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The Echo Mountain Hike packs a lot of bang for the buck. The hike is easy to follow, has great views, is a good workout, and ends at ruins of an old hotel. These directions have an optional hike to the viewpoint at Inspiration Point.
5.4 miles (8.7 km)
Early Morning, Sunset
Echo Mountain Hike Trail Maps
Use this address in Google Maps to get to the trailhead:
3302 Lake Ave, Altadena, CA, 91001, USA
The Echo Mountain hike is located about 30 minutes east of downtown LA in Altadena.
It's an out and back hike to Echo Mountain. If you continue to Inspiration Point, there's a scenic loop.
The hike to Echo Mountain climbs steadily. This chart includes the hike extension to Inspiration point.
Interactive Map Echo Mountain Hike Map Downloads Gear for the Echo Mountain Hike The best hydration daypack out there. The CamelBak Fourteener has been perfect on hikes of all distances (including Mt Whitney and Cactus to Clouds). It's light, has plenty of room for super-food snacks, extra layers, hiking gear, and comes with a 3 liter water bladder. I also like the raised sweat pads on the back that keep your back dry. It's the perfect blend of high-tech, durability, and simplicity. I've got hundreds of hours on it and still love it. CamelBak Fourteener Reviews My favorite hiking boot of all time. The La Sportiva Synthesis (for men and women) are waterproof, super-light, have incredible grip, and won a Backpacker Magazine Editor's Choice Award ( my review here). I've gone through a lot of boots and these are my favorite. They feel like comfortable sneakers with the protection of hiking boots. La Sportiva Hiking Boot Reviews Don't hike without this in your backpack. It's a GPS emergency beacon and can save your life ( more on that here). On the trail, you're often out of cell phone range, and even something as simple as a twisted ankle could become a life and death situation. This beacon works where cell phones don't and is the size of a fist. Just press a button and help is on the way. Your life is worth every penny. ACR GPS Beacon Reviews For my complete gear list and survival kit contents, please check out my post on the modern hiking essentials here. I'd also recommend taking a quick look at the Every day they mark down great quality hiking gear, fitness gear, and clothing. Pick up an inexpensive lifetime REI Outlet site. REI Membership for an extra 10% off. Echo Mountain Hike Video Echo Mountain Hike Directions What to Expect In 1996, USA Today included the Echo Mountain hike as one of the “10 Great North American Hikes.” It’s got incredible views and ends at the old Echo Mountain House ruins (3,207 feet). The Echo Mountain House and Mt. Lowe Railroad opened in 1893, had over 3 million visitors, and fell into disrepair, closing in 1938. This hike ends at it’s ruins. Sam Merril, who lived with John Muir for a summer, rebuilt these trails in the 1940s. You’ll see his name on the trails. The trail starts at Cobb Estate, which is now public parkland. Cobb Esate was owned by the Marx Brothers and is allegedly haunted! The Echo Mountain hike is a steady uphill, take a break if you get winded. Bring plenty of water and snacks. 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. Parking is free on residential streets around the trailhead. It’s a popular hike so you might have to park a few blocks away. You’ll be sharing the trail with mountain bikers. Keep your eyes and ears open, especially on the decent. Turn by Turn Directions There’s plenty of street parking. It’s a popular hike, so you might have to park a few blocks away. The trailhead is at the corner, where the road makes a 90 degree turn. Go though the Cobb Estate gate and start walking. There’s a sign for the Sam Merrill Trail, which is what you’re going to take. The beginning of the hike is probably the hardest to follow, with some weird twists, turns, and junctions. To start, just head up the old road. After a minute or two, you’ll see a sign with a turn to the right. Hike to the right here. Here’s a closeup of that sign where you make the right turn off the road. In a minute after that, you come to a big intersection. Make the hard left at the very edge of the ravine. You’ll hike above a dry river bed. Stay on this short section of trail as it goes past a dam in the riverbed to the right. The trail dips down across the dry riverbed. Avoid side trails and go across to continue on the trail. The confusing part is almost over. Avoid any side trails and stay on the main trail. If a trail fizzles out, you probably made a wrong turn and ended up in a place where teens drink beer. Turn around and head back if