A great hike in the lower San Gabriels to incredible vistas, forested mountain canyons, and the ruins of a turn-of-the-century mountaintop resort. Bonus enjoyment for history buffs, in the form of plaques and markers placed along the ruins and the route of an old railroad through the mountains.

NOTE: The upper Sam Merrill Trail is still within the Station Fire Burn Zone and is off-limits to hikers. It is still possible to hike to Inspiration Point, but you won’t be able to complete the loop as described here until the Burn Zone opens up.

Hiking from Altadena to the ruins of the Echo Mountain resort was the first double-digit hike I ever finished, and I figured this weekend would a). be a good time to revisit and b). the trail would serve as a nice reintroduction to long-distance hiking to my legs … without the added calf-murder of the Mt. Baldy ascent I’d been weathered-away from last week.

I drove out to Altadena and parked off Lake Avenue. One of the first things you’ll see on the trail is a marker placed by the Altadena Historical Society, marking the entrance to the former Cobb Estate, and the Echo Mountain trailhead. You will see many more plaques along the way. The Historical Society has really done a fantastic job of researching, maintaining, and marking all of the points of interest along this route — and there are plenty of them.

Echo Mountain 001

The Cobb Estate belonged to a wealthy lumber magnate, and had several gold mines and water wells on its property before the buildings were completely razed in 1959. One year later, the Marx Brothers bought the land and wanted to turn the area into a cemetery. Luckily, students from the aptly named John Muir High School bought the land and donated it to the Forest Service. Now the land houses several miles of equestrian trails, a small botanical garden, and the entrance to the Echo Mountain Trail.

Echo Mountain 002

The trail crosses a flood control area and begins zigzagging its way up the southwest base of Echo Mountain. This section of the trail is very heavily-traveled, but is in excellent shape – especially for such a popular trail. The path is very well maintained, and I only noticed a few minor examples of trail trash on the way up. The grade is nice and easy, too — it’s about 3 miles from the bottom of the mountain to the resort ruins, at just over 1400 feet of incline. There’s a lot of switchbacks, yes, but you’ll feel like you’re making enough progress where it won’t bother you.

Echo Mountain 005

The trail does get more rugged the further along you hike, but nothing’s too bad on this stretch. If you’re hiking in the morning, you’ll get plenty of shade while climbing the west side of the ridge — otherwise, you’re not getting much of any shade. The first time I hiked this was in the middle of May in jeans and a long sleeve shirt. Needless to say, I lost a lot of water weight that day. But be sure to enjoy the views as your rise above the cities and into the mountains!

Echo Mountain 006
Echo Mountain 007

At around the 3 mile mark, you’ll reach a plateau and come upon a silver plaque from the National Register of Historic Places — which is always a way to catch my eye, if you’re ever wondering. It marks the section of the trail where you’ll meet up with the old grade for the Mount Lowe Railroad – a twisted series of cliff-side rails that used to bring paying customers to the Echo Mountain Resort from a nearby stop-off point.

Today, all that’s left are a few sections of iron track, the grade, and some abandoned gears near the old hotel…

Echo Mountain 015

The hotel itself is almost entirely gone, but a series of plaques and laminated photos around the site does an excellent job of recreating the splendor of the place in its heyday. At the main foundation of the Echo Mountain House, you can still easily make out the different rooms on the floor plan — and you can also see Inspiration Point in the distant mountains (in the saddle on the left). But you’ll probably have more fun imagining yourself at the same site at the turn of the century, comparing the old pictures with what’s left over.

Echo Mountain 013

Echo Mountain 018

Echo Mountain 024

If you want to make some noise, you can even walk around to an old ‘Echo Phone’ — basically just a ground-mounted megaphone that you can shout through to hear an echo. There was another one installed up at Inspiration Point, so patrons could yell to each other. The local wildlife must have loved it.

Echo Mountain 026

When you’re done learning and exploring, head back the way you came and hang a right onto the Castle Canyon Trail. This is a thin, rugged, fairly secluded stretch of trail that will take you far from the (relative) crowds at the old ‘white city’ ruins and deep past Rubio Canyon into the narrow, steep Castle Canyon.

Echo Mountain 033

There are a few stretches along this trail that I remembered as being fairly harrowing when I first started hiking, but this time along I didn’t even notice them. Once the path gets into Castle Canyon, though, it doesn’t take much time climbing up and out of it. It’s a steep, switchbacked, leg-burner. But the great thing about it is that you can’t really see the Inspiration Point pavilion until you’re almost there. So when you’ve just about lost your motivation, you get it all back again in one nice visual.

Echo Mountain 035

At Inspiration Point, you can get even more of your history on with a few more plaques, and take a look through some restored “finding tubes,” which show viewers a certain location on the horizon — if you can cut through the haze.

Echo Mountain 037

Echo Mountain 036

From here, you can explore the site of old-time Sunday services, or keep traveling up another old railroad grade to the site of another burned down hotel at the Mount Lowe campground, and continue on to Mount Lowe — or you can take the Sam Merrill trail back down to the Echo Mountain ruins.

The Sam Merrill Trail is another treat to travel down — the first section is entirely on the north side of the mountain. The trail is cool, rugged, and well-shaded — which will surely be a welcome environment after trudging up the Castle Canyon Trail.

