Popular Echo Mountain via Sam Merrill Trail

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Do you like switchbacks? This one is for you!

Winter Hike #5:  Altadena, CA

It was such a clear day! I’ve hiked this many times before but never seen downtown LA from here until then. I was hiking with my friends and their dog. I was happy for them that they can experience Echo Mountain on such a beautiful day.



I remember this one time, it was so foggy, I hiked the entire thing with poor visibility. It was cool in an eerie way.

A picture of my sister from the foggy day hike - 03.20.2009
A picture of my sister from that foggy day – 03.20.2009

Sam Merrill Trail is well-maintained and is rated moderate. There are distance markers – 1 mile, 2 mile – to guide you. The distance from the trailhead to the Echo Mountain House (click for the history, fascinating!) ruins is 2.7 miles and the elevation gain is 1,478 feet. That’s a pretty good hill workout, don’t you agree?

Sam Merrill Trail takes you up to Mt Lowe Railway Trail where the trail levels out – you won’t get lost, just enjoy the switchbacks. I knew I was getting close to Mt Lowe Railway Trail when I could hear people cheering. At the junction, you want to turn right. You are about 0.1 miles away from the Echo Mountain House ruins. Enjoy reading the history and seeing the old pictures and of course, the view of San Gabriel Valley and the city of Altadena.

Once upon a time, there used to be a fancy resort there. A bowling alley and all. The place must have looked beautiful inside. It used to be also called “White City” due to all the lights from the resort area at night. I can’t imagine going up there on an incline car though but then again, not everyone is afraid of heights. 🙂 Check out the link above, you will see the photo.

I led my friends down to the picnic area to find some shade and a picnic table. We were lucky, we found two empty tables. We settled on one of them and had a picnic. Thanks for packing lunch for me too, Jackie! What a nice surprise! It was quiet and we were the only ones there except the hikers who passed by occasionally. We had a private party. 🙂

The trail is mainly used for hiking but it is also used for trail running and mountain biking as well. So be sure to look out for them. Most people we ran in to were friendly and especially dog-friendly that day. We met all the sizes and types of dogs on the trail, which is always fun.

This hike is popular so you can expect medium to high traffic depending on what day and what time of the day you go. You can expect this trail to be crowded during weekends. It’s also common to see hiking groups – boy scouts and meetups – here as well.

Good to Know:

  • Dogs on leash
  • Free street parking
  • Distance:  5.4 miles RT
  • Elevation Gain:  1,478 feet
  • Note: views, local history, lizards, wildflowers
  • Hiking here in summer is brutal even in the morning unless you can finish hiking before 9 am. There is no shade. Even though the trail is open all year round, I think January – March is the best time.

Get Our Latest Comprehensive Dog-friendly Trail List Here. Enjoy!

Happy Hiking!

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