HIKE TO: Cooper Canyon Falls TRAIL: Burkhart Trail MILES: 3 miles out and back TIME: 1:20 hrs DATE I WENT: 5/17/20 DIFFICULTY: easy ELEVATION: 5630 ft (bottom of the falls) ELEVATION GAIN/ LOSS: 828 ft HIKE PERMIT: no PARKING PERMIT: yes, adventure pass but the US National Parks Pass doubles as an Adventure pass in Angeles National Forest LOCATION: Angeles National Forest, Los Angeles/ Southern California
Yes, Cooper Canyon waterfall is one of the fullest and loudest I’ve come across in Angeles National Forest. In April-May (probably even June), it flows strongest because of the snowmelt but there should be some water flow in the Summer and early Fall too.
Yes, we saw a large group of children (avg age 5?) on the trail and the parents carried them down at the bottom scramble section. Dogs are also allowed on leash.
*update from June 2022: The trail has reopened from the fire closure and is currently full of wildflowers blooming along the trail – lots of purple flowers!
Cooper Canyon Falls
Cooper Canyon Falls is one of those backward hikes that you start by hiking downwards and have to hike up and out on the way back. Personally, I prefer to get the uphill out of the way and relax on the hike back, but this trail is very short so it wasn’t bad at all.
What to Pack for Cooper Canyon Falls Hike
- Stio Sidley Long Sleeve Shirt – UPF 50+ kept me covered and cool the entire hike, especially on the uphill! I prefer to wear this as a light jacket for warm days – it’s super light, soft and breathable, which makes for a great cover-up for lake days, waterfall hikes
- Sunday Afternoon Sun Hat
- Gregory Nano Day Pack – the perfect size for a short day hike – my color is currently on sale
- Thinksport Sunblock – this one is my favorite face sunblock for hiking! I’ve been using their body sunblock for years because of the high amount of zinc oxide and love the silkiness to the face sunblock
- Sea to Summit quick-drying towel – mine is size XS about 12″ x 24″; here is an REI substitute option that’s always in stock
- Adidas Terrex Hiking Water Shoes – the ones I’m wearing are my favorite but discontinued
The Burkhart Trail to Cooper Canyon Falls starts at Buckhorn Campground, deep in Angeles National Forest in San Gabriel Mountains National Monument and ends in Pleasant View Ridge Wilderness. It is a very easy trail which also makes it a very popular trail despite how far it is, so if you are looking to hike away from the crowds, avoid coming on the weekends. It’s also a narrow dirt path so please share the trail and be mindful of faster-paced hikers trying to pass through, and be patient with slower-paced hikers that may be struggling.
The hike itself took only 38 mins to hike down and 36 mins to hike up, then another 13 mins to hike out of the camp area to get to our car. There is a day-use parking lot at the trailhead. If the gate to the campground is closed like it was during the pandemic, you will have to park outside the gate off Angeles Crest Hwy 2 and hike down to the trailhead, adding an additional 1.5 mi round trip to your hike.
The Burkhart trail is very straightforward with only one junction near the end which you will continue straight. The other trail is the PCT/ Silver Mocassin Trail which leads to Cooper Canyon Trail Camp. There is also one tiny stream crossing with logs to help you get across dry. Once you get to the top of Cooper Canyon Falls, the last section is a short scramble down into the canyon with a rope to assist your descent. It can get a little slippery so be careful!
Cooper Canyon Waterfall and Swimming Hole
We arrived at the waterfall at 2:15 pm and hung out for about an hour before the hot hike out. The trail is fairly shaded though. Although it’s a smaller enclosed area near the bottom of the falls, we found plenty of space to ourselves completely away from the crowds (if you’re willing to get a little wet) – you can also hang out in the stream that flows down the canyon to get further away from the crowds and get more shade.
It was the perfect time to go because it was still sunny and warm but the canyon and trees provide a lot of shade. The water was freezing when I was barefoot because of the snowmelt but much more tolerable with my shoes on. I noticed a few people with really bad sunburns so just a reminder to don’t forget to apply sunscreen!! 🙂
The hike back was faster than expected. Overall, this hike was a nice little day-getaway, but if you find your way outdoors, please practice proper social distancing.