that’s the case. The trail become simpler and winds it’s way up switchbacks toward Echo Mountain. It’s steep. Take time to catch your breath and enjoy the view. I stopped for a selfie but really I was tired. You can see the trail below. Keep on climbing. Keep an eye out for the 2 mile marker. When you see this post, you’re almost there! At about 2.5 miles, make the right at this trail junction to head toward Echo Mountain. The trail makes it’s way toward the resort. Avoid any side trails and stay straight. As you approach the resort, you’ll see the ruins of the old railroad. One of the cool things about this hike is all the informational plaques. You’ll see the ruins of the old resort, and usually there’s a sign explaining what used to be there. This huge gear is from the old railroad. The Mount Lowe Railway was the only scenic mountain, electric railroad ever built in the United States. You made it! Explore the ruins and take in the views. Climb the stairs to find the picnic benches. Behind here is the echo phone. There’s lot’s of ruins and hiker-made art to see when you explore here. At the back of the resort area, you’ll find the echo phone. You can allegedly yell into this and they’ll hear you at Inspiration Point (see below). There’s also an echo off the mountain. It’s obnoxious but all part of the fun. Get your selfies and head back down the way you came to finish the hike. If you have the energy, I’d recommend continuing your hike up to Inspiration Point. Head back out the way you came. If you want to finish, go straight back the way you came. For Inspiration Point, look out for the first trail on your right. 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. There’s an old stone plaque just past the trail. Make sure the sign says Castle Canyon. The next trail to the right is identical, so check the trail name. The Castle Canyon trail is smaller and lacks the crowds of the Echo Mountain hike. After a few minutes, the trail follows the left side of a canyon. It’s really scenic. Turn back for some great views of downtown LA. The trail gets thin at some points. Take it easy and watch your step. The trail starts to get steep as it makes it’s way up switchbacks. It gets steeper as you get closer to the top. Baby steps… At around 4.9 miles, you’ll start to see the Inspiration Point pavilion. Almost there! You made it! You will reach Inspiration Point in a little over 5 miles. One of the neatest things here are the viewing tubes. 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. The pavilion is pretty cool, with awesome views. Opposite the pavilion are view of Mt Wilson, which is also a great hike (see end of article). 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 too. The trail is pretty wide here. Continue straight to start your well-earned downhill. 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. Here’s the sign marking the beginning of the trail. 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. Take a break at Sunset Point for some great photos of LA, Catalina, and the surrounding mountains. 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. 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. Shortly before you arrive back at the resort ruins, you’ll see some more ruins including an old fireplace. And you’re back at Echo Mountain! Head left and go back down the way you came up. An easy way to give back is to simply pick up any trash you see on the trail. A quick note. These directions are meant as a guide for the hike, and not a definitive source. Conditions change, and the information here can be different based on time of day, weather, season, etc. There can be small side trails that you might see but I missed. I have made every effort to include all the information you need to complete the hike successfully. I recommend using this guide in conjunction with a map, GPX file, common sense, and call to the ranger station or park office. If you do the hike and notice something has changed, please contact me and I will update the guide.
This Mt Wilson hike starts at Chantry Flat and gradually makes it way to the summit. Mt Wilson (5,710 feet) is the peak with all the radio towers that dominates the LA skyline. It’s a fun hike and a good long hike for beginners.
The 10 hiking essentials are the recommended key survival tools that hikers should bring with them on every hike. The original 10 essentials date back the 1930s. Here’s my take on the modern hiking essentials and how to use them.
I’m Hiking Guy, aka Cris Hazzard. I like to get outdoors, walk, and then write about it. It wasn’t always like that though.
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