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Echo Mountain Hike Update

Echo Mountain Hike on the Sam Merrill Trail

In This Guide
  • Turn by Turn Hike Directions & Video
  • Echo Mountain Trail Maps
  • Where to Park for the Echo Mountain Hike
  • Optional Side Trip to Inspiration Point
Total Distance (?)5.6 miles (9 km)
Other Options 10 miles
Hike Time2.5 - 3 Hours (Total)
Difficulty (?)Hard
Total Ascent (?)1,460 feet (445m)
Highest Elevation3,207 feet (978m)
Fees & PermitsFree
Dogs AllowedLeashed
Alerts & Closures (?)Angeles National Forest
Park Phone818-899-1900
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The Echo Mountain hike packs a lot of bang for the buck. You’ll hike up the Sam Merrill Trail, which follows the old Mt Lowe railway route up to Echo Mountain, where you can see the old ruins of the Echo Mountain mountain resort. USA Today included the Echo Mountain hike as one of the “10 Great North American Hikes” and Sunset Magazine called it one of the top 45 hikes in the west. The hike is easy to follow, has an interesting history, offers great views, is a good workout, and is close to LA. Overall it’s a win.

These directions include an optional hike extension to a scenic viewpoint at Inspiration Point. See the guide below for more info.

Where is the Echo Mountain Hike?

Getting to the trailhead for the hike is easy. You just park on a city street in Altadena. Use this trailhead address: 3302 Lake Ave, Altadena, CA, 91001, USA.

Echo Mountain Hike Directions Update 3
Park along the street leading up to the trailhead, which is at the turn at the end of the street. It can get crowded, so you may have to park a few blocks away. Street parking is free.

This is a residential neighborhood. Please don’t block driveways, avoid no-parking zones, keep the noise down, and don’t leave trash behind.

Gear for the Hike

This is a bit of an in-between hike. You can certainly do this with fitness clothes and minimal gear, but I do recommend hiking gear if you have it. The Echo Mountain hike is a steady uphill, so prepare for the effort. If you’re going to do the extra loop to Inspiration Point, definitely use hiking gear.

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Garmin Inreach Mini Beacon

Garmin inReach Mini
If you’re not familiar with the Garmin InReach technology, it allows you to send and receive text messages where you don’t have cell phone signals. You can also get weather reports and trigger an SOS to emergency responders. Even if you don’t have an emergency, sending a quick message telling a loved one that you’re okay or are running late is well worth the cost.

Latest Prices: Amazon | REI | Backcountry
My Review & Guide

Lone Peak 5

Altra Lone Peak 5
For most people, the Altra Lone Peak is a solid choice that will leave your feet feeling great at the end of any hike. The feel is cushy and light, and if it had a car equivalent, this would be a Cadillac or Mercedes Sedan. The grip is great and they’re reasonably durable for this type of trail runner, which I think is better in most conditions than a hiking boot, and here’s why. The downside of this shoe is that it won’t last as long as something like the Moab 2 (see alternate footwear choices at the bottom of my gear page). I’ve been using mine for many miles and my feet always feel great. Watch my video explaining why they are a great shoe here.

Women’s Latest Prices: REI | Amazon | Backcountry
Men’s Latest Prices: REI | Amazon | Backcountry

Black Diamond Ergo Poles 2

Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles
I’ve gone back and forth on trekking poles, but I think for most people they are a good investment. They help you dig in on the uphills, provide stability on loose downhills, act as a brace when crossing streams, and can probably poke away aggressive wildlife in a pinch. The Trail Ergo Cork poles are a good balance of light weight, durability, affordability, and ease of use. If you want something ultralight and a little more pricey, I’ve had great luck with the Black Diamond Z Poles too.

Trail Ergo Poles: REI | Amazon | Black Diamond
Z-Poles: MacPac | REI | Amazon | Black Diamond

Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated November 2021.

My November 2021 Top Gear Picks

No company pays me to promote or push a product, all the gear you see here is gear I use and recommend. If you click an a link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps keep the website ad and promotion free. There is no cost to you.

Echo Mountain and Sam Merrill Trail Maps

In general the trail is popular and easy to follow. If you are unsure of your position, you’ll probably see other hikers who can help you out.

I’ve included an optional hike extension to Inspiration Point, which adds another 5 miles onto the hike. If you have the energy, go for it. Inspiration Point has great views and a unique viewing station. Read below for all the details.

Click Here To View

Explore Map on CalTopoView a Printable PDF Hike MapDownload the Hike GPX File

If you try to download the GPX file and your browser adds a “.txt” or “.xml” extension to it, simply rename it as a “.gpx” file.

