Castle Canyon

The Castle Canyon Trail connects Echo Mountain to Inspiration Point.  So, you need to reach one of those two end points from another trail to hike Castle Canyon.  One way to get to the Castle Canyon trail is to start from the Cobb Estate and hike up to Echo Mountain using the Lower Sam Merrill Trail.

Like the Lower Sam Merrill Trail, Castle Canyon begins without shade.

However, a large part of the trail is shady and even meets up with a small stream in a couple places (that may not have water in summer).

After enough rain or snow, a seasonal waterfall (or water-trickle) emerges.

The trail starts at an elevation of about 3200′ and reaches close to 4500′ and will sometimes be covered in snow.  Usually, just enough snow to make it interesting and hike-able without snowshoes or crampons.  So, several times during winter or spring you can park at the Cobb Estate in Altadena and fairly quickly hike up to snow along this trail (2-1/2 to 4-1/2 miles from parking depending on snow level).

Unlike the Lower Sam Merrill trail where at any time you can look out to views of the city, much of the time the view of the canyon and what is surrounding you on the trail is introspective and is blocked from city views.

At other times there are great views of the city and of Echo Mountain from above.

A significant portion of the trail gets a little steep compared with the rest of the trail–which is great if you are training.  Even if you aren’t training, the reward of making it to Inspiration Point is worth the effort.  At Inspiration Point there is shade, picnic tables, signage with history of the area, and remnants of the old one man and mule railway.

On a clear day, there are excellent views down the canyon and of the city, the ocean, and Catalina Island.

Hiking to the White City Ruins at Echo Mountain

The White City Ruins are what remain of a resort that existed at Echo Mountain in the early 1900’s.  There are remnants of of the resort and associated structures, incline railway leading to it, and the electric railway leading from Echo Mountain to the Alpine Tavern (now Mt. Lowe Campground) near Inspiration Point.  In addition, there are several signs throughout the ruins sharing the history of the resort and the people who built it.

View overlooking remains of the incline railway landing from what is left of the stairway leading to the hotel.

An extremely popular way to get to Echo Mountain is to take the Lower Sam Merrill Trail.  This trail offers great views of the city and on a clear day the ocean and Catalina Island are easily seen.  These views are the primary appeal of the trail itself until one reaches Echo Mountain.  Significantly, there isn’t much shade on this trail.  Therefore, a great time to hike it is in the winter, early in the morning, or at dusk.  I prefer to hike it at dusk or even after sunset.  Several hikers make their way up to Echo Mountain in the evening, so it’s relatively safe to travel at night when compared with other areas of the forest.  With the ocean off in the distance, sunsets are typically magnificent.

"Zoomed in" view toward the ocean from the Lower Sam Merrill Trail

Another way to get to Echo Mountain is to take the Sunset Ridge Trail from one of the two trailheads off of Chaney Trail in Millard Canyon.  The shorter path starts from the gate and meets up with the Upper Sunset Ridge Trail and ends up at the Cape of Good Hope.  Unlike the Lower Sam Merrill Trail, the views are essentially of the forest.  The trail is often shady and there are nice views of Millard Falls.  Presently however, access to the falls is closed.  There is also a nice picnic area with a view of the city at Sierra Saddle just over half way to the Cape of Good Hope.

Upper Sunset Ridge Trail

The longer path starts near the Millard Canyon Campground.  It includes the short lower part of the Sunset Ridge Trail (about 0.8 miles) and is a shady trail leading up to the Upper Sunset Ridge Trail.

Lower Sunset Ridge Trail

From the Cape of Good Hope, the Lower Mt. Lowe Railway Trail leads to Echo Mountain.  This trail is interesting as there are remains of the old electric railway and several railway bridges.  Along the way, there are signs throughout showing pictures of the train at the time it was running.

Lower Mt. Lowe Railway Trail

If you are going with a group and taking multiple cars, another option is to leave a car at the Cobb Estate Trailhead and a car at one of the two trailheads off of Chaney Trail and do a shuttle hike.