Echo Mountain to Inspiration Point to Muir Peak

Hike Reports, LA / SoCal Trails / Tuesday, March 10th, 2015

Last Sunday [March 8] was International Women’s Day, Sunday Funday, daylight savings, and the day I conquered the Echo Mountain/ Mount Lowe Railway, Inspiration Point/ Muir Peak hike!  Long… I know.  I knew it was going to be a strenuous hike, but the elevation gain was worse than I imagined and after the last sight, I couldn’t get down the mountain fast enough.  However, stretching that elevation throughout more miles did make it easier on the feet.  There is a lot of history to see on this hike as well as many trail options so read on for my detailed experience!
(or skip to the end for hike summary)

We originally planned to go at 6 am.  I set my alarm for 5:15 am, woke up, and realized with Daylight Savings just starting, it was still dark outside — the sun was not coming up anytime soon.  I checked for the sunrise which was set to occur around 7:12 am, so we postponed just an hour until 7 am and I got scooped up around 7:15 am.  This hike is in Altadena, which is pretty close to me.  There is street parking which was already pretty full by the time we got there at 7:40 am, but we found a spot a little way down.  By 7:45 am, we embarked on the day’s journey!

  • We parked at Cobb Estate and walked to the end of the road/ driveway where the trail head was located.
  • Started on the Sam Merrill Trail to Echo Mountain and the Mount Lowe Railway Ruins.  In 2.5 miles, you reach the Mt. Lowe Railway Trail.
  • Both ways lead to the Inspiration point, but going left is longer; we went right.  This is the end of the Railway Trail so it’s only a few feet until you reach the Mt. Lowe Railway Ruins of Echo Mountain at the end.  You pass two more trails along the way (Sam Merrill and Castle Canyon).
  • This was break one.  It was more for a kodak moment to soak up the view of Pasadena, LA and surrounding areas, but it was a bit smoggy.  There’s some historical stuff to check out here too.  20 mins later, we were back at it.
  • From there, we traced our steps back a little and took the Castle Canyon Trail which was mostly shady with more incline.  Parts of the trail get pretty narrow and dangerous so watch your step.
  • 2 miles later, we reached Inspiration Point on Muir Peak Road.  It was kind of cool but definitely crowded.  The “telescopes” are just pipes, but it is still a neat idea.  We took another break here for an early lunch and witnessed an older mountain biking couple renew their vows…… so cute… it was so corny and cheesy but sweet and romantic at the same time.  This was the last break and we left here around 11 am.
  • Next on the list was Muir Peak.  I don’t think many people who hike this make the detour to this which meant it was quiet and secluded for us.  There are no signs, but the trail (the south part of Muir Peak Rd) is to your right (when you get up from Castle Canyon Trail, make a u-turn).  We did not see a single person here but there were lots and lots of small lizards.  This trail looks different than the rest of the hike so far because it is a road covered with some grass, but still a clear walking path.
  • You should see the trail marker for Muir Peak in around 0.7 mile.  Keep an eye out for it as it is hidden to the right and starts inclining.  There was a tree that fell to block the front of the trail, so Duy climbed over to the side of it, and I realized I could actually climb under it — he did help me lift the tree a good feet or so though.  The peak was definitely less than a mile away, maybe half a mile.  When you get there, you can clearly see Mt. Wilson too!  We were almost as high.  The total distance from Inspiration Point to Muir Peak is about 1 mile, one way.
  • After leaving the peak, we trekked back the way we came and continued on the trail on the other side of Inspiration Point.  A short distance later, you see the Sam Merrill Trail on the left side.  It started off fairly shady for a good amount (this was 11:42am) and the decline wasn’t as bad as coming up the other side —  the elevation on this trail was more gradual.  Soon enough though, we were in the blazing hot sun.  The entire way down, we only came across one other hiker and a few mountain bikers.  We passed by the remains of the observatory’s 100 ft telescope. 4.5 miles later, 6 hrs from when we started, we arrived back to Cobb Estate at 1:45pm.  It was nice to start early and finish with a good half the day left.

Reflecting moment:  When I hike with other people, I don’t bring headphones.  It bothers me when other people play music through speakers because it disturbs the peace.   Sometimes I like to talk during a hike, and sometimes I just enjoy the peace and solitude even if I am hiking with a friend.  My mind never shuts off — I always have a million thoughts running through my head all day everyday, but when I hike… there’s just something about it that makes me not think about a single thing except watch your step, don’t trip!  THAT I think is one is my favorite things about hiking.  I realized clearing my head comes naturally to me.  &  I appreciate the moment and the day so much more.

Hike summary:

× Trail:  Sam Merrill Trail, Castle Canyon Trail, Muir Peak Rd & Muir Peak Trail
× Things to See:  Echo Mountain Ruins, Mount Lowe Railway, Inspiration Point, Muir Peak
× Distance:  13.4 miles (from Cobb Estate)
× Time:  6 hrs total with 2 breaks; 5 hrs of actual hiking.
× Elevation Gain:  3225 ft (max: 4593 ft)
× Difficulty Level:  Not for beginners

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