The city of Pasadena, one of LA’s closest eastern neighbors, is watched over from the North by its benevolent benefactor, the San Gabriel Mountain Range. Snug up against these mountains, like a village in the Swiss Alps is the burb of Altadena. Altadena provides a quick and easy way to get into the San Gabriels without having to wind your way up any mountain roads. Take a hike up Echo Mountain via the Sam Merrill Trail and find yourself some above average views and some interesting history.
What Makes It Great
From the Sam Merrill Trailhead, walk into the Cobb Estate, perpendicular to Lake Ave. on the pavement until you his the Sam Merrill trail. This trail will wind its way up the mountain on a nice single track, well maintained trail that is walkable for a hiker of any ability. After 2.5 miles of smooth hiking, you will reach the summit.
When you get to the top you will see the ruins of an old railroad track and the foundation of an early twentieth century mountain lodge called the White City. It used to be a vacation spot for wealthy Pasadenans and Los Angelinos who could either walk to the top in their period piece hiking attire or take the railroad up. The views at the top are nice, but not amazing. It gives you a nice vantage point from which to view Pasadena and the surrounding sprawl, and is a nice place to walk if you are new to the city. Due to the fact that LA is such a spread out place, it helps to know where you are as you drive from one end of the city to the other.
Perhaps the coolest part of the summit is the scientific wonder that is Castle Canyon. The Canyon from Echo Mountain represents an interesting auditory phenomenon. Stand on the north side of the peak, in front of the antique replica of an echophone, and call your name out to the mountains. The canyon will return your name back to you a dozen times.
Who is Going to Love It
For all those history buffs/hikers/lovers of interesting natural phenomenon, this place is for you. The hike is strenuous enough to make you feel like you moved your body, but not too hard to wipe you out. The White City ruins offer some neat “ruins” the likes of which you would think more likely to be found in a mountain in Vermont than in this CA peak. Lastly, the Echo is a fun way to see science in action.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
It's hard to get lost on your way to Echo Mountain trailhead. Take Interstate 210 (“the 210”) from either direction and take the Lake Avenue exit. Take Lake Ave North (away from Pasadena) and follow it all the way (3.5 miles) until the road essentially ends and prompts you to take a left on E Loma Alta Drive. Park anywhere on the street where Lake ends (for free!) and leave your car all day.