Cooper Canyon Falls, Waterfall Hike in Angeles National Forest


Hike Reports, LA / SoCal Trails / Wednesday, May 20th, 2020
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
LOCATION: Angeles National Forest, Los Angeles/ Southern California
Is there water at Cooper Canyon Falls right now?

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.

Is Cooper Canyon Falls kid and pet-friendly?

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.

Unfortunately, Cooper Canyon Falls is one of those backward hikes that you start by heading down and have to hike up and out on the way back. The fact that “canyon” is in the name should have given it away… which I didn’t think about until just now. 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.

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 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. Due to Covid-19, all campgrounds are currently closed so 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 and leads to Cooper Canyon Trail Camp (which I’m not sure if it’s open or not right now). 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!

We arrived at the waterfall at 2:15pm and hung out for about an hour before leaving. 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.

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Shop My Gear

  • 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 – currently 25% off!
  • 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 current favorite face sunblock! I’ve been using their body sunblock for years because of the high zinc oxide and love the silkiness to the face sunblock
  • Adidas Terrex Hiking Water Shoes – the ones I’m wearing are my favorite but currently sold out, here’s the updated model of the same pair and it’s on sale!

Thanks for reading!

PLEASE REMEMBER TO PRACTICE LEAVE NO TRACE AND SOCIAL DISTANCE. IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS/ COMMENTS, DROP A COMMENT BELOW 🙂

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