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Hike off Angeles Crest Highway to Mt. Waterman — and vistas that rival the Sierra

Angeles Crest Highway is one of Southern California's best motoring roads, with high elevations and huge vistas. It’s also the entry point to hiking backdrops that rival the Sierra, and this one takes you to the top of the Mt. Waterman ski area. Be sure to wear good shoes, use sunscreen and bring plenty of water, and remember that hiking at altitude requires a little more effort than walking at sea level. Pro tip: Check the weather before you go.

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(Lou Spirito For the Times)

1. Start your walk at the 58.02 mile marker on the Angeles Crest Highway, about 10 minutes east of Newcomb's Ranch and just west of the Buckhorn camping area. Park on the north side of the highway, then cross carefully and find the trail behind a gray bulletin board.

2. Follow the trail signs as the narrow, well-tended path goes left away from the highway, crosses a dirt road and later a streambed flecked with incongruous ferns.

3. Climb a series of switchbacks, rising slowly through the pine, cedar and manzanita trees, to a saddle where the trail takes a hard right turn. Stay right as you pass a sign on the left reading "San Gabriel Wilderness."

4. After an hour of steady walking, about 2½ miles from the start, a sign will point the way toward Chilao and Twin Peaks, straight ahead, or the Mt. Waterman summit, to the right. Go right. Farther along, where the trail splits, stay on the right, downhill side.

5. A sign will proclaim the good news — you made it. This is Waterman's summit, at 8,038 feet. That means you've climbed about 1,700 feet, in 3½ miles.

6. Keep walking straight on the Mt. Waterman Trail to explore the Mt. Waterman ski area. Turn right and follow a dirt road all the way back to the highway — about 3½ miles — or cover about the same distance back down on the trail that brought you to the top.

THE STATS

Distance: 7 miles round trip

Difficulty: 4.5 on a scale of 1 to 5

Duration: 3 to 3½ hours

Details: Highway parking requires Adventure Pass from the U.S. Forest Service. OK for pets on leashes. Wheelchair accessible.

Fleming is the author of “Secret Stairs: A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Los Angeles” and “Secret Walks: A Walking Guide to the Hidden Trails of Los Angeles.” Each month, he leads a free walk at one of his favorite spots in Southern California. Find out more at his Facebook page, Secret Stairs. He is on Twitter @misterfleming

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