Echo Mountain 040

On the south side of the mountain, though, the trail returns to shadeless chaparral, and has a few sections with deep gouges — both from water erosion and mountain bikes. Just north of the Echo Mountain hotel, you can also stop off at the ruins of an old observatory, and gaze down on the L.A. that is while sitting near the L.A. that was.

Echo Mountain 043

Read more about the Mount Lowe Railway, and its major investor Prof. Thaddeus S. C. Lowe — a New Hampshire self-taught meteorologist, chemist, and Chief Aeronaut of the U.S. Union Army Balloon Corps during the Civil War. Really interesting guy.

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Casey Schreiner

Founder and Editor at Modern Hiker
In addition to writing about the outdoors since 2006, Casey has also been producing and writing television since 2003.He was the Head Writer on G4's "Attack of the Show," co-writer and host of "The MMO Report," and the Series Producer / Head Writer of pivot's "TakePart Live."His work has received several honors, including Webby, Telly, and CableFAX awards.
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This post was written by Casey Schreiner on October 2, 2007

109 Comments

  • oatatca says:

    Thank you so much for writing up the hiking trial to Echo Mountain. I did hiking to Echo Mountain yesterday and was very interested in reading the history.
    When I searched the web for the history, I found yours. I wished I read yours before going there.
    I will come to this web more often.
    Thanks again for your efforts and contribution! Happy New Year!

  • Brad says:

    Oh my goodness, you have an app???? So excited! Thanks to whomever just posted in this thread!

    Casey, I’ve been following you for years, and follow you on Facebook…..how did I not know about this? You should promote it more!

    Cheers!

    Brad

  • Lindsay says:

    Thanks so much for posting this. This is the best guide to this hike out there and it inspired me to do the hike myself! Love your site, love your blog and love you app.

  • Melissa C. says:

    Great writeup! I’ve only gone as far as Echo Mountain and then back down, but back when I was an undergrad we used to do it as a night hike when the moon was full. I highly recommend it!

  • Alicia says:

    Thank you for this great guide! My sister and I did inspiration point via echo mountain and castle canyon this weekend, and it was my first ever double digit hike as well! We had a blast. The last half a mile up to inspiration point was a little tough as our legs were fatigued. It took us 3 hours and 38 minutes with a couple of short breaks at both Echo Mountain and Inspiration point. We started at about 6:45 am, so we had most of Castle Canyon to ourselves on the way up which was so serene. Lovely trail!

  • Hiker_Bob says:

    @Melodie: Oops sorry, a little “spasmo” on the keyboard {;-D). Meant to say Lowe “Granodiorite” on my original reply to your geo-question.

  • Melodie says:

    WHOUAAA
    Thanx a lot for your fast answer, this is really great !
    Although Is there a spelling mistake on “Lowe Grandidiorite”?

  • Hiker_Bob says:

    The “Salt and Pepper Rock” as I call it, is Wilson Quartz Diorite. The “Dalmation” looking rock is Lowe Grandidiorite. Both are metomorphic rock, very common in the San Gabriel Mountains.

  • Melodie says:

    Hello
    I also Hiked the echo mountain trail and I would like to know what is the name of that black dotted white rock that is evry where up there, kind of a dalmatian looking rock. Any one has a clue of what it is?
    Thx

  • Rob Skelton says:

    Dear Hiker Bob,

    In the late ’80′s, my father and I, together with our Scout Troop (742), untertook to restore the drinking fountain on Echo Mt. as part of a service project in cooperation with the Forest Service and the Sierra Club. (This would be the fountain located at the right side of the ascending trail, standing near the trailhead of the Castle Canyon Trail, right before the ruins located on Echo Mt.)

    The last lucid conversation I had with my father before his passing from Alzheimer’s in ’05 was to make sure that I had the plans for the fountain and the map he’d made of the location of the main valves and the main water supply pipeline for it.

    Owing to various problems, I haven’t as yet been able to make the trip up to Altadena, to hike up Echo Mt. to verify its condition, etc. as is what I considered to be his wish of me before he passed.

    If you or someone else has pictures of this drinking fountain, would you be so good as to send them to me at my e-mail: [email protected]?

    It would mean a lot to me if you could.

    Sincerely,

    Rob Skelton

  • crimson_king says:

    hey bob,

    just a quick question……does the “Mt Lowe West Trail” still exist coming down off the peak? My dad and I used to hike this one back in the mid-80s. It was pretty worn and covered over at that time.

  • Hiker_Bob says:

    @kompozr: Seems y0u violated the number 1 rule of day-hiking; bring a map of the trail, compass and plan the hike, hike the plan. I can’t believe you missed the trail to Echo Mountain. Now I know why Sierra Madre Search and Rescue has been in business for 60 years.

    Anyway, if you do attempt this hike again, when you get to the trail register, go north about 50 yards then across the stream bed to pick up the trail. From your posting, it sounds like you never made it to the Echo Mountain ruins.

    • kompozr says:

      Yes Hiker Bob you’re right! But as a kid I grew up in the forest, and for a portion of my upbringing I had the Appalachians in my backyard! So while I may have violated the number 1 rule for hiking, this was much more of an exploratory romp in the foothills, like when I was a kid, and it was fun!

      But seriously thank you, so excited to try the 10 mile loop and explore the ruins. Will definitely heed your advice my next trip out…..which we are going today. I’m a little nervous, hoping the mountain wasn’t beat up too badly in yesterday’s rain.

