From the moment when I spotted them while hiking Iron, Twin Peaks East and Mt. Waterman had never left my mind. Always lingered. So, over the past weekend I camped at Chilao Campground to do the hike. Then the unexpected crazy winds swept through not only the campground evening and all night but also Twin Peaks and Mt. Waterman with a brutal gale force all day next day!
HOW TO GET TO MT. WATERMAN TRAILHEAD
For Twin Peaks East and Mt. Waterman hike, they both start at the same trailhead – Mt. Waterman Trailhead.
If you are coming from the Greater Los Angeles area, it’d be likely that you get on I-210 Fwy E or W depending on whichever direction you’re coming from, and then you take exit 20 from I-210 to CA-2/Angeles Crest Hwy in La Cañada Flintridge. Stay on this windy CA-2 for about 33 miles till you see Buckhorn Station Day Use Area on your left. Mt. Waterman hiking trailhead is located on your right, 50 feet away from the the Day Use area, across the road.
If you’re coming from the northeast of San Gabriel mountains, like Victorville or Barstow, it makes sense to take CA-138, and then take Forest Service Rd 5N04, Forest Service Rd 3N17/Pacifico Mountain Rd/Santa Clara Divide Rd and CA-2 E to the trailhead. The campground entrance is on your right.
If you are coming from Lancaster or Palmdale area, take CA-138, and then follow CA-14 S to Sierra Hwy. Take exit 30 from CA-14 S and make sure to take Angeles Forest Hwy to CA-2 E to the trailhead.
Note: Please, make sure that Forest Service Rd or CA-14 is open during Winter/early Spring.
WHEN TO DO TWIN PEAKS EAST AND MT. WATERMAN HIKE
All year-round, except when the weather condition is not ideal. Particularly in Winter/early Spring. You will want to bring winter gear, such as an ice axe, crampons, macrospikes, microspikes and/or snowshoes.
Note: Safety is the number one priority. Make sure that you’re equipped properly according to the weather conditions, whether it is hot or cold. It is your responsibility to stay safe.
ITEMS YOU MUST BRING
- Plenty of water (3L or more) – I recommend more if it is a warm day.
MY TWIN PEAKS EAST AND MT. WATERMAN HIKE
If you already read my overnight camping at Chilao, you could imagine how windy it was even when I left the campground for the trailhead. If you haven’t, I highly recommend that you check it out. These two are separate posts, however, the previous post sets the tone for this particular hike post.
I was told that Twin Peaks were less travelled, compared to other popular peaks in the San Gabriel Mountains, so it may present a better possibility to spot Bighorn Sheep. I had never seen them while hiking in the San Gabriel mountains, so I was excited about that.
I saw a lone Bighorn sheep once while hiking Bighorn Peak in the San Bernardino Mountains.
We were traversing down the hill from Mt. San Gorgonio to the Tarn to hike Bighorn Peak. The sheep was walking quite casually across the Tarn and soon disappeared.
On another time I saw a herd of them. It was while hiking Mt. Langley.
While walking up the trail, I suddenly started hearing this echoing sounds of a horse’s hoofs, believe or not. So, I looked up and found this majestic creature just coming to a stop upon seeing me probably 40 feet away. Quite surreal, I would say. He and I held a rather long stare at each other. Then, he turned around and led his pack up the hill.
But not in the San Gabriel Mountains. Some of my hiking friends did. But I have not.
Also, I read that Twin Peaks East offers a way to Triplet Rocks, apparently the hardest place to reach in the San Gabriel Mountains, so I got intrigued by the idea of combining all three peaks.
Although the winds certainly played a role in keeping the temperature down, I started my hike late and was not necessarily convinced that the extra 4 miles to Triple Rocks and back, involving a whole lot of rock scrambling and loose soils, would offer better photography opportunities.
I decided to play it by ear. Twin Peaks East first.
When I reached the trailhead, no one was around. No other cars. It doesn’t really have a typical parking lot for hikers to park. It is just a turnout.
I got the impression though that hikers mostly park at the nearest, larger turnout, which is about 500 feet up the road before reaching the trailhead, or at Buckhorn Station Day Use Area, and walk over.
I started my hike at 8:21 am.
Shortly after going up the trail, I came across this little creek. The water was flowing quite nicely. So, I took some time capturing photos of the little waterfalls.
Although I had a plenty of water with me, I wished I had brought my foldable Vapur bottle with MicroFilter to drink it right there then. I used it well when I was backpacking the Lost Coast Trail. I’ll keep that in mind next time.
