Echo Mountain is a famous LA hiking trail that is some of the best trail running area right outside the city. The hike takes 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 a clearly marked and easy trail to follow, has sweeping beautiful views, is full of history, is a great workout and is right outside LA.
The famous railroad which was the only electric railroad of its kind built in the USA and was a site many flocked to see, is what the trial parallels leading up unto the Echo Mountain Resort House which is the ruins you will see at the summit of the hike. There are echo phones left hence the name of the mountain/hike that you can still use today up at the top. It was the great flood of 1938 (the same one that created the Bridge to Nowhere) was what washed away much of the railway and resort. From there, 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.
How to get there
The trailhead begins at the intersection of East Loma Alta Drive and Lake Avenue in Altadena, at the entrance to the Cobb Estate. You can park on the street, but read the signs carefully. When I went, I found the best parking on East Loma Alta, but there is no parking after 10pm. Consider yourself warned.
Trailhead Address: 3302 Lake Ave, Altadena, CA, 91001, USA.
Parking is free on residential streets around the trailhead. It’s a popular hike so you might have to park a few blocks away. There is lots of street parking but it is a popular hike right outside the city so you may have to park a couple blocks away. There is no specific parking lot for this hike so try to get there early. There is no fees or permits then as well! Be wary of not parking in signed areas or curbed off sections of the neighborhood so you don’t get towed while you hike.
Miles: 5.4 miles
Elevation: 1730 feet ascent, 3207 feet summit
Type: out and back
Time: about 2.5 hours
Animals: allowed on a leash
Map: PDF Map Download
- You can lengthen your hike going to Inspiration Point, that adds another 5 miles onto the hike. If you want a longer hike or trail run this is a great way to get in the mileage. Inspiration Point has amazing views. Inspiration Point is a scenic loop off of Echo Mountain (an out and back).
- Watch out for mountain bikers on the trail and be careful on the tight turns. Keep your ears open and alert to not have a collision as this is a popular mountain biking spot.
- This is a killer trail running spot close outside the city if you like to run
- The trail is very exposed so pack 3L of water per person and bring a hat or other sun coverage. The trail has no water resources so be prepared.
Pass through the gates to the Cobb Estate where you see a sign for the Sam Merril trail which is what you are taking. You’ll see a trail sign taking you off the driveway to the right, and towards a ravine. The sign says Echo Mountain is 2.5 miles from here. At the big intersection make a hard left at the edge of the ravine. You will pass a damn dry river bed to the right. You will come to switch backs taking you up the mountain. You will pass a 2 mile mark meaning you are almost there. Then there will be one last trail sign of the junction of Mt. Lowe road and Echo Mountain. Go right and you will see ruins of the old railroad. There is an echo phone that you can yell into as well and a sweeping panoramic view from the top. If you continue on to Inspiration point it has around 15 viewing telescopes each pre pointed and set on the city or mountain they are directing your eye towards which is so cool and fun. Some are locations in LA like Silver Lake or Venice, or some are beaches such as Seal Beach. There is also a covered view point structure that offers shade that overlooks 3000 square miles. Catalina island is 75 miles away and Mike Wilson can be seen opposite the peak.
Inspiration Point Telescopes
Things to do nearby
Socal Six Pack of Peaks
The Six Pack of Peaks is California’s 6 tallest hiking mountains that are epic beauties. There is a community program and challenge to complete the hikes in one season. Mt. Wilson is very close to Echo Mountain which is one of the 6 hikes of the peaks.
This trail gains about a 1000 feet of elevation in the first 3 miles and is a steep start to Smith Saddle before the trail levels out a short while. After that is an 800-foot scramble to the summit in less than half a mile. The last section of the hike is essentially bouldering up a rocky face to get to the summit. This hike has some of the most amazing sweeping views all around of the mountains in desert shrub and foliage. This still remains one of my favorite hikes in Socal because of the mountain views. The 360 degree panorama from the 5,111-foot summit of Smith Mountain definitely makes the journey worth it in the end. There are sweeping views of several different peaks and mountain ranges from the summit and the whole hike has amazing views unlike many other hikes where there may only be one panoramic viewpoint from the top.
Bridge to Nowhere
For outdoor lovers, Bridge to Nowhere is the affectionate name of a local treasure near LA, of an abandoned bridge on a washed-away road in the San Gabriel Mountains that spans across the East Fork of the San Gabriel River. You’ll find excessive fun on this 10-mile round trip hike with 900 feet of elevation change. This is one of those hikes that is a right of passage of the area and you must do at some point. You hike along the San Gabriel River in the beautiful Sheep Mountain Wilderness for about 5 miles, and then, out of nowhere, there’s a huge, 120-foot high bridge!