“Descend into a canyon to see one of the few perennial waterfalls in the high San Gabriel Mountains.”
— Jason Ethridge
This short outing will take you down Buckhorn Canyon, past mountain springs, to Cooper Canyon and a beautiful waterfall. There is a short rope to rappel to the falls (and climb back out) and the trail can get very crowded on weekend afternoons (especially in the summertime).
Features: River/Creek — Waterfall — Wildflowers
Need to Know
Keep the climb out of the canyon and the time of day in mind when planning your outing. Climbing out under the midday sun is not much fun.
After leaving the Burkhart Trailhead at Buckhorn Campground, the trail works its way through some brush before entering mixed conifer forest. The route follows the western canyon wall above Buckhorn Creek and crosses a few seasonal mountain springs as it slowly descends toward the intersection of Buckhorn Canyon and Cooper Canyon.
As the canyon gets deeper, the trail opens up and becomes steeper and rocky. Just past the one mile mark the path turns west, away from Buckhorn Creek and starts descending along Cooper Canyon to a single switchback before reaching the canyon floor. Here the surroundings turn to a mix of conifer and deciduous forest along the creek bed. Now comes the tricky part: finding the waterfall. If it is early spring and the flow is high, you'll probably be able to track it down by sound. If it is a summer, or weekend, afternoon you'll be able to track it down by completely different sounds (popular place).
Regardless, there are a few landmarks to be on the lookout for. First are the metal trail support walls along the creek side of the trail. Opposite one of these (the second one?) is a large pine tree with the roots cut off for trail access. Stuck between two root stubs is a large rock that the roots grew around before they were cut off. At this point is a route to the falls, but it is steep; so go another 10-15 feet and there is another path that is less treacherous. After you descend this path, the falls are in sight, but a short rappel down the rope that always seems to be there will take you to the foot of the falls.
If you do this run on an early weekday morning, you'll probably have the place all to yourself and enjoy a truly idyllic setting.