Category Archives: Inspiration Point

Echo Mountain and Mt. Lowe via Sam Merrill and Castle Canyon Trail

This was a very interesting hike due to the history of the “White City” on Echo Mountain. In the Late 1890’s through 1930’s, a resort known as the “White City” provided one of the top two Southern California attractions during that time; there was a trolley that would take guests all the way to the top of Echo Mountain to this amazing resort. Unfortunately, due to fires and flood, all that remains now are the ruins of this once great hotel. The hike to Echo Mountain is about 2.7 miles and a gain of about 1400 feet via the Sam Merrill trail which you can access from the old Cobb Estate. This is one of the most popular hikes in the area due to the history and therefore it can get very busy. I did this hike several months ago and though the weather was not great, the views to and from Echo Mountain; the old “White City” were amazing. Unfortunately, my plan was to go to the summit of Mt. Lowe and about 1/2 mile past Echo Mountain, the weather got a lot worse and a huge fog bank hit. Echo Mountain is a great area to take pictures as there are many ruins there, which include the hotel foundations, old trolley’s, trolley wheels, trolley tracks, picnic area where the tennis courts once stood, and, several plaques that explain the history of the “White City.” This is a great place to reminisce what was once there. Even if you decide to turn back from there, this will be a good workout with a 1400 foot gain and a 5.4 miles round trip. But, if you want to explore this area further and hike up to the summit Mt. Lowe, it will be well worth it.

One of the "White City" ruins at the top of Echo Mountain.

To head towards to the Summit of Mt. Lowe, look for the Castle Canyon Trail, which is about 1/4 mile from the “White City.” This trail will first take you 2 miles with a 1400 foot gain up to Inspiration Point. This first 1/2 mile or so of this trail is pretty moderate, but as you get towards the last mile or so, it becomes very steep and I believe most of the 1400 gain is in this section. I found this section of the trail one of the more challenging I have been on, and I have done some Monster Hikes that include Mt. Baldy from the village(about a 5700 foot gain), Cucamonga Peak, Finger Rock in Arizona, and the famous Mt. Whitney. On top of that, as the weather got worse, a massive fog bank engulfed the area, and, boy, it got really cold and tougher to breathe during this steep ascencion. As I got to Inspiration Point, there was still not much I could see because of the fog, but Inspiration Point is covered, and it has benches and picnic tables, it has some more plaques about the history, and it also has lots of spotters that point to different areas in Southern California. This is a great spot if the weather is clear. At this point, you will have gained about 2800 feet in elevation. So, I took a 5 minute break, and then began the final ascencion to the Summit of Mt. Lowe; which is about another 1.75 miles and about another 1100 feet in gain from Inspiration Point. As I was climbing the fog actually got worse and I could barely see ten feet in front of me and there was noboby hiking at this point except me until I reached the summit of Mt. Lowe. To my surprise, I saw a group of Korean folks that were just packing up from a picnic that they were having. At the summit, there are more plaques about the history and the railway, and, there are some benches and more spotters that point towards the Mt. Wilson area. There is also a register that you can sign, so, I did, and then I headed back down. Of course, on a clear day, the views from here must be astonishing.

"Inspiration Point" but it did not live up to the name with this huge fog bank.

Mt. Lowe Statistics

  • Elevation Gain – 3900 feet
  • Round Trip – 13 Miles
  • Suggested Time – 6 Hours
  • Difficulty – Strenuous
  • Best Season – Any Season

An old tree engulfed in the fog bank on the ascension to the Summit of Mt. Lowe.

Echo Mountain and Mt. Lowe is in the Angeles National Forest. From the East I-210 Foothill Freeway in Pasadena, exit at Lake Avenue and make a left (North) for about 3.4 miles to the end of Lake Avenue until it connects with Loma Alta Drive(which runs East to West). From there you can park along the street and the hike begins to the right of the stone gateway on the east side of the street. Look for the Sam Merrill Trail.

If you have any quesitons about this hike, please feel free to leave a comment here and/or email me at 412cobrapower@gmail.com

Sandstone Peak via Mishe Mokwa Trail

The Sandstone Peak hike via the Mishe Mokwa Trail is another intriguing trek with great views and interesting rock formations(Balance Rock and Split Rock). This is a 6 mile loop with an elevation gain of about 1400 feet. The trail is in good condition and offers quite a bit of shade and great places to take pictures and to just relax(Split Rock). Sandstone Peak is the tallest peak in the Santa Monica Mountains at an elevation of 3,111 feet. The peak has an excellent 360 degree view towards the Pacific Ocean, Ventura County, the San Fernando Valley and the Los Angeles area. This is a very popular spot so parking can be a little difficult and the drive up there is not easy as the road does twist and turn a lot and can get very narrow in certain parts. Once you get to the Trailhead, the signs are very clear and it is very easy to follow the trail to the peak. There is another way to get to Sandstone Peak via the Sandstone Peak Trail, but, that is only about a 1.3 miles to the top and steeper. My recommendation for the best experience to the Sandstone Peak is to take the Mishe Mokwa Trail.

Danilo and Gyorgyi in the Split Rock.

When you begin your hike on the Mishe Mokwa Trail, you will come to a junction about half a mile into it; stay straight on the trail, do not turn left. In 1.3 miles, you will reach Split Rock, this is a very shaded area with picnic tables where you can enjoy snacks and/or drinks with a very peaceful sense. The trail from Split Rock picks up, and at the point, you have 2.4 miles to get to the Sandstone Peak. Once you proceed on the trail, you will reach a junction, turn left. If you go straight, you can reach Balance Rock, but it is not a maintained trail. After you turn left, you will ascend quite a bit more and then it will level out. You will then reach a sign that lists a trail to the Tri-Peaks towards the right, if you wish to go that way. If you do not wish to go towards the Tri-Peaks, then continue on the trail and you will reach a sign that lists the Sandstone Peak at .9 miles away. You will then ascend more and reach a sign to Inspiration Point, which is a great area to relax and get great views. After stopping at Inspiration Point, head back down and continue towards Sandstone Peak; which at this point is about half a mile away, but you will gain about 300 feet in elevation to reach the top. The last part is pretty steep. Once you get to the top, you will have the greatest views in the Santa Monica Mountains, and just like Inspiration Point, there is plaque there as well. There is also a register that you can sign in the plaque. To finish the loop, descend from the peak and connect to the trail. Make a right and go about 2 miles back to the parking lot.

Danilo and the Plaque at the Sandstone Peak.

Sandstone Peak Statistics:

  • Elevation Gain – 1400 feet
  • Round Trip – 6 miles
  • Suggested Time – 3 hours
  • Difficulty – Moderate
  • Best Season – Any Season

View from Sandstone Peak.

Sandstone Peak is in the Santa Monica Mountains. From Westlake Village, exit Westlake Blvd from the 101 North, and make a left(23 South) for several miles as it merges with Mulholland Highway. Contine on the 23 South and then head West(right on Mulholland Highway). Do not go straight to Decker Road. Continue for a about a mile or so on Mulholland Highway and turn right onto Little Sycamore Canyon and it will become Yerba Buena Road as you cross the county line. Continue on Yerba Buena Road for about 4 miles to Trailhead (about a mile before you hit the Circle X Ranch Ranger Station).

If you have any questions about this hike, please leave a comment on this page and/or email me at 412cobrapower@gmail.com