I finally made my way out to the San Gabriel Mountains – this hike begins in Altadena. At the top of Echo Mountain one finds the ruins of White City, a hotel/resort built in the late 1800’s. Traffic was a little heavy because this is a popular trail but everyone was cool. Beyond the ruins I continued up into the hills and my total hiking distance was around 12 and half miles for the day.
To begin, I passed through the gates of Cobb Estate. It doesn’t appear much is left of the estate except for the gates.
Sam Merrill Trail is solid, well-maintained and has a good width for a single track trail. It follows switchback after switchback and slowly gains in elevation. The scary thing is the drop off and the fact that many people run and mountain bike here. With the drop, it didn’t feel like there was lot of room for two people to pass each other.
Now at the top of Echo Mountain. To get to the resort guests traveled by a hair-raising railway system. A few of the railway components remain on the property.
There are many displays explaining the history of the site. Many show old photos of what the old resort looked like. Notice the mountain and the wall behind the power house in the display photo. Photo 2 shows the same location today.
Railway to Infinity. This was the end of the line.
Looking through the Echo Phone
My next stop – Inspiration Point, located in the saddle in the center of the screen. Photo 2 shows the pavilion on Inspiration Point on zoom.
I had a choice of trails to get to Inspiration Point- either hike three miles along the upper portion of Sam Merrill Trail or two miles on Castle Canyon Trail, which I had read was steep and sketchy in areas. I chose steep and sketchy.
The way its switchbacks hug the side of a cliff, Castle Canyon Trail is similar to Sam Merrill Trail. However, it’s more narrow, a little steeper and not as well maintained.
The shade on Castle canyon Trail was a welcome relief as the afternoon heat began to make itself known. After climbing a ways, I turned a corner and the pavilion came into view.
The site has been restored to the way it was back when guests of White City roamed these hills. One thing that is missing from the old days is another echo phone. I guess people would shout back and forth to each other from White City and Inspiration Point. One only needs to spend a few minutes in the beautiful quiet of Inspiration Point to know how terrible an idea this truly was.
Looking north from Inspiration Point – I believe this is Mount Lowe.
There were a couple of more spots I wanted to explore. Running to the east of Inspiration Point is a road, again what was once a part of a rail system for White City guests, which dead ends in a mile. I loved this part of the hike as it was the only time like it felt like I was truly alone. The trail is slightly overgrown and lined with bizarre and beautiful trees.
After about 3/4 of a mile there is a turn-off for Muir Peak. The trail is signed. I thought this might be difficult to find as it is, apparently, mismarked on every map I own, showing the peak lying to the west of Inspiration Point. I read this error is due to a mistake on a government map that other map makers use as a base for their own maps. In any case, it was easy to find. The trail spirals to the top.
The views from Muir Peak are outstanding, 360 degrees.
Photo 1 – On my way back Photo 2 – Hands in Prayer
Before heading down Sam Merrill Trail, I stopped at Inspiration Point again to play with the telescopes. Notice the funny periscope view for Inspiration Point, looking backward instead of ahead.
Near the rock in the previous photo is a short spur trail to the right. At the end of this spur is a little tree. I read about it online, as it survived the fire of 2009 untouched and is very healthy looking. And just a few yards away, trees show the fire’s devastating effect, even years later.