Cooper Canyon Falls is a small yet scenic waterfall nestled in a verdant ravine just off of the Burkart Trail in a fairly secluded area of the Angeles National Forest.
Only an hours’ drive northeast of Los Angeles via the Angeles Crest Highway, this 3-mile out-and-back trek is the perfect way to explore the old-growth forest of the San Gabriel Mountains high country.
Starting at an elevation of 6,440 feet, the moderately strenuous trail descends 700 feet into a pine-shaded canyon, offering panoramic mountain views set to the soundtrack of the burbling creek far below.
- Trail type: Out-and-back
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Length: 3 miles round trip
- Elevation gain and loss: 700 feet, -700 feet
- Trailhead Coordinates: 34.411900, -117.861910
- Location: Angeles National Forest
- Season: April-November
Getting to the Burkhart Trail
From Los Angeles, take the 210 freeway to La Cañada Flintridge and follow the Angeles Crest Highway (CA 2) northeast for 34 miles. Shortly after you pass the historic Mt. Waterman Ski Lifts on your right, turn left into Buckhorn Campground.
Follow the day-use area signs until you reach the parking lot at the eastern edge of the campground. You will need a Forest Adventure Pass from the US Forest Service to park in the lot.
Cooper Canyon Falls is one of several easily accessible waterfalls in the Angeles National Forest; however, its relative distance from LA in comparison to other area cascades makes for a fairly secluded experience. Head out early along the Burkhart Trail and you just may get the falls all to yourself.
Plan your trip for April or May when the weather is still mild and the creek is at its fullest — coming out of the wet winter season, Cooper Canyon Falls tumbles with vigor down the moss-slicked rocks and into the tranquil pool below.
By late summer, however, the falls are often reduced to little more than a dribble. No matter what time of year you hike the Burkhart Trail, though, you can be sure to enjoy scenic views from start to finish.
Find the trailhead at the north end of the parking lot and begin your descent into Buckhorn Canyon. A prominent sign and several tall stands of Jeffrey pines and Douglas firs immediately announce that you are now entering the Pleasant View Ridge Wilderness.
This 27,000-acre wilderness area is home to deep canyons, rocky mountain faces, and shady groves, and the Burkhart Trail offers a taste of all of this and more over the course of the brief 3-mile trek.
The opening portion of the trail hugs a steep, rocky slope, winding in and out of lush wooded areas to reveal sweeping mountain vistas.
In the spring, the bouldered slopes are painted in the soft purples of lupines and the vibrant red-orange of prairie fire, among myriad other wildflowers that call the region home.
The gentle flow of Upper Little Rock Creek can be heard below — a short scramble off-trail takes you to its alder-shaded banks lined with smooth rocks that are perfect for picnicking.
Once you’ve completed your descent down into the heavily wooded canyon, the trail takes a sharp turn east before crossing the creek at the 1.3-mile mark. Just past the creek, stay to the right to join the Pacific Crest Trail.
After another small dip at the 1.5-mile mark, listen for the sound of rushing water and look for several spur trails to your left that lead to the base of the falls. The footpaths are well-worn yet steep and slick — a rope tied to a tree helps hikers find their footing down the precarious final portion.
As you step out onto the canyon floor, look up to see Cooper Canyon Falls cascading serenely into a shallow pool that’s just begging you to dip your toes in it. While the snowmelt-fed stream remains chilly year-round, a wade in the calm waters is definitely refreshing after an invigorating hike on a warm day.
Take your lunch among the lush ferns and towering trees that line the narrow gully before making your ascent back up the Burkhart Trail, gaining some 700 feet in elevation before you return to Buckhorn Campground.
Note: The Burkhart Trail is officially closed until April 2022 due to the Bobcat Fire; however, the trail is still accessible via the Buckhorn day-use lot. Use caution when hiking the trail, as downed trees and other debris may now obstruct the path.