  • kompozr says:

    Wow, Modern Hiker thank you so much! A close friend and I were wanting to find new hiking destinations and stumbled upon your site…..amazing job! We went out for a hike last week, and while having trouble accessing your site via mobile we just decided to go blind. I excited at Lake Ave and headed north hoping to find a trailhead, which there was. Not knowing where we were going we stayed to the left, leading us up to a covered reservoir of some sorts. We took a small trail on the right of the reservoir, which was a nice hike down to the creek. There was a small canyon (dry creek bed) off to the left that we decided to explore. It was a nice hike at first, but the canyon disappeared and left us with a sandstone mountain to climb, which was okay until we reached the summit…..the rock just started falling apart under our feet. We would look over at the switchbacks on the next mountain over, and all the people on them, and almost wish we were there, but we just kept ascending. At the top the ground really started breaking apart, but through teamwork, caution and determination we made it to the top. Bloody, ashen and dirty, we made it. It seems this path butts right up next to the burn areas of the station fire, and one tree that allowed us to the to the top was completely burned. On the way down we were just glad to be intact, but a few hours later all we wanted to do was do it again. We may tie a rope on to the tree next time to aid anyone who wants to reach the summit, as we literally felt like we were just going to slide off the mountain.

    Just curious if anyone else had taken this route. And much thanks for developing this site. I see little advertising, is there anything any of us can do to help? I’d hate to see this site not be updated in the future. You are awesome whoever you are Modern Hiker. But thanks to your site, now we know how to find the real trail next time we venture out (and don’t have a death wish)

  • Matt says:

    hi,

    I now live in Escondido, CA. However, at age 12 or 13 in 1986-7 my father drove me up to Mt. Lowe many times and I was just enthralled by the whole experience.

    We hiked the Sam M. trail at least half-a-dozen times back then, Castle Canyon, the original rail-bed, Mount Lowe Tavern site, the peak, etc. etc.

    I LOVED the peak at Mount Lowe. It was SO high up and there were locator scopes up there at that time (not sure if they are still there, tho). We even drove the Red Box road to Mt. Wilson and went that way through the 1941 tunnel under the mighty San Gabriel Peak and Mount Markham.

    At that time, there were NO “historical markers” designating anything!

    The best trail in that area is the so-called “Mount Lowe West Trail” coming down off the peak of Mt. Lowe. Does it even exist now? It was beautiful! SO SHADED….lots of leaves on the trail path.

    Also, back then, there was no cover roof or ANYTHING except stone foundations at Inspiration Point…..a very quiet place in 1986.

    Anyway, I mentioned the memory to my dad recently and his response was that…”They have probably put a McDonald’s up there by now” LOL

    We also went to Eaton Canyon a number of times (before the graffitti) and have hiked the Idlehour Trail to Mount Lowe……13 miles round trip. I’ll tell you, my dad was EXHAUSTED after THAT one! :)

    I have a few books and old maps of Mount Lowe that I used to study with complete fascination.

    Sincerely,
    Matt

  • Hiker Bob says:

    @JT: Make sure you bring sufficient water (I recommend 3 liters) and something to snack and/or lunch on. Also, if you’re planning to hike to Inspiration Point, bring some kind of light sweater (Polar-tech) and/or windbreaker. This time of year it can get kind of nippy/windy up there. The weather Saturday is forecasted to be sunny and cool.

    Click on the following link for my Inspiration Point Webpage:

    http://hikertechnologies.com/echomt06.htm

    Then click on the “Basic Info” link, then on the end of the “Topo Maps” text, you will find another link for a printable trail map. My recommendation is, once you get to the Echo Mtn Ruins, take the Castle Canyon Trail up to the Inspiration Point Ramada. It’s pretty flat for the first mile, then the trail starts to ascend via a series of switchbacks the second mile. This is the hardest part of this hike.

    Once you get to the Ramada, you can either head back down the Castle Canyon Trail or head north for a few hundred feet on the dirt road and on your left, you will come to the junction of the Sam Merrill Trail. Take that and head west and in about and hour or so, you’ll circle back to the Echo Mountain Ruins.

    Click on my name for my complete Echo Mountain website.

  • JT says:

    Hi!
    I’m planning on doing the hike to Inspiration Point this coming Saturday.
    Starting at lake Ave. Can you clarify which trail to take? I’m a newbie hiker…
    and I want to make sure I’m not taking the wrong trail from the historic remains..

    Thanks!
    JT

  • Zoji says:

    Thank you so much for your website! Just hiked Echo mountain last night – and wouldn’t have known to do it without your recommendation. I was on a business trip from the East Coast, in LA for just two days, so yesterday afternoon I changed out of my suit and hiked up the mountain. For an advanced beginner it is a moderately – to easy – hike. Beautiful vistas. I was lucky to be hiking later in the day, so I was up on top for the sunset! As I was descending (and grateful for a pretty full moon) I ran into a few folks hiking up. So it is a popular trail, but not so popular that you can not enjoy the nature. The trail is spectacularly well maintained, and I only saw one piece of trash (which I took down with me).
    Thanks for the great website! You made my day!

