Mt. Lowe Historic Railway Tour
ElevationAscent: 2,686' 819 m
Descent: -2,686' -819 m
High: 4,523' 1,378 m
Low: 1,850' 564 m
GradeAvg Grade: 9% (5°)
Max Grade: 35% (19°)
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“A great run around an historic railroad grade and up to Inspiration Point.”— John McKinney
There are no restrooms at the start of the trail or on Echo Mountain. The nearest restroom is at Farnsworth Park on Lake Ave., 3 blocks south of Loma Altra Dr. This is a very popular trail, and it can get very warm. Dogs often suffer due to heat and lack of water. Do not cut switchbacks which cause extensive trail damage.
From the corner of Lake Avenue and Loma Alta Drive, pass through the iron gate of the Cobb Estate and go east about 0.1 miles to the start of the Lower Sam Merrill Trail 12W14.1. The trail descends and crosses a usually dry stream bed before climbing an easily manageable grade. The route passes through open chaparral of laurel sumac, sage, scrub oak and ceanothus with occasional shade from live oaks. It climbs for about 2.6 miles where it meets the Echo Mountain Trail 12W14.A which joins from the north (do not confuse it with with the Middle Sam Merrill Trail 12W14.2, the next left heading north, or Castle Canyon Trail #12W28, the third left junction heading north, all of which are within 0.1 miles).
Most runners come to visit the ruins of the old hotels and incline railway at the south end of the mountain. If this is your destination, you can find some nice shaded areas to take a break before returning back.
For those doing the full tour, return back to the junction with Echo Mountain Trail 12W14.A and Lower Sam Merrill Trail 12W14.1 then head north on Echo Mountain Trail 12W14.A to begin the interpretive run (self-guided of course). For details about each of the ten stops, download the free e-book/brochure "Self Guided Hiking Tour of the Historic Mt. Lowe Pacific Electric Railway, Angeles National Forest" by the United States Forest Service.
The first two stops are on Echo Mountain Trail 12W14.A, which thankfully climbs at a slightly lower grade than the Middle Sam Merrill Trail 12W14.2.
At 3.4 miles, the Echo Mountain Trail 12W14.A ends at the junction with Mt. Lowe Road #2N50 and the third stop on the tour. Turn right on the road which keeps climbing but each of the tour stops offer plenty of opportunities to rest. The road enters a shaded forest of oak and bigcone spruce after a long switchback. A great resting point is Mt. Lowe Trail Camp, near stop number 9, at about 6.2 miles. The campground has shade, water, restrooms and picnic tables.
Continue on Mt. Lowe Road #2N50 heading south and at the junction turn right to take Muir Peak Road #2N50.A 0.2 miles to Inspiration Point at 6.6 miles. There are many sighting scopes mounted up here which look out over Santa Monica, Hollywood, the Rose Bowl, and the rest of L.A.
From here, take a right onto Castle Canyon Trail #12W28; the trail descends steeply, heading southwest down a series of switchbacks. The trail is about two miles long and ends at the intersection with Echo Mountain Trail 12W14.A and Middle Sam Merrill Trail 12W14.2. Turn right and then stay straight past the other intersections to head back down the Lower Sam Merrill Trail 12W14.1 to the trailhead.
Thanks to John McKinney, The Trailmaster, for sharing this trail description. To learn more about trails in California, check out his guides at The Trailmaster Store.
Watch out and avoid poison oak.
Soon after Echo Mountain was built up, they began working on a railway extension to the top of Mt. Lowe, however money ran dry and the railway was never finished.
The whole rail system and resort area changed hands several times and in the early 1900s became immensely popular for a number of years, offering millions of visitors fine hotels to stay in and spectacular views of southern California. But in the 1930s, a fire destroyed the Alpine Tavern and hotel, and as a result of the depression it was not rebui
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Land Manager: USFS - Angeles National Forest Office