Gaiagps

How Are You Going to Navigate This Hike?
If you are a hardcore hiker and/or hike in extreme conditions, I recommend getting a dedicated GPS like a GPSMAP 66sr or 66i, or a wrist-based GPS with maps like the Garmin Fenix 6. If you only hike in fair weather and a touchscreen is fine, or just want a solid tool, I highly recommend downloading the smartphone app, Gaia GPS. It’s a piece of cake to use and very powerful, just make sure your phone is in airplane mode so the battery doesn’t drain. You can also check for wildfires, weather, snow, and choose from dozens of map types with a premium membership (HikingGuy readers get a big discount here). Note that I also carry a paper map with me in case the phone dies or gets smashed.

Elevation Profile

Echo Mountain Elevation Profile
There’s no getting around it, you’re pretty much going uphill the whole way. At the end, it flattens out. On the way back down, you do this in reverse.
Echo Mountain Elevation Profile Inspiration Point
If you do the optional trip to inspiration point, you have about another 1500 feet of climbing.

3D Map

Echo Mountain 3d Map
The purple line shows the trail up to Echo Point. You’ll climb up the east side of Los Flores Canyon. If you opt into the extenstion to Inspiration Point, you’ll keep hiking up to about 4500 feet, then loop back down.

Hike History

Echo Mountain Hike Mt Lowe Railway
The hike will parallel some of the old Mount Lowe Railway route. Here you can see the electric trolley filled with tourists climbing to Echo Mountain.

The Sam Merrill Trail to Echo Mountain starts at historic Cobb Estate, now public parkland, but was originally built by lumber magnate Charles Cobb. After he passed away in 1939, it became a retreat for nuns, and then the Marx Brothers bought it in 1956. In 1971 local conservationists raised the $175,000 to purchase it, and then donated it as parkland. And it’s allegedly haunted, so there’s that.

As you climb the trail, your route will parallel some of the old Mount Lowe Railway route, the only electric mountain railway ever built in the USA. When it was built in 1893, it was considered a modern marvel and welcomed over 3 million riders during its lifetime.

Echo Mountain House
The Mount Lowe Railway led to the Echo Mountain House, which was a 70 room Victorian hotel built to rival the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego. It was intended to be a full-service resort “a mile up in the sky.” At the end of the hike you’ll see the remains of the resort.

The resort and railway weathered some fires and natural disasters over the years, but the great flood of 1938 was the final nail in the coffin, washing much of the railway and resort away. After that, Sam Merrill, who lived with John Muir as a young man and was active in the Sierra Club, restored and maintained the trails to Echo Mountain. When he died in 1948, the Sierra Club named the trail after him.

Echo Mountain Hike Directions

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Video Directions

Watch This Video In 360/VR Why 360/VR Is Great

Turn by Turn Directions

Echo Mountain Hike Directions Update 1
The hike starts where the road makes a 90-degree turn.
Echo Mountain Hike Directions Update 4
Right after you make that turn, you’ll see the entrance to Cobb Estate. Hike through the gate.
Echo Mountain Hike Directions Update 5
Hike up the old paved road.
Echo Mountain Hike Directions Update 6
After a few minutes of hiking, look for a trail sign and turn off to the right.
Echo Mountain Hike Directions Update 7
Here’s the sign from that last junction.
Echo Mountain Hike Directions Update 8
This part can be a little tricky. When you see the next sign, make the hard left right after the sign. Avoid the trails up to the left before this sign.
Echo Mountain Hike Directions Update 9
There’s a water fountain here. Make sure you’re topped up for the climb.
Echo Mountain Hike Directions Update 10
Once you’ve made the turn, say on the left side of the dry wash. You’ll see a lot of trails down into the wash which you should avoid.
Echo Mountain Hike Directions Update 11
When the main trail crosses the wash (just past a concrete dam), hike across, avoiding trails up the wash.
Echo Mountain Hike Directions Update 12
Once you cross the wash, you’ll see a sign reminding you to call 911 in case of an emergency.
Echo Mountain Hike Directions Update 13
From here the climbing starts. The lower slopes are gradual.
Echo Mountain Hike Directions Update 14
Stay on the main trail, avoiding any unofficial side trails. These usually go to viewpoints or bathroom break spots and then fizzle out.
Echo Mountain Hike Directions Update 15
Now the trail gets steeper as you climb up along Los Flores Canyon. Expect lots of switchbacks.
Echo Mountain Hike Directions Update 16
The trail winds around to the other side of the ridge, where you get views into Rubio Canyon.
Echo Mountain Hike Directions Update 17
And then comes back to Los Flores Canyon. Here you can see one of the occasional spots of shade.
Echo Mountain Hike Directions Update 18
As you wind up, you’ll see a big mountain range toward LA, which are the Verdugo Mountains.
Echo Mountain Hike Directions Update 19
Keep heading up the main trail past the bench. The bump ahead is Echo Mountain.
Echo Mountain Hike Directions Update 20
You’ll see the 200,000 gallon reservoir in Los Flores Canyon below. There are also some old abandoned gold mines down there that date back to 1893.
Echo Mountain Hike Directions Update 21
Hike past the Lee Tracy Memorial bench.
Echo Mountain Hike Directions Update 22
As you get closer to the summit there’s a section that levels out a little and offers shade.
Echo Mountain Hike Directions Update 23
But then it old stylegets steep and exposed for the last stretch to the top.
Echo Mountain Hike Directions Update 24
And then you’ll see a post, this is the top, the climbing is over.
Echo Mountain Hike Directions Update 25
Here’s the junction at the post. Make the right to head to the historic area and echo phone.
Echo Mountain Hike Directions Update 26
You’ll see these old-style “gravestone” trail signs up here, which I think date back to the original resort.
Echo Mountain Hike Directions Update 27
Keep hiking straight past the Sam Merrill (upper) trail on the left.
Echo Mountain Hike Directions Update 28
And then straight past the Castle Canyon Trail on the left, through the interpretive displays ahead.
Echo Mountain Hike Directions Update 29
There are lots of (dated but still interesting) interpretive displays and historical markers to check out.
Echo Mountain Hike Directions Update 30
You’ll pass the wreckage of the old railway trains.
Echo Mountain Hike Directions Update 31
Keep going straight past the side trail on the left to the old tennis courts.
Echo Mountain Hike Directions Update 32
And then you’ll reach the Echo Mountain Picnic Area.
Echo Mountain Hike Directions Update 33
Go straight past the picnic area, and then past the old cables and gears used by the railway.
Echo Mountain Hike Directions Update 34
You’ll reach the foundation of the resort. Check out the views, and then hike up the stairs on the left.
Echo Mountain Hike Directions Update 35
When you get up the stairs, the echo phone is through the foundational ruins up to the right.
Echo Mountain Hike Directions Update 36
Go past the old pool.
Echo Mountain Hike Directions Update 37
And here you are at the echo phone. If you yell into it, your voice will echo across Rubio Canyon ahead.
Echo Mountain Hike Directions Update 38
If you look up from the echo phone, you’ll see the viewing pavilion at Inspiration Point above.
Echo Mountain Hike Directions Update 40
From here, just turn around and head back the way you came, or add on the optional extension to inspiration point.