  • CW says:

    I did this again a few months, going the way you described and yes, it was much more enjoyable. To get to Inspiration Point, I took Castle Canyon to Inspiration Point and it was quite challenging! I’m very active and in good shape but still more of an “intermediate beginner” with hiking. To come back down, I took the looooooong way around on the Mt. Lowe Trail to the Cape of Good Hope. I was bummed when I realized how close I had been to Inspiration Point on the Mt. Lowe Trail the last time I went! Anyway, I am really glad that I tried it again and I will definitely do it again in the future.

  • Hiker Bob says:

    @Pkong – followup… I meant to say “…under 8…” for the hike to Echo Mtn. To Inspiration Point, I stick with “not younger than 10.”

  • Hiker Bob says:

    @Pkong, I wouldn’t do this hike with children younger than 10. Also, this time of year, you must be prepared for inclement weather. I wouldn’t take a child younger than 10 to Inspiration Point. Click on my name for my Echo Mtn Hike website.

  • pkong says:

    May I know if this is good for beginner,no hiking experience people and with young kids (5-14yrs old)?
    Thank you

  • Alina V. Mardesich says:

    I hiked this yesterday in the rain (heavy drizzle on the way up and downpore on the way down) and I wouldn’t call it “moderate” at the pace I was on with the WTC (Sierra Club) group I was with. A little more strenous but doable. There were 20 of us and it felt like a race. I’ve never hiked at this rapid pace on a hike before. While I wasn’t pressured to keep up, I felt that I should at least maintain my pace with the “front” group…which I did. i never fell more than 5 or 6 behind. I am in good shape. Cardio was good…it was my legs. They started giving out around 3/4 of the way up. The last mile was slowwwww…but the view of Inspiration Point at just the right moment made it all worth while. Highly recommend it!

  • Mr_Silver says:

    I haven’t done a hike in a very long time. (was eagle scout) I jog about 3x nights a week. So I should be in great shape for it. I think this will be a mild and perfect hike to get me started again. Thanks for posting it and it was a good read.

  • Wonja says:

    I just want to say thank you, morden hiker. I love to go Temescal canyon but wanted a littler bit longer trail (eventhough most of my friend are having hard time over there:)) I found your blog last week. Last Saturday I decided to go hiking by myself and went Echo mountain. It took 4 and half hours. I had nice break on the inspiration point. That was gooood. My legs are still a little bit sore but definitely I will go again. I love that trail!!! Thanks agian :))))

  • CW says:

    I did this today, sort of. I skipped Echo Mountain and just kept going up, past the Cape of Good Hope and onto a fire road that was located in a burn area. It was ugly, and I never saw anything that interesting. I liked the Mt. Lowe plaques along the way. I have no idea how far away or close I was to Inspiration Point before I gave up. I had been hiking for 2 and a half hours and I never saw anything that indicated I was anywhere near it. With no GPS and a very general map of the Angeles in hand, I felt like I was on a hike up to nowhere. It was a pretty disappointing way to spend 4 hours and I am not sure if I will try it again even though it is so close to my house!

    • Modern Hiker says:

      CW, you took a left at the junction to Echo Mountain instead of taking a right, and were going the loooooong way around the backside of the ridge (which is in the Station Fire Burn Area and off-limits near the Cape of Good Hope). Try doing it again as I described it – Echo Mountain is one of the most interesting places in the Angeles!

  • Paul Jenvey says:

    I did this loop today, and it was awesome! I tried the loop backwards a week ago, I quit on the canyon trail ascent maybe 300 vertical feet short of inspiration point. I was whipped and it was cold and zero visibility, so it sapped my drive… The canyon trail is very steep and I would recommend this as your decent route the first time you hike this trail. I went up the fire road, by the trail camp, and down the canyon trail.

    I’ll be back, this hike is 5 miles from my house and a pretty good workout! 5 1/2 hours, I like to check out all the historical stuff…

  • Hiker Bob says:

    Followup to my previous posting. Lots of Crimson-Spot Rock Roses (Cistus ladanifer) were in bloom near the junction of the Sam Merril and Castle Canyon Trails as you approach the ruins.

  • Hiker_Bob says:

    Took an old friend from HS on this hike just to Echo Mountain and back. Great weather sunny but cool. Sadly, we had some of that “June Gloom” and couldn’t see the ocean on this day. I was amazed to see so many wildflowers still in bloom along the trail. Indian Pink, Wild Cantebury Bells, Yellow Monkey Flower, Black Sage, Chia, Dudlia, Blue Dicks, and many, many more. Now would be a great time to do this hike. Click on the link below for my Echo Mountain Website:

    http://hikertechnologies.com/echomttn.htm

  • Skyhiker says:

    JJ–In addition to the two trails Modern Hiker mentions for getting from Echo Mountain to Inspiration Point, you also have a third option: Following the rail path on the Sunset Ridge (“Cape of Good Hope”) trail to the rail bed, then walking along the rail bed. This way is about 1 mile longer than the Sam Merrill, and two miles longer than the Castle Canyon to Inspiration Point.

    Although I went to Mt. Lowe instead of Inspiration Point yesterday, I took the middle Sam Merrill and Sunset Ridge trails to do it. Going to Inspiration Point instead of Mt Lowe would have been a shorter hike.

    titansoldier2007 gave a fourth option of taking the Sunset Ridge trail from Millard Canyon. That one also intersects with this same rail bed.