I reached the first lookout point on this trail. First I noticed Twin Peaks East (7,761 ft), jutted out upward on the right, which was where I was headed. It is not as tall as, say, Iron Mountain. And it is even shorter than Mt. Waterman (8,038 ft).
But, this was when I became so excited about seeing them! Its striking shape sticking out upward left a very strong impression on me that day when I was hiking Iron Mountain.
Of course, they were there when I was hiking Mt. Baldy via Bear Canyon a month ago. But, I guess it is one of those things that you don’t see them until you SEE them.
And then seeing Santiago Peak, the southern mountain of Orange County’s Saddleback formation, in the far distance somehow comforted me. It was probably because the peak was one of the familiar sights I saw whenever I hiked in the San Gabriel Mountain range. And Mt. Baldy and Ontario ridge line on the left.
After hiking this well shaded gradual uphill part of the trail for about 1.5 miles, I came to the Mt. Waterman and Twin Peaks junction. If I keep walking straight, I am headed to Twin Peaks. For Mt. Waterman, I turn right.
Like most hikers had done, my plan was to hike Twin Peaks East first as out and back, and then to go up the rest of Mt. Waterman trail. Please, refer to the Gaia GPS track that I recorded. You can also download .gpx file from there.
What I really liked about this part of the trail is that it felt like I was on the portion of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) between Mt. Baden-Powell and Mt. Islip. It was well shaded, and I quite enjoyed the company of a lot of pine trees.
This part of Mt. Waterman was all downhill and consisted of many switchbacks.
Meanwhile I reached a sign that reads
Twin Peaks Saddle (Dead End)
After a few more switchbacks, I came to this spot where I could see the peaks clearly. Both peaks looked similar like its name suggested, but the east peak was definitely slightly higher.
If you didn’t know, Castilleja gleasonii, aka Mt. Gleason paintbrush, is endemic to California. Because seeing them in the San Gabriel Mountains all the time, I thought that these were just one of the commonly spotted wildflowers anywhere. But this perennial grows on granitic soils in conifer forest habitat above 5,000 feet. You can learn more about them here, here and here.
I am not sure if this particular yellow wildflower is called Erysimum capitatum, aka Sanddune Wallflower, Sand-dune Wallflower or Western Wallflower. (Please, feel free to provide its name if you know in the comment box below.) This site shows most promising information about the flower.
This yellow flower is also commonly seen throughout the San Gabriel Mountains, while hiking Mt. Baldy either via Bear Canyon or Icehouse Canyon, ECBOS via Icehouse Canyon, or Iron Mountain. I remember seeing them a lot in the Icehouse Canyon, way before reaching the saddle.
I reached Twin Peaks Saddle, and from here on it was all an uphill battle. It reminded me of Cucamonga Trail a bit while going up at first. But then it got steeper and had a lot of loose soil, which were more like going up Ten Thousand Foot Ridge (10,094 ft) in the San Bernardino Mountains.
By the way, if you haven’t hiked Ten Thousand Foot Ridge yet, it’s highly recommended. It is steep but offers one of the best views in the area.
Manzanita flowers were blossoming all over the place. I talked about them in my Iron post.
Some parts of the trail was not steep, and my arm carrying 3.5 lb camera was happy about that.
There were a couple of snow patches but they were not in the trail.
After this point, the trail got really steep. The loose soil crumbled a lot beneath my Altra Lone Peak 2.5, so it was not easy to balance with my camera in my hand. I had to put it away.
The register at the summit was easily spotted. As suspected, Twin Peaks East (and West, I suppose) wasn’t that popular. Just like Sugarloaf Peak when I did ECBOS. I found it interesting though that someone hiked this peak as part of training for Mt. Whitney.
I was quite surprised to see many huge boulders at the summit. They were not like any of those rocks I have seen at the summits of Mt. San Jacinto, Mt. San Gorgonio or even Mt. Baldy. I noticed them at first while camping at Chilao Campground. These were gigantic.
For lunch, I found a spot where I could hide from the winds still blowing like crazy and enjoy the view of Mt. Wilson. And I took one of those obligatory shoes shots with my Altra Lone Peak 2.5, which is my go-to hiking shoes now, while wondering if Mt. Wilson was also as windy as it was at Twin Peaks East.
Later I learned from a friend who hiked Mt. Baldy on the same day that it was very windy at the summit that day, I suspected that Mt. Wilson might’ve been too.
I could see the observatory and the radio towers at Mt. Wilson summit.
Once I was done with my lunch, it was time to do some landscape photography. And of course, it was Mt. Baldy time.
