patio are dog-friendly!