    A fifth way up to Inspiration Point is to hike out of Eaton Canyon on the Mt. Wilson Toll Road, go 1/2 mile past Henninger Flat, then take the Idlehour trail west 4.5 miles. You’d then join the rail bed right near where the Sam Merrill and Sunset Ridge trails hit the road. From either of those routes, it’s then just 3/10ths of a mile east to Inspiration Point. This would make a pretty long day hike, but definitely not impossibly long.

  • Ran/hiked it last night. Amazing views and as challenging a trail as they come. Your site has made it possible to find some prime trail running locations. Thanks!!!

    Hank

  • titansoldier2007 says:

    JJ you can car shuttle from sunset ridge trail to echo mountain straight across to inspiration point and back down lake

  • MrMoose says:

    Great hike, on a decent day. I was looking for a nice hike to do around this section of the ANF, and boy did this please. On the way up to the “Old Hotel” I didn’t see too many people, but then again it was still a little early. After checking out the ruins I decided to head on to Inspiration Point. Now this was empty, I didn’t see anyone coming down, and I was the only one going up. After a good trek up, I finally saw the structure, and pushed my way to the top. At the top it was around 55° I’d say, and visibility, well check out this picture http://www.flickr.com/photos/44508314@N04/5738581957/in/photostream enough said. Being the chilliness that it was, and being engulfed by this “cloud” I soon decided to head down, but not before peeking at Easter Rock. As a descended the mountain I couldn’t help but notice a little cave area, so I climbed up to check it out. If I were ever to get stuck on this mountain overnight, this is the place I’d stay, in fact I’d be lying if I said the thought didn’t cross my mind, but alas I continued my descend. Again, not a soul until I hit the “Old Hotel” then it was just herds of people. I went to check out the trail below the Picnic Area, and what used to be Tennis Courts, not to bad, saw a little wildlife on the way down, but my stomach started to grumble so I decided to make my trip back to the car. All in all this is a good hike, even with the zero visibility at the top, I still enjoyed its peacefulness. My only complaint is how busy it got on my way down, but you can’t win them all, and being such a great hike, who wouldn’t want to do it.

  • JJ says:

    Does anyone know if there is a back or alternate trail to Inspiration Point? I’ve done the Echo Mountain trail starting from Lake Ave already and I would love to try a new trail up.

  • sara says:

    I just did the loop last weekend. The Upper Sam Merril isn’t closed, but the little stretch between Inspiration Point and the Upper Sam Merril is. It’s a giant fire road and a very short distance and didn’t seem like a big deal to walk it for such a short distance. Down by Echo Mountain there are no signs at the entry to the Upper Sam Merril indicating that it is closed.

  • mtamburrino22 says:

    planning on hiking here Saturday – I can’t find any recent information on fire closures, anyone know?

    • Modern Hiker says:

      Echo Mountain is open and you can still get to Inspiration Point via the Castle Canyon Trail. The old railroad grade on the north side of the mountain is closed, though, so you can’t do the loop as it’s written here.

  • SkyHiker says:

    That trail is still officially closed (Station Fire Recovery Order).

  • Thomas says:

    Does anyone know if hiking from Wilson down to Inspiration point is still accessible? If so does anyone know how long that hike would be from those two points?

  • Carly says:

    Did Mt Echo & Inspiration Point last Saturday – it was perfect weather & beautiful – very clear. I brought 1.5 liters of water & ran out, so make sure you bring plenty of water. It reminded me of Mt Baldy, so if you’re planning on doing Baldy anytime soon, this is a great route to get you ready. Also, Mount Lowe campground and the Sam Merrill trail were bot closed due to hazardous conditions, so I had to backtrack the whole way back.

    It took me exactly 4 hours and 40 minutes!

  • iyyappan says:

    We went to Inspiraton just 2 days ago.
    It was tough.

  • Hank says:

    The last couple of times I returned by way of Castle Canyon trail, the same way I went up. As a trail runner. some of the terrain on Castle Canyon trail can be a serious ankle buster. Today I met a couple of hikers at Inspiration Point who pointed me to the Sam Merrill trail. They say it adds a 1/2 mile but the terrain is much better and, sure enough, it was! Your description of the trails are dead on accurate. I took a few of the same pics you have on your site. I really need to get a Garmin to download my mileage, pace, and elevations. Thanks Casey for you website!!

  • Mauimattipus says:

    Did the Echo portion again on Saturday, and just in case anyone is a rookie on the site, please be advised how much poison oak is on the lower section of the trail right now. Like crazy much. Like if you don’t pay complete attention, you’ll be taking a rash home as a souvenir. Get to know this plant for 100% sure, and be in mind that after our wet winter it will be green for a couple months more, so the red trick doesn’t work.

  • Bob says:

    Answers to a couple of questions above:

    The Lower Sam Merrill Trail is open from the Cobb Estate to Echo Mountain (White City). That’s 2.7 miles from the Cobb gate to the ruins. There are three trails from Echo Mountain to get to Inspiration Point and Mt. Lowe Campground:

    (1) Castle Canyon (2 miles) is open. Follow the sign on Echo Mountain that says Inspiration Point. There is a large bee-hive in a hollowed out tree at mile 1.5 on the right; be careful.

