ElevationAscent: 867' 264 m
Descent: -1,489' -454 m
High: 7,017' 2,139 m
Low: 5,706' 1,739 m
GradeAvg Grade: 9% (5°)
Max Grade: 28% (16°)
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“A great weekend backpacking trip in the beautiful alpine forest of the San Gabriel Mountains.”— RickG Gutz
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 run 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 run with amazing views. You start off going along the creek. You get some great views and sounds as you run 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 run.
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 run is the most classic example of California High Sierra running, 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!
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Land Manager: USFS - Angeles National Forest Office