Mt. Waterman, in the San Gabriel Mountains, is best known for its ski area. A couple of lifts carry schussers up the north face of the mountain. Alpine scenery and decent snowfall contribute to Waterman's popularity.
But when Mt. Waterman is snow-less, the 8,038-foot peak (and the San Gabriel Wilderness that adjoins it) becomes the province of hikers. The U-shaped mountain has three high points that offer a great clear-day view of some of the wildest country in the San Gabriel Mountains.
The high cliffs and deep canyons of the wilderness are the domain of black bears, mountain lions and bighorn sheep. Mt. Waterman is known to be a particularly good summit for glimpsing a gamboling bighorn.
As the story goes, Pasadenan Bob Waterman and his wife, Liz, were exploring the crest of the wild, little-known San Gabriels in 1889. To orient themselves, they ascended the highest mountain in this part of the range. Bob and fellow explorer Perry Switzer named the peak "Lady Waterman Mountain" after Liz. Years later, when a U.S. Geological Survey team mapped the mountains, it eliminated the "Lady" from Waterman Mountain.
Angelenos, while inching along on some crowded interchange, may be comforted to know that no other major metropolitan area has a wilderness so close. The primeval canyons of the San Gabriel Wilderness are as close as 18 miles, as the crow flies, from downtown Los Angeles.
The 36,137-acre wilderness contains much rough-and-rugged country, especially in two canyons, Devils and Bear. Chaparral coats the sunny canyon slopes while pine and fir reach from the ridges to the sky.
The wilderness is surrounded on three sides by roads: on the north and west by Highway 2 (the Angeles Crest Highway), on the east by Highway 39. Picnickers and campers crowd its edge, skiers peer down at it from nearby ridges. But despite its accessibility, most people only \o7 look\f7 at this wilderness. The few trails leading around and through the San Gabriel Wilderness--even the moderate, well-graded path to Mt. Waterman--are infrequently traveled.
Even more remote than Mt. Waterman (and offering better clear-day views) is Twin Peaks. The boulder-strewn summits of 7,761-foot East Twin Peak and 7,596-foot West Twin Peak offer commanding panoramas of the Angeles high country and the metropolis below.
Directions to trail head: From Interstate 210 (the Foothill Freeway) in La Canada, exit on Highway 2 and drive 33 miles. Half a mile past the Mt. Waterman Ski Lift, look right for road paddle 58/00, then park in the large lot on the left side of the highway. Walk carefully along the highway to a dirt road with a yellow steel gate across it. This road is on the right side of the highway near road paddle 58/15 and across the highway from a phone booth and the (closed) Buckhorn Ranger Station.
The hike: Walk up the fire road about 50 yards, then join the unsigned footpath branching from the left side of the road. The path parallels, then rises above Angeles Crest Highway, climbing through stands of tall Jeffrey pines.
About 1 1/2 miles of ascent bring you to a dramatic crest where signs mark the boundary of the San Gabriel Wilderness. You get good views down at Bear Canyon and Twin Peaks.
Mt. Waterman Trail turns west for half a mile and brings you to a signed junction with the trail leading to Twin Peaks.
To reach Mt. Waterman: Go right and climb through the pine trees. Join an unsigned trail on your left for the final ascent to the stony, broad-shouldered summit of Mt. Waterman.
To Twin Peaks: From the trail junction, descend a steep mile to Twin Peaks Saddle (6,550 feet), perched on the divide separating Devil Canyon from Bear Creek Canyon.
A rough, steep trail contours south from the saddle. Then an even more steep and faint trail--a route between trees and boulders, really--climbs very steeply to a ridgeline between the Twin Peaks. Ascend a little more east to reach the eastern peak. Clear-day panoramas include Palomar Mountain, Mt. San Jacinto, Mt. Baldy, the Los Angeles Basin, Palos Verdes Peninsula and Catalina Island.
San Gabriel Mountains / Mt. Waterman Trail, Twin Peaks Trail Where: San Gabriel Wilderness, Angeles National Forest Distance: To Mt. Waterman, 6 miles round trip, with 1,300-foot elevation gain; to Twin Peaks, 9 1/2 miles round trip. Terrain: Pine-and cedar-dotted slopes. Highlights: Superb views of San Gabriel Wilderness; chance to experience mysteries of L.A.'s own Twin Peaks. Degree of difficulty: Moderate to strenuous. Precautions: Route to Twin Peaks is partly trail-less; for experienced hikers only. For more information: Contact Angeles National Forest, 701 N. Santa Anita Ave., Arcadia 91006, (818) 574-5541.