    (2) The Middle Sam Merrill trail goes up a different route. From Echo Mountain there is a sign that says Mt. Lowe Campground 3 miles. That one is open too. It takes you 2.5 miles up to the Mt. Lowe Railway Trail. You make a right at the fireroad and walk another quarter mile to Inspiration Point. That 400 yards is, in fact, in the fire exclusion zone, but I don’t think anyone will give you a hard time about it. This 2nd trail I think is the best–it isn’t as steep, has better views, and you go past the old observatory. But you can make a loop by going up Castle Canyon and back down the Middle Sam Merrill Trail.

    (3) You can take the west trail across the gorge on the old railway bed and meet up with the Mt. Lowe Railway Trail lower down the mountain. But this would require hiking about 3 miles in the exclusion zone. Again, I don’t think anyone has been fined ($5,000 max if you read the statute) but lots of people take that part of the trail.

    Enoch and David mentioned another trail that starts at the top of Lake Street and goes straight up the ridge west of Echo Mountain and connects to the Mt. Lowe Railroad Trail. This is actually a “tractor cut” path which acted as a fire break during the Station Fire. It stops 150 yards short of the fire road, and that last 150 yards is scary, easily a 45 degree climb, perhaps not technical but it’s a hand-and-feet scramble and easy to lose your footing. I watched about 10 people climb that today, but I’m too old and acrophobic for that.

    I’m taking an informal group up from the Cobb gate at 9:15 a.m. next Saturday, May 29 to Echo then Insipiration and the Mt. Lowe Campground, and loop back. If you are interested, ask for Bob at the gate. Bring water. We’re not terribly fast but we will won’t be lollygagging either. [email protected]

  • elisa says:

    Doing this hike on Sunday for the first time. looking forward to it!

  • David says:

    The Sam Merril trail up to white city, and the Castle Canyon Trail up to inspiration point are both open at this time (the fire burned right up to inspiration point, but left the structure intact). The Mt. Lowe railroad route and the other trails up to the summit are still closed (although lots of people seem to be ignoring the closures and hiking them anyway).

  • maryrocks33 says:

    Hey Hikers,

    Is this trail up and running now or still afected by the Station Fire?
    Thanks!

  • enoch says:

    thanks for the replies. I will be doing this hike again this weekend with a friend. I know the bees dont mean any harm, it was just a lot bit startling. The fact that they were traveling up a ravine also added to the effect, as i perceived them to be coming up, and at me (and it didn’t help my state of mind that i was wearing a shirt from Target with their logo on the front). Of course, at my level they were overhead. Next time coffee or beer doesn’t do the job…nevermind, bad joke.

  • Zebra24601 says:

    I had a large swarm pass over me when I was in Joshua Tree last month. Your whole body vibrates from their buzz.

    The good news is, when they’re swarming, they’re not in hive defense mode. They’re not looking for someplace or someone or something to attack. They’re just looking for a new tree or cave to move in to.

  • David says:

    The ‘trail’ you described goes up the west side of the canyon from the Sam Merril trail and eventually runs into the old Mt. Lowe railroad route. The steep hill you talked about runs into the large cut along the ridgeline that you can see from the freeway. I haven’t personally hiked it, but I saw people struggling up it from the other side of the canyon. You can get to the same place by hiking almost all the way to White City on the usual trail and then following the remains of the old rail route west instead of east at the top. Unfortunatly much of the Mt. Lowe Railroad route is within the burn area and therefore illegal to hike on at this point, but last time I was in the area the signage was spotty and there were lots of people hiking both the route you talked about, and the actual route as I described it.

    Hope this helps :)

  • enoch says:

    Does anyone have information regarding the ‘trail’ just west of the main echo mt trails? It’s on the west side of the canyon, extremely steep, and it may go up to Mt. Lowe road. I tried going up this way, but turned around just under the road because I didn’t feel like scrambling up the loose rock w/o a hiking partner. I also had a pretty scary bee encounter at that point. I was tying my shoes when I heard this buzzing sound that got louder. I looked up and saw in the distance an insanely huge swarm of bees. There were easily hundreds of them, possibly over a thousand. I ran down the ridge a bit to avoid their path (of death?). I’ve never seen anything like it. I’m curious to know if anyone’s encountered this before? Given the number of bees on this mountain in general, i’m sure other have had the pleasure.

    • Modern Hiker says:

      I’ve encountered bee swarms in the San Gabriels, too – but in my experience they usually just fly overhead. But yes, they’re LOUD and huge and can really put you on edge. I’d be interested to hear if anyone else has any more information on what these guys are doing.

  • Mike says:

    Did this hike today – meant to start at 7am but ended up being closer to 8am. We got to the top with a group of 11 of us around 11am. Unfortunately due to LA haze we were unable to see much in the distance. It was a good challenging hike once we got past Echo Mountain. I really enjoyed and I think almost anyone is able to accomplish this one.

    I was in tons of pain traversing down the mountain due to a recent back injury and also wear hiking shoes that were probably a 1/2 size too small. REI will be seeing me soon!

  • Filip says:

    Hiked this on 4.6.10 with a friend (girl) and was treated to amazing weather and a beautiful hike. Took us ~7 hours to do the whole thing up to Inspiration Point with plenty of stops. Started at 12:30 PM, which was a little late so we got back just as the sun went out of sight. My friend had never hiked up any real mountain but did well on this trip. At Inspiration Point, my friend rested as I went peak hopping for a half hour along the little ridge there.

    Thanks for the fantastic write-ups. I’m new to the area (from New England) and this definitely helps me plan some trips.

