Echo Mountain Hike on the Sam Merrill Trail
|In This Guide|
|Distance||5.4 miles (8.7 km)|
|Hike Time||2.5 Hours (Total)|
|Total Ascent (?)||1,730 feet (527m)|
|Highest Elevation||3,207 feet (978m)|
|Fees & Permits||Free|
|Park Website||Los Angeles River Ranger District|
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 have an optional hike extension to a scenic viewpoint at Inspiration Point. See directions for more info.
The Sam Merrill trail to Echo Mountain starts at the 1070-acre Cobb Estate, which is now public parkland, but was originally built by lumber magnate Charles Cobb. He passed away in 1939, and it became a retreat for nuns for a few years, and then the Marx Brothers bought it in 1956. They realized the property was not usable and had the structure torn down in 1959. In 1971 an anonymous donor purchased the property and gave it to Pasadena to turn into a park. 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, which was the only electric mountain railway ever built in the USA. At the time it was built in 1893, it was considered a modern marvel and had over 3 million visitors during its lifetime.
The railroad lead to the Echo Mountain House Resort (cool old pictures here), which you can see the ruins of at the summit of the Echo Mountain hike. There was a hotel, restaurants, tavern, observatory, million candlepower searchlight, and the famous echo-phones which you can still use today.
The resort and railway weathered some fires and natural disasters over the years, but the great flood of 1938 (the same one that created the Bridge to Nowhere) was the final nail in the coffin, washing much of the railway and resort away. From there, 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.
Where is the Echo Mountain Hike?
Use this as the trailhead GPS address: 3302 Lake Ave, Altadena, CA, 91001, USA.
Parking is free on residential streets around the trailhead. It’s a popular hike so you might have to park a few blocks away.
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.
Here’s the gear that I personally use, have tested, and recommend for this hike.See All of My Best Gear Picks Here
My best lightweight pack for hikes between 3-10+ hours. I use mine with the 3L water bladder from Osprey.
You can text, SOS, and get weather in the backcountry where your cell phone doesn’t work. Literally a life-saver.
Modern materials mean you get the protection of a traditional hiking boot (waterproof, etc.) with feel of a sneaker.
If you’re not using poles yet, you should be. This model takes a beating, is light, and is super comfortable.
I use a light inner toe sock and then a top-quality outer sock to prevent blisters.
Joby tripods attach to anything. The legs are adjustable and grippy, so you can put them on trees, packs, rocks, whatever. And they work like regular tripods too. Works with everything from smartphones to DSLRs.
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 REI link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps offset website expenses. There is no cost to you.
Website visitors get 20% off orders over $30 with the coupon code WEBFAN
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.
- You’ll be sharing the trail with mountain bikers. Keep your eyes and ears open, especially on the decent.
Echo Mountain Hike on the Sam Merrill Trail Map Downloads
Download the Hike GPX File
View a Printable PDF Hike Map
If you want to do the hike to Inspiration Point, use this GPX file: echo-mountain-hike-with-inspiration-point.
Echo Mountain Hike Directions
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Turn by Turn Directions
Optional Loop to Inspiration Point
Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.
If you see trash on the trail, please pick it up and carry it out. Be a good egg and practice no trace principles.