Often described in reviews as “whimsical” or “a slice of the Sierra,” Buckhorn Campground, with its impressive elevation at 6,300 feet, offers city dwellers and those meandering through the Angeles Crest Highway a welcome, off-the-beaten-path reprieve. With excellent access to the Pacific Crest Trail, to the Silver Moccasin Trail, and to impressive seasonal waterfalls, Buckhorn is renowned as one of the best places to camp near Los Angeles, and it is understandably popular. Many come to Buckhorn solely to follow the Burkhart Trail east in search of Cooper Canyon Falls, a remarkable 25-foot cascade into a placid swimming pool.
The spacious sites flanked by vanilla-scented Jeffrey pines, California incense cedar, and old-growth coniferous behemoths of every sort offer ideal medium-sized groups havens against the muggy summer city heat.
Before the cattle farmers moved west in congruence with bandidos that used to rustle horses and dissipate into the rugged mountainous terrain, several Native American Tribes, most notably the Tongva, dwelt in the hills. The higher altitude makes for ideal habitat for mule deer, squirrels, and other small game that fell prey to these tribes as well as pine nuts and other natural nutritional treasures. If you scout around the big boulders in camp, you may still discover mortar holes used to ground meal and other grains.
For those that don’t care to try their hand at cooking over a fire or on one of the charcoal grills in camp, the historic Newcomb’s Ranch serves up hearty meals and pints of microbrews, though you’ll have to wade through a sea of leather-clad motorcyclists on a busy weekend to get to the bar. It’s open Mondays and Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and all day Friday through Sunday.
Back in camp, the regal Milky Way comes out to play most nights, igniting an already sparkling night sky. As is typical of most places around the San Gabriel Mountains, it’s hard to wrap your head around the notion that the bustling city is so close by.