Optional Extension to Inspiration Point

trail on echo mountain hike
As you hike back out from the picnic area, look for the Castle Canyon trail to Inspiration Point is to your right. It’s smaller and overgrown, so keep your eyes open. It comes a minute or two after leaving the resort ruins area.
trail on echo mountain hike
There’s an old stone marker just past the trail. Make sure the sign says Castle Canyon. The next trail to the right is identical, so check the trail name.
trail on echo mountain hike
The Castle Canyon trail is smaller and lacks the crowds of the lower Sam Merrill Trail.
trail on echo mountain hike
After a few minutes, the trail follows the left side of Rubio Canyon. It’s very scenic.
view of la from echo mountain hike
Turn back for some great views of downtown LA.
trail on echo mountain hike
The trail gets thin at some points. Take it easy and watch your step.
trail on echo mountain hike
The trail gets steep as it makes its way up switchbacks.
trail on echo mountain hike
At around 4.9 miles, you’ll start to see the Inspiration Point pavilion. Almost there!
inspiration point on echo mountain hike
You made it! You will reach Inspiration Point in a little over 5 miles.
inspiration point on echo mountain hike
One of the neatest things here is Telescope View. Each tube is pre-set with the right direction to look for the respective sights. Keep an eye open for the viewing tube for Inspiration Point – it’s pretty funny.
inspiration point on echo mountain hike
On a clear day you can see Catalina. Opposite the pavilion are view of Mt Wilson, which is also a great hike.
inspiration point on echo mountain hike
When you’re done soaking it all in, head straight down the road (left if you’re looking at the trail from inside the pavilion). There’s a sign pointing you in this direction for the Sam Merrill Trail.
trail on echo mountain hike
The trail is pretty wide. Continue straight to start your well-earned downhill.
trail on echo mountain hike
At about 0.3 miles from the pavilion, you’ll reach a junction. Make the hard left onto the Sam Merrill Trail. You won’t be able to see it easily as you approach.
trail sign on echo mountain hike
Here’s the sign marking the beginning of the trail.
trail on echo mountain hike
While you could have retraced your steps from the pavilion at Inspiration Point, this route has a much more scenic descent, but the trail is a little more primitive.
sunset point sign
Take a break at Sunset Point for some great photos of LA, Catalina, and the surrounding mountains. Note: This sign is reported gone.
trail on echo mountain hike
At around 6.5 miles in, there’s a split in the trail. Head left. If you want a quick detour with views, go to the right on the ridge. A lone pine tree marks a great vista point. Head back after checking it out.
trail on echo mountain hike
As you descend, you’ll see the Sam Merrill Trail unravel beneath you. If you look closely, you’ll also be able to see the ruins of the resort.
ruins on echo mountain
Shortly before you arrive back at the resort ruins, you’ll see some more ruins including an old fireplace.
trail on echo mountain hike
And you’re back at Echo Mountain! Head right and go back down the way you came up.

This guide last updated on September 6, 2021. Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.

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