The San Gabriel Mountains taper in height as they run westward from their apex at Mount San Antonio (Old Baldy, 10,064') to the 5-6,000' peaks standing over the eastern San Fernando Valley and the Santa Clarita area. At 8,038 feet, Waterman Mountain is the last summit to exceed 8,000 feet. Due to the broad nature of the summit area, the views it offers are mainly to the south. An ascent may easily be combined with an ascent of the more remote Twin Peaks (7,761') to the south.
Mount Waterman was named after Liz Waterman who, with her husband Bob, and Commodore Perry Switzer, made the a complete traverse of the range from the Los Angeles Basin to the desert and back in 1889. Lady Waterman was believed to be the first white woman to cross the range, and so her companions named the peak in her honor. The USGS dropped "Lady" from the name when the area was mapped. Bob Waterman tried in vain to convince the agency to correct their error. The name persists as a tribute to her accomplishment, and a monument to bureaucratic stubbornness.
A ski area that occasionally gets enough snow to operate adorns the north slopes. As one might expect, the skiing here is quite excellent by San Gabriel standards. The broad summit area provides well over 100 acres of gentle terrain suitable for all kinds of skiing, and the north slopes offer steeper grades for those who are up on their turning skills. If the ski lifts are operating you might be forced to buy a lift ticket.
From the city of La Canada/Flintridge, take Angeles Crest Highway (SR2) 34 miles to Buckhorn Station. A jeep trail used by the lift operation and a hiking trail leave from the vicinity of the station. Both involve about a six mile round trip with 1,300 feet of elevation gain and loss. A more strenuous approach departs SR2 2.4 miles past Chilao. You will find a trail marker about 100 feet past the Horse Flats turn off. This route is 14 miles round trip, with 2,200 feet of elevation gain and loss.
Waterman Mountain lies on the border of the San Gabriel Wilderness (the wilderness boundary runs east-west over the summit, with the wilderness area lying to the south) in the Angeles National Forest. A National Forest Adventure Pass or Golden Eagle pass is required to park in the ANF. Annual passes are $30, and day passes are $5. Passes can be purchased at Forest Service offices and virtually any sporting goods store in Southern California. No permits are required for hiking or camping.
When To Climb
Waterman Mountain may be climbed year-round. It is a short, pleasant hike in the spring through fall, though summer days may get rather warm. When snow-covered (alas, this doesn't happen every winter) it makes an enjoyable beginner's outing on skis or snowshoes.
It would be difficult to turn an ascent of Waterman into a multi-day adventure. Like virtually all hikes in the San Gabriels, this peak is normally done as a day hike from town. However, if you are so inclined, there are several campgrounds in the ANF, the nearest one being Buckhorn Flat, which is a short drive down an access road from where you park on Angeles Crest Highway. At the time this page was written, though, Buckhorn was closed due to bear activity. When it’s open, it offers 38 first-come, first-served camp sites. Two car, eight person maximum per site, $10 per night. Check the ANF’s web site for additional camping information, including phone numbers for current conditions and additional information.
The Forest Service maintains a web site with current road and weather conditions. CalTrans (800-427-7623) may have more up-to-date road information.