What a majestic view of Mt. Baldy it was. I had totally forgot about the north side of Mt. Baldy till I hiked Iron Mountain because it had been a couple of years since I did Mt. Baden-Powell to Throop to Mt. Islip. This was a good reminder for me that there was another side to Mt. Baldy.
When I hiked other peaks, such as 3 Ts (Timber, Telegraph and Thunder Peaks) and ECBOS (Etiwanga, Cucamonga, Bighorn, Ontario and Sugarloaf Peaks), I only enjoyed the view of Baldy Bowl, which is what Mt. Baldy is known for.
While reminiscing about the past hikes that I did in and around Mt. Baldy, I noticed something.
A peak covered with snow peeking over the saddle between Mt. Baldy and Ontario ridge line.
What is it?
I stared at it for a good minute and kept mapping the area behind that side of the San Gabriel Mountains. Nothing as tall as that stood behind Mt. Baldy. What is it?
Then it hit me! It’s Mt. San Gorgonio!!
And how cool is that?
I still have not hiked Los Pinos Trail to Santiago Peak, and it is still on my to-do list.
And then I noticed something in the corner of my left eye. Something was seen between those tree branches.
And that was Mt. San Jacinto! And it was clear that the north side of it was still covered with snow.
What an awesome place to enjoy all four mountains! Because I was not on Mt. Baldy or any other adjacent peaks, so I really didn’t expect to see all of them at once.
Once I was done taking photos, it was time to descend.
I was quite pleasantly surprised by how quick the descent back down to the saddle was, considering the elevation gain/loss was 1,200 plus feet.
I retraced the trail all the way back to the junction that I walked past earlier and kept going up to Mt. Waterman summit. From Twin Peaks Saddle, that is a 1,500 plus feet elevation gain.
Once I reached Mt. Waterman summit, I looked for the register but couldn’t find it. And there were so many piles of boulders spread across this large summit, I didn’t know where to look. I scrambled up pretty much all the piles of boulders but did’t see it. So, I gave up looking for it and stayed up at one of the tallest piles. The view from there was just spectacular.
Mt. Baldy looked darn good. As amazing as it did when I saw it from Twin Peaks East. Just a clearer view.
I was at the top of the peak 3 hours ago and now I was at top of Mt. Waterman looking back at it. Just like when I did Mt. Baldy and 3 Ts. That alone made the view worthwhile.
Mt. Wilson looked a lot closer from Mt. Waterman. I could literally count all the radio towers.
Once I was done taking photos, I began descending. It would’ve been a bit shorter if I came down the same way that I went up, but I wanted to make a loop out of it, so I started hiking westward. Basically, I was hiking down one of the Mt. Waterman ski slopes once the trail turned north.
I enjoyed the northwest part of the San Gabriel Mountains and then beyond. Lancaster came into view. And there was another set of mountains afar off. Cummings Mountain and all the adjacent mountains. It reminded me of the view of these from Wind Wolves Preserve.
As the sun slowly setting behind me and the shadows were getting longer and longer, I decided to hurry down the trail.
I hiked down the ski trail where it would’ve been all covered with snow a couple of or maybe three months ago.
Once I reached the windy part of the sky trail, I trail ran down for the last 2 miles. If you look at the Gaia GPS track, you will see the huge spike in the pace at the end of the hike.
It was ten to six when I reached back to the trailhead.
I paused the recording while having lunch and taking photos at Twin Peaks East summit. I did not pause it at Mt. Waterman summit though.
The following is the stats, according to my Gaia GPS;
8 hrs 3 min Total Time
3 hrs 12 min Stopped Time
2.4 mph Moving Speed
1.5 mph Avg Speed
4010 ft Ascent
4078 ft Descent
11.7 ml Distance
4 hrs 50 min Moving Time
41:12 min/mi Pace
As I was driving on Angeles Crest Hwy/CA-2, the sun was hanging quite low and turning every ridge and canyon into clumps of gold dunes.
Downtown LA was slowly fading behind the layer of sunset infused haze.
I started the Chilao Campground camping post with the view of downtown LA, so I thought what better way to end this post, other than with the view of downtown LA again. But in a more subdued tone, because of the sunset.
The winds were still blowing as crazy as earlier. But as chilly as it was while going up Twin Peaks East, I was very glad that it did blow all day because it would’ve been quite warm otherwise despite how shaded both trails were. Especially when the hike began at 8:21 am.
Have you hiked Twin Peaks East and Mt. Waterman? How was it? Did you hike Twin Peaks West too? What about Triplet Rock? Have you ever hiked them in winter snow?
Thanks for reading.