In May, I planned a hike to the Echo Mountain ruins, Inspiration Point and Muir peak at the tail end of a record-breaking heatwave. Eight weekend warriors joined me at 8AM on a Saturday morning for the challenging 11-mile hike with a 2,864 foot climb.
We started our journey from the front gate of the Cobb Estate and continued along the Sam Merrill trail. After crossing a dry creek bed, we rolled up our sleeves and began the 2.5 mile hike up the switchbacks to the ruins of Echo Mountain.
In the late 1800’s, an inventor named Thaddeus Lowe built a luxury resort called the Echo Mountain House, one of Southern California’s must-see tourist attractions at the time. The luxury resort, also known as “the White City,” boasted its own observatory, petting zoo and the world’s largest search light. Perched at an elevation of 3,200 feet, the resort was only accessible via the Mount Lowe Railway, a cable car funicular that climbed the Great Incline and carried guests to their vacation paradise.
In 1938, the White City was abandoned after suffering damage by numerous wildfires. The only way to reach Echo Mountain today is on two legs.
Exploring the ruins was a welcome break from the steep switchbacks. We headed to the far end of the resort to test out the Echo Phone, a pre-cellular communication device that could be used to shout messages across the mountain. After a few test runs, we could see how Echo Mountain got its name.
From the ruins, we continued a steep climb on the Castle Canyon trail to Inspiration Point at 4,714-ft elevation. By the time we reached the lookout, we were ready for a lunch break. We admired the rewarding view from a nice shaded picnic area and devoured our sandwiches.
From Inspiration Point, we took a short 1.2-mi detour to Muir Peak, where John Muir reportedly stood in 1877. The panoramic views were worth the extra mile.
We returned to Inspiration Point before descending on the Upper Sam Merrill trail back to Echo Mountain. We followed the fire road northwest from from Inspiration point and found the trailhead hidden to the left.
The first part of the trail was nicely shaded but soon became exposed. Suddenly, the ground was so hot it burned the paws of our canine friends. Like valiant warriors, two hikers carried their pups on their shoulders 5 miles down the mountain. Fortunately, they made it back safely, but two hours after the rest of us finished. Now I know, dogs need hiking boots too!
Once we reached Echo Mountain, we hiked down the trail we started on. I was pretty exhausted as we wrapped up this hike, and I didn’t even have a German shepherd on my shoulders!
I’m not sure what I enjoyed more on this hike: the views or the people. Ever since I started inviting you all on my adventures, I have been inspired and amazed by you. As long as you continue to show up at the crack of dawn, I will challenge you and reward you cold watermelon.
Thank you to everyone who joined me for the hike to Inspiration Point. This is one I shall not soon forget!
Hike to Echo Mountain, Inspiration Point and Muir Peak
- Sam Merrill Trailhead: Located in a residential neighborhood at the intersection of East Loma Alta Drive and Lake Avenue in Altadena, CA. Enter the trail at the front entrance gate of the Cobb Estate. Check street parking signs for restrictions.
- Trail Distance: 11-mi round trip; 2,864-climb; 4,714 elevation
- Fitness Level: Intermediate
- What to Bring: Bring lots of water (recommended 3 liters). There is little to no water on the trail.
- Source: For trail directions, go to SocalHiker.net. To read more about the history of Echo Mountain, go to Dan’s Hiking Pages.