Snow Hiking In Los Angeles: The Mt. Waterman Trail

After several days of rain, there are several options for snow hiking in Angeles National Forest right now. Last Sunday I enjoyed one of them. There was deep enough snow at the Mt. Waterman trailhead that I was able to snowshoe 1 the entire way from Angeles Crest Highway to the summit. I read on the Mt. Baldy Facebook Page that the ski lift area received another 8″-10″ of snow Tuesday night and that they will open up Thunder Mountain with the understanding that the snow is extremely thin in some areas. So, there’s enough snow on our mountains right now to support a good range of winter fun.

Mt. Waterman

View from Mt. Waterman

Mt. Waterman is a great place to snow hike for most all skill levels because it’s not as steep as most snow covered options in Angeles National Forest 2 and it doesn’t have the kind of sketchy areas many of the other trails have. Even where the trail is a little thin with a significant drop to one side; the trail is still wider, the drop is less steep, and the drop isn’t as far as most other trails high enough in elevation to be covered in snow.

One of the more "sketchy" parts of the Mt. Waterman Trail. Comparatively tame when compared to other trails nearby.

One of the more “sketchy” parts of the Mt. Waterman Trail. Comparatively tame when compared to other trails nearby.

For the most part, the trail is comfortably wide with an easy grade which makes it a perfect place to snowshoe as there aren’t many awkward areas where the size of the snowshoes makes moving forward tricky. In fact, there are lots of more flat and open areas which I find very appealing in the snow.

View toward Mt. Waterman from the last saddle area before the summit.

View toward Mt. Waterman from the last saddle area before the summit.

Among the many winter treats experienced hiking this trail at this time of year is to see the stream flowing down the mountain which is dry most of the year. Traversing this trail soon after the storm meant the ice was still falling from the trees. The sound of that along with the interesting patterns on the ground below the trees was an added bonus.

Seasonal stream along the Mt. Waterman Trail.

Seasonal stream along the Mt. Waterman Trail.

I find the snowy version of the summit even more dramatic than it is the rest of the year. The color of the trees–especially their bark–stands out more against the contrasting white snow. The partially snow covered portions of the plethora of granite outcrops helps to emphasize the varying formations being created due to the weathering process. I also find the warmth from the sun as I move out of the shade in the winter to be of larger impact than the coolness of the shade on a summer’s day.

Mt. Waterman

View from Mt. Waterman

The area of the summit of Mt. Waterman is larger than most peaks in Angeles National Forest . As a result, it yields many different perspectives and can be reached by several different routes that lead to the peak.

The steeper approach to Mt. Waterman from the east.

The steeper approach to Mt. Waterman from the east.

The one described here is one of the two options coming from the east. There is a split in the trail just past the last saddle before the summit that allows a steeper more direct approach and leads to the more spatially constrained eastern area of the peak. Here, views are long but always partially blocked by trees and large granite outcrops which often give the feeling of being walls.

View looking out toward Mt. Baldy from the more constrained eastern end of the peak.

View looking out toward Mt. Baldy from the more constrained eastern end of the peak.

Continuing west along the trail that runs the length of the summit (the summit is long enough to call the path a trail), the landscape opens up dramatically providing an expansive view of the more open and flat middle section of the peak which is also directly accessed from the longer gentler approach from the east 3.

View looking west on Mt. Waterman.

View looking west on Mt. Waterman.

Since I wasn’t going to make this a loop hike by taking the road back, I turned around and headed back the way I came enjoying the constantly changing views of almost the entire high country of Angeles National Forest.

On of my favorite views of the high country of Angeles National Forest as seen from the Mt. Waterman Trail.

On of my favorite views of the high country of Angeles National Forest as seen from the Mt. Waterman Trail.

The following other snow hikes I’ve posted in this series should be covered in some amount on snow for a while now (baring an unforeseen heat wave).

The Pacific Crest Trail from Angeles Crest to Mt. Islip

The Pacific Crest Trail from Vincent Gap to Mt. Baden-Powell (presently only accessible from Wrightwood because Angeles Crest Highway is closed between Islip Saddle and Vincent Gap for the winter).

The Baldy Bowl Trail

Notes:


  1. I didn’t actually need snowshoes to hike this trail on this day. Sure, near the summit even the snowshoes sunk about 4″ into the snow. So, it was nice and extra fun for me to have them. However, one could just “post hole” it–preferably with tall gaiters. That’s what I did when I started snow hiking. However, I had an experience at Mt. Hawkins where the trail got icy and very slippery forcing me to turn back earlier than I wanted because I started slipping on the snow instead of sinking into it. I knew I needed to get some equipment to counteract that issue. At the time, I bought snowshoes because they helped with both icy conditions and make travelling in deep snow more enjoyable. Later I learned about microspikes which are great to help with icy conditions and work better than snowshoes when the snow isn’t deep. I now carry both microspikes and snowshoes when I snow hike. There were others wearing snowshoes, some with micro-spikes, and a lot more just wearing hiking boots. My friend Etienne was even trying out hiking with his skis to prepare for an upcoming snow touring trip. 
  2. Only 1,250′ of gain over three miles to the summit for an average of  just over 415′ per mile. Compare with Islip Saddle to Mt. Islip at over 570′ per mile, Vincent Gap to Mt. Baden-Powell at over 740′ per mile, or the Baldy Bowl Trail to Mt. Baldy at over 930′ per mile. 
  3. The more gentle approach is taken by continuing straight at the fork after the last saddle before the peak (instead of going up the steeper trail on the left). This lower path eventually reaches another obvious junction where a left turn leads to the middle portion of the peak. This lower path eventually widens to road width and leads to the road at the west end of the peak. The road at the west end of the peak is also accessible from the higher trail and leads back down to Angeles Crest Highway. The lower path also leads to a lesser known middle path with a seasonal stream that meanders down the mountain eventually terminating in a ski run that needs to be crossed to reach the road that leads down to the highway. It’s probably best to avoid that middle route when skiers are present. 

3 thoughts on “Snow Hiking In Los Angeles: The Mt. Waterman Trail

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