  • Jose Miron says:

    Thanks Modern hiker, this is my third hike using your directions, information and recommendation, you’ve got a great resource here.
    This one in particular is a good workout with some amazing views.
    Do you know if I can do an overnight on or around the Echo Mountain House area?
    I’m sure the night view is just amazing!

    Thanks again

  • Cord says:

    Did this hike with my brother on Saturday, April 3. It’s a great hike, but quite a workout. We took the Castle Canyon trail up and back since the Merrill trail is still closed. No joke, the Castle Canyon trail is steep. Several times I had to stop and ask myself why the hell I do stuff like this but once we made it to Inspiration Point it was all worth it. The view was incredible, we were above the clouds covering the LA basin. It was interesting to see that the Station Fire had made it all they up to the ridge but spared the Inspiration Point lookout area. We started hiking around 7:3o which meant most of the hike up was shaded by the mountain side, on the way down we were glad we had started early after seeing others sweating lots and working their way up in the sun. Modern Hiker, keep up the great work! I love this website and you have pointed me to some really amazing hikes.

  • David says:

    I did this hike two weeks ago and there was about 4 inches of snow on the ground up at the top. It rained, it hailed, it was sunny and hot, it was awesome (although I think we spent half our time putting on and taking off our rain shells). As far as the closures go: there are signs up at inspiration point saying everything past it is closed (and it’s clear why, the fire burned right up to the inspiration point structure). Most people we saw up there had hiked up the old railroad route and they all said the first closure signs they saw were at inspiration point.

  • sadie says:

    Thank you!! I’m going to try this next weekend!

  • Modern Hiker says:

    Sadie, you can’t go on the upper Sam Merrill Trail. You can hike up the Castle Canyon Trail to Inspiration Point, but you can’t make a loop out of it.

  • sadie says:

    So is it possible to go up Castle Canyon to Inspiration Point and down Sam Merrill?

  • Mauimattipus says:

    Hiked this morning- awesome. Totally worth it. Castle Canyon climb after the gentle start was a doozy and a half. At the pavilion, signs posted closing Sam Merrill and routes up the hill toward Mt. Lowe. However, several people I asked on the way up said they’d taken Merrill trail up and were descending Castle Canyon. When I got back to Echo Hotel nothing posted to indicate closure of the other, easier Merrill trail. But since I know the north side of the mountains up there are in the burn zone I’d be foolish to assume it’s open.

  • Zebra24601 says:

    Hiked Castle Canyon to Inspiration Point on January 17. Far as I could tell, it was open to Inspiration Point, but absolutely no further. Posted “Trail Closed” signs were on both sides of the pavilion.

  • sadie says:

    Does anyone know if the Castle Canyon trail to inspiration point is open?

  • Awesome hike, thanks for the recommendation! You’ve got a great resource here.

    I’ve linked to your site from my blog. Check out pictures from my Echo Mountain hike this week.

    http://www.nkhuong.com/echo-mountain-barefoot-hike-and-martial-arts

  • Lars says:

    I hiked this trail 33 years ago and look forward to doing it again now that I’m 50. I’ll probably have to bring water this time instead of beer, oh ya… and a defibrillator. After the station fire I have not checked into the trail conditions so it may be a year or so before I go. If you are a beginner, stay away from Rubio canyon or at least stay on the trails. The terrain is very steep, rough and loose. If you slip and slide down a hill it is like sliding down a cheese grader. Trust me on this one.
    Just as an FYI the granddaughter of T. Lowe was Florence Lowe, better known as Poncho Barns. She was a famous stunt pilot and took the womens air speed record from Amelia Earhart. She also owned and operated the “Happy Bottom Riding Club”. Google it some time.

  • Is this 10 miles total (out and back), or 10 miles out, and 10 miles back?

  • Alan says:

    Can you do this hike as an overnight camp out. I’m looking for some short hikes 5-10 miles to do with the boy scouts. Thank you

  • liz4cps says:

    I was googling “inspiration point” because I was reading about the station fire and couldn’t remember where Inspiration Point was. That led me to this page.

    Thanks for the wonderful description! We used to live in Altadena, just a few miles away from this trail head. My husband and I hiked to the top of Echo Mountain twice in the late 80s and early 90s, but we never went over to Inspiration Point. Back then, the plaques weren’t up then and we weren’t sure what the history was. We knew the Marx brothers had something to do with the site but weren’t quite what.

    I do remember seeing the gears and wheels up there. I had looked for Altadena history books in the library when I moved there and had found a history of the railway. It’s fun to learn some more about the history of the area.

    It is a beautiful area. I looked on the LA Times fire map and it looks like the station fire reached inspiration point but didn’t touch Echo Mountain. I’m glad it didn’t get further than that!

  • Michelle says:

    I did this hike 08/11/09 on a very hazy day and so missed a lot of the scenery… I’ll just wait for a rain and try again. Definitely my favorite hike in the Los Angeles County thus far!

  • Esther & Ken says:

    I wanted to note that Mark Gage is an absolute angel on the trail. You will always find him working hard maintaining the trail week after week. If you stop and chat with him, you’ll learn that this man is truly dedicated to the trail and has a unique perspective since he hikes, bikes, and maintains! Mark, if you read this, we are the asian couple that gave you a coke once and I usually hike with an umbrella/large backpack. We haven’t been hiking there in a while b/c the crowds got pretty intense, but we miss seeing your happy face!

