Echo Mountain

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.

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To begin, I passed through the gates of Cobb Estate.  It doesn’t appear much is left of the estate except for the gates.  I followed the road to the trailhead and took a wrong turn.  I headed up a hill and came to a metal covered water reservoir.  I then noticed the trail across the way cutting into the hillside.  That is the trail I wanted – Sam Merrill Trail.  Take the trail after the water fountain for the correct trail.  

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6   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.

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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.


11     12   In a lower section there are picnic tables and shady trees.

14     15   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.

16     17   Another photo of what once was – a picture of one of the “Incline Cars” that carried people up the mountain and what remains today.


Railway to Infinity. This was the end of the line.

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25     Photo 1 – View from Echo Mountain  Photos 2 and 3 – One level up from the tracks is where the hotel once stood.  Just the foundation remains.

20     21   There is a megaphone, or “Echo Phone”, that guests once used to call back and forth across the hills.  I heard several people giving the echo phone a try during the day.


Looking through the Echo Phone

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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.

26   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.

27     28     29   Photo 3 – Looking back at White City where the tall trees stand.

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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.

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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.

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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.

38     39     40   Photo 1 – Another section of railway used to climb up to this spot as well.  Photo 2 – Fixed telescopes spy distant landmarks.  Photo 3 – View south from Inspiration Point


Looking north from Inspiration Point – I believe this is Mount Lowe.

42     43     44   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.

45     46     47   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.

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Mount Wilson

51     52   After coming back down to the main road from Muir Peak, I continued eastward to the end of the road and Panorama Point, marked by this circular, flat patch of earth.  Too bad it was so hazy.

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Photo 1 – On my way back  Photo 2 – Hands in Prayer

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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.

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61     62     63   The upper part of Sam Merrill Trail, which heads back down the mountain, picks up 0.3 miles east of Inspiration Point. Fire damage has caused several rock slides near and over the trail.

64   Beautiful Rock, Defaced By A Fool

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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.


70   Close to but above White City stands the ruins of the resort’s observatory.

71     72     73   All of those near level switchbacks to the bottom made for slow going.  Photo 1 – The metal covered reservoir just up from the trailhead.  Photo 3 – I end another awesome day.

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