Echo Mountain Hike on the Sam Merrill Trail
|In This Guide|
|Total Distance (?)||5.6 miles (9 km)|
|Other Options||10 miles|
|Hike Time||2.5 - 3 Hours (Total)|
|Total Ascent (?)||1,460 feet (445m)|
|Highest Elevation||3,207 feet (978m)|
|Fees & Permits||Free|
|Alerts & Closures (?)||Angeles National Forest|
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.
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.
- Bring 1L of water.
- Most of the trail is exposed, prepare for intense sun.
- If you use trekking poles and they help, bring them along.
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
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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Turn by Turn Directions
Optional Extension to Inspiration Point
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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