  • Mark Gage says:

    Modern Hiker: I forgot to mention, Castle Canyon is the other trail I adopted. Been trying to make it a little safer over the years. At the same time I’m trying not to make it too bike friendly. I ride it from time to time. It’s a beautiful trail. Mark

  • Mark Gage says:

    Modern Hiker: Thank you for the comment on trail condition. I’m in my tenth year of trying to maintain the Lower Sam. We work on it just about every Saturday morning. And you are correct about use. Because there are so many good people that use the trail they help to keep trash to a minimum. If I retrieve it from over the side and put it in view on my way up to work, by the time I come back down it’s been taken out for me. Say hi next time you come up. Mark

  • Marc says:

    I started hiking to echo mountain a few months ago and have explored almost every trail in the area since. The beginning trail, Lower Sam Merril trail can get crowded on the weekend but is a good start. I suggest for the intermediate hiker to not only try the Castle Canyon trail to inspiration point but also try the old railway trail. It has a lot of cool history attached and is less strenuous but much longer. You can see the remnents of the old railway system that ends at the site of the Ye Alpine Tavern(which is now a campground), and you can reach Inspiration point from there in 10 minutes. for the more experienced hiker, I suggest trying the Dawn mine trail which leaves the railroad trail about a third of the way up. When you get to the bottom of the canyon, you will swear you went back in time about 100,00 years!

  • GinaC says:

    Did this hike on Sunday for the second time. I forgot how lovely the Castle Canyon trail was. We did encounter the hive of angry bees as Howard mentions above. I got stung on my hand and my friend got a couple in her leg, but all is well.

  • Howard says:

    Just did this hike yesterday. Great hike, but for those going anytime soon, you might want to take the Upper Sam Merrill trail to Inspiration Point. I encountered some angry bees near a creek about halfway from Echo Mountain to Inspiration Point.

  • thislalife says:

    Dawn Mine is close to here which is a great hike

  • Shera says:

    Thank you Diana and Modern Hiker both. I appreciate your feedback.

  • Modern Hiker says:

    Shera,

    If you’re worried about mountain bikes, I don’t think too many of them go on the Castle Canyon Trail up to Inspiration Point. Also, know that you’ll most likely hear them coming long before you see them, and as long as you allow mountain bikers the right of way, you’ll have no trouble on the trail. The vast majority of mountain bikers I’ve seen have been very courteous to hikers. Remember, they don’t want to run into you, either!

  • Diana says:

    Shera,

    My husband just pointed out that I did not read your question correctly!! OOPS! We did not do the Inspiration point part of the hike!!! We only went up to the hotel ruins and that was fine with the baby in the backpack. So sorry, I hope you read this before you go!

  • Shera says:

    Great! Thanks Diana.

  • Diana says:

    We just did this trail over the weekend and loved the view. My husband carried our 9 month old in a hiking backpack and was fine. We don’t hike as much as we would like to so we were a bit sore the next day but it was well worth it!! Thanks for having this blog and the extra info!

  • Shera says:

    Does any one know if this is an appropriate hike with a toddler in a backpack carrier? I would love to make it up to Inspiration Point, but not at the risk of our safety. I’ve read it’s fairly narrow at times and the thought of bikes zipping past is a bit concerning. Any information would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

  • Charles says:

    We did this hike on January 25th and loved it. Views were great until the clouds rolled in. The glimpse back into the history of the San Gabriel Mountains is fascinating. The last mile before reaching Inspiration Point is tough but great for training.

  • Hilary says:

    I grew up in Altadena and used to spend many a summer day exploring Mt. Lowe. You can take the old rail bed all the way over to Chaney Trail if you’re ambitious and have all day. Thanks for posting this – you’ve inspired me to get back up there!

  • Algis Kemezys says:

    I had heard of a place that when you shout,lets say “Echo beach far away in time” you will hear 5 echos or more repeating the entire phrase. Is this that place ?asks my friend Grace? In the short video “The Cave of Rigologos” you can hear your echo several times back and forth !

  • CJ Fogel says:

    I did this hike on a mountain bike on a day when it was 100 degrees in South Pasadena. I brought about 2 liters of water and that was not enough. This is a beautiful hike but it can be demanding on very hot days. There is a water fountain at the trail head with very good water but make sure you plan well and be sensible, especially in summer.

  • CJ Fogel says:

    I did this hike on a mountain bike on a day when it was 110 degrees in South Pasadena. I brought about 2 liters of water and that was not enough. This is a beautiful hike but it can be demanding on very hot days. There is a water fountain at the trail head with very good water but make sure you plan well and be sensible, especially in summer.

  • Sara says:

    I just did this hike and it was perfect. I hadn’t done that many miles in a while and I was really meaning to stop at Echo Mountain but with Inspiration Point just 2 miles further I couldn’t help myself. The climb was even-enough most of the way that I could just truck along, which I like to do, and the view is amazing the entire way. I even caught a nice waterfall half way from Echo Mt. to the Point. I highly, highly recommend this to any moderate hiker looking for a challenge but not a knee-breaker. And thanks SO much for this blog, this is the kind of thing LA outdoors-seekers need.

  • Lee Zebold says:

    It was not the Altadena Historical Society that did all that work, it was the Scenic Mt. Lowe Railway Historical Society. Look at our website – http://www.mtlowe.net

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