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Cooper Canyon

Intermediate/Difficult
 4.6 (5) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

A great weekend backpacking trip in the beautiful alpine forest of the San Gabriel Mountains.


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Map Key

5.2

Miles

8.4

KM

Point to Point

7,017' 2,139 m

High

5,706' 1,739 m

Low

867' 264 m

Up

1,489' 454 m

Down

9%

Avg Grade (5°)

28%

Max Grade (16°)

Dogs Leashed

Features River/Creek · Views · Waterfall · Wildlife

This area can close due to weather or fire hazards. Contact the ranger station to check prior to your visit.

Overview

A fantastic point-to-point hike in the San Gabriel Mountains. If you're into it, check out the camping at Cooper Canyon that has some great amenities. A portion of this hike goes along the Pacific Crest Trail.

Need to Know

Adventure Pass required to park at Buckhorn Trailhead. No pass required to park at Cloudburst Summit. Most of the route is inside of the Pleasant View Ridge Wilderness. No bicycles allowed on Pacific Crest Trail or Burkhart Trail #10W02. If planning a backpack, check if there is water running in the stream. It can go dry late in the year.

Description

This is a great backpacking trip to take in our local mountains to experience some of what you can get in the High Sierras - a short one-hour trip from L.A. You can easily make this an out-and-back by retracing your steps, or make it a point-to-point shuttle trip. Enjoy the diversity and scenery that this area has to offer. You'll just need to make sure that you set up a shuttle beforehand.

You start by taking the Pacific Crest Trail: Cloudburst to Cooper Canyon at Cloudburst Summit. You can easily find parking right at the trailhead. There are two trails leaving this area, one is a wide fire road, the other is about twenty feet to the left which is the PCT. You could take the fire road to the campground, but I feel the PCT section is much nicer and hey - it's cool to do a bit of the PCT!

This trail meanders along some hills and valleys with occasional shade from Jeffrey pines. Not a very long section of trail but it has some great views. When I have gone it has been colder than expected, so plan accordingly. It is a pretty easy hike mostly downhill to Cooper Canyon Trail Camp.

Cooper Canyon Trail Camp is a wide area that is well maintained and has great amenities for camping. There is a vault toilet, as well as tables, wood stoves and fire pits. The campground goes right along a creek, so you can easily get water and filter/boil it. The campground is mostly flat and is quite popular, so try to arrive early to secure a good spot. There are two large group sites, or you can go deeper into the canyon to get a little more privacy. Please keep in mind that you MUST pack out your own trash.

As mentioned earlier, you can decide to head back the way you came, or better yet, continue on the PCT for a great hike with amazing views. You start off going along the creek. You get some great views and sounds as you hike alongside the creek. Stay close to the creek and you'll be fine. About 1.2 miles from the campsite, you'll cross the creek going over rocks. It can be dicey but if you have good balance it should be no problem.

Once you cross the creek you'll reach a fork in the trail. The PCT (left turn) continues down to Little Rock Creek passing Cooper Canyon Falls in a short distance. Take a right turn onto the Burkhart Trail #10W02 back to Buckhorn Campground. This is a good spot to take a longer break, take some layers off as you start building a good sweat and are about to come to the steeper sections of the hike.

The route to Buckhorn is very beautiful with amazing views of towering mountains and alpine forests. You are going along another part of Little Rock Creek and there are several smaller falls that you can visit by going off the trail. This section of the hike is the most classic example of California High Sierra hiking, with great trees surrounding you, burbling creeks, and great views! It can be steep in sections and can get tiring - just take your time and take several breaks. There is no real rush since there is plenty of time to make it to Buckhorn. As you come into Buckhorn, you'll find the trailhead parking lot. That would be the best place to park.

This is a great beginner/intermediate local backpacking trip. These are generally short in distance, but some sections are tougher. I have taken 11-year-old Boy Scouts who thought it was tough, but were able to do it and had fun. The campground is as good as they get with facilities. There is water and plenty of shade. The weather can change on you, so make sure you are prepared. Additionally, don't miss the snow plants during the spring - they are amazing!

Flora & Fauna

Jeffrey, sugar pines, white fir and some oaks provide shade on slopes. Impressive incense cedars along canyon bottom. Alder trees grow along the stream. Manzanita and buckthorn are common bushes on this route. Watch for lemon lilies in the seeping springs on the Burkhart Trail #10W02. Bears and deer often visit the area.

Contacts

Shared By:

RickG Gutz

Trail Ratings

  4.6 from 5 votes

#2163

Overall
  4.6 from 5 votes
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Photos

Great views for the saddle.
May 21, 2015 near Littlerock, CA
Looking down into the creek from the trail
May 21, 2015 near Wrightwood, CA
The climb to Buckhorn Campground
May 21, 2015 near Azusa, CA
Traveling down the Burkhart Trail between Buckhorn Campground and Cooper Canyon.
Jul 1, 2016 near Azusa, CA
Plenty of flat space for tents. Beautiful trees that protect from wind. Creek was running enough for filtered water at the time of this photo. Great loop for your first night of backpacking camping.
Dec 10, 2017 near Littlerock, CA
Another view of Cooper Canyon Trail camp.
May 21, 2015 near Littlerock, CA

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