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Mt. Lowe Railway Loop

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Highlights:

Fascinating historic railway, great views, pine trees, deep canyons
Near:Altadena, CA
Scenery:
Distance:11 miles round trip
Elevation Gain:2600 ft
Hike Time:6 hours
Difficulty:Strenuous
Trail Condition:OK, but a few difficult spots
HikeType:Loop



Summary: I really enjoyed this hike along the ruins of the Mt Lowe railway, Echo Mountain, and the Alpine Tavern. These locations were the most popular in Southern California in the late 1800's, before being destroyed by floods and fire. More than a dozen historical markers along the way tell the fascinating story of this railway. To top it off, the hike includes stunning views, pine forests, deep canyons, and lots of hiking.

The first half of the hike, up to Alpine Tavern (now Mt Lowe Camp) and Inspiration Point, follows the Sunset Ridge Fire road to the top. The return leg is a bit more convoluted, but quite fun. A quarter mile down hill from Inspiration point, take the Sam Merrill Trail to Echo Mountain and visit the ruins of the former Inn at this location. Next head right on Echo Mountain Trail back to the Sunset Ridge Fire road. A hundred yards down the fire road on the right, take the unmarked trailhead for Sunset Ridge Trail, which parallels the fire road, and will get you home.

Trailhead: From Loma Alta Drive in Altadena, drive up the Chaney Trail (past a locked gate that opens at 6am) to the top of sunset ridge, where there's parking by the roadside. The trail starts east on the gated paved sunset Ridge fire road. (Lat:34.2148 Lon:-118.1477)
Trail Guides for Mt. Lowe Railway Loop:
Day Hikers Guide to Southern California
by John McKinney  (Olympus Press)

Afoot & Afield In Los Angeles
by Jerry Schad  (Wilderness Press)

101 Hikes in Southern California
by Jerry Schad  (Wilderness Press)

Best Seasons: Fall, Winter, Spring
User Groups: Hikers, bikers, Dogs
Ranger Contact: US Forest Service, 818-790-1151
Localhikes Reporter: This hike was submitted by Jim Zuber, who has posted  104 other hikes on this site
Trail Reviews  Page 1 of 8   Submit your own review
Reviewed by Paul W. on 1/5/2013
My hike was a 30 year reunion started Tuesday 2/7/2012 9am. Weather was cold and rainy... Pressed on regardless.. Brought back wonderful memories, tavern ruins looked more developed. Inspiration Point definitely improved. Hiked all the way to summit very windy.. This was my conditioning hike for Mt Whitney hike in 1982. Now live in Eugene, OR. I love the history and the oak trees where beautiful. Views were hazy but could still see coast line.. By my total 15.3 miles returned to gate at 2pm.. Never saw another person the hole way. Amazing when there are millions of people living in distant view.. Next time will start the hike at Cobb Estate in February 2013. Keep you posted another 31 year reunion.... Paul

Reviewed by Scoutmaster SP on 9/30/2012
Error: Reserved Word Found: ;

Reviewed by Massiel on 11/15/2011
I hiked this on Sunday, 11/13, and it was amazing. This was my third time going up. The first part was busy w/people hiking up to Echo mountain. After Echo Mountain it was open. Once at the campground we continued up Mt Lowe trail. The trail is a little overgrown and slippery in some areas. We took the East trail up to the top. The beginning of the east trail is overgrown but still easy enough to climb. The elevation climb is a bit tiring. It took us 3hrs15min to get to the top w/15 min lunch break. We came back down the West Trail. Running down a good portion of it. The West Trail is totally overgrown. Wear long pants or else you'll be scratch up. The top is typically a lot colder. Good idea to take a jacket for the top.

Reviewed by J H on 7/18/2011
Just a side note, tried to access the upper trail from Eaton Saddle and the road is completely washed out on the other side of the tunnel.

Reviewed by Viewer on 7/2/2011
Went up the Chaney trail upto the echo Mountain and back. Guess it must have been a total of 8 Miles hike. Awesome, as always. Loved it even more coz on the day I went (06/12/11), it was drizzling a little bit. Just enough to keep you cool. Though the mist and cloudy weather did not give me any great views, loved it coz it made the hike so easy. Would go there soon again.

Reviewed by Todd M on 5/22/2011
Went up the Sam Merrill trail to Echo Mountain, then continued along the old rail bed across Los Flores Canyon and along the sunset ridge road to the Mt Lowe Trail camp. From there I decided to extend the hike by taking the Mt. Lowe east trail to the summit of Mt. Lowe, returning back around on the West trail, back to inspiration point, descending down via Castle Canyon trail and the lower Sam Merrill trail. Trails were in very good condition with some exceptions. The Mt Lowe West trail appears to have seen very little use for some time. Perhaps these trails have been closed because of the station fire? Many areas were just officially opened back up about a week ago. The West trail is overgrown somewhat in many places but still easy

Reviewed by mike p on 4/23/2011
Hiked to alpine tavern today from chaney trail entrance. Nice hike once you pass the 2.5 miles of paved uphill nonsense. There were a lot of signs for trail closures but it looks like most didn't pay attention. Followed the fire road all the way to alpine tavern, very easy to navigate with a gradual uphill that will make you work. Had a much better hike on the way down taking middle sam merrill (sunset trail). I'd recommend staying off the fire roads as the trails are much more pleasant in this area. dont forget your adventure pass to park!!!

Reviewed by John on 3/21/2011
Up the Lower Merrill trail to Echo mountain, then took Castle Canyon trail to Inspiration Point. Used the fire road (old trail) to where Alpine Tavern was, then back down the old trolley road to Echo Mountain and the lower Merrill trail. Be advised some areas are closed due to the Station fire-I went ahead and passed through since I can't see the harm in using a road. Leave early and avoid the crowds, was by myself all morning, but lots of others coming up on my way down.


Notice: Traveling in the backcountry can be hazardous. You are responsible for informing yourself about these hazards and taking necessary precautions. Information on this web site comes from volunteer reporters and may contain errors or omissions. A current guidebook and proper equipment are essential for safe enjoyment of the hikes posted on this site.
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