Monday, November 17, 2014

Hike 2014.058: Rubio Canyon to Echo Mountain via New Trail

Hiked Sunday, November 16. I had planned on a longer hike on Sunday, but got a late start. So I shifted my attention to something local, like my old standby, Lake Avenue to Echo Mountain. But the streets near that trailhead were packed when I arrived, at about 2pm. I was thus forced elsewhere. I settled on the "old" trailhead, at the "corner" of Pleasantridge Drive and Rubio Vista Drive, in Altadena. (There are newer Rubio Canyon trailheads, down on Loma Alta Drive).

I wasn't 100% of where I was going to go from there, but I was leaning towards taking the trail that heads up from the pavilion foundation. However, after just 1/5 mile, I came upon a rock. And on that rock, in magic marker, were arrows, pointing either up-canyon, towards the waterfalls, or uphill, towards Echo Mountain.

Well, this was a new twist. I'd actually hiked an earlier incarnation of this trail previously (see the link for the "newer Rubio Canyon" trailhead, above), but found it steep and crumbly, so I was leaning towards just going all the way to the Pavilion, and hiking up from there. That trail, while steep, is over ground that seems more resistant to erosion.

Meanwhile, I was very confident that the waterfalls of Rubio Canyon, while sometimes quite impressive, now would have little or no water falling. That meant I had little interest in going past the pavilion.

On the other hand, with the "invitation" on this rock, I decided to turn, here.

The Arroyos and Foothills Conservancy has been building trails all over Rubio Canyon. As noted above, some have been crazy-steep and narrow, and some have proven short-lived, with later bypasses constructed when either the old trail eroded away or when the trail builders determined a more durable route could be built nearby. Well, again, given the rock invitation, I assumed this meant the trail had been improved, once again.

It had been. It was still quite narrow and steep in parts, and still often just went straight up ridgelines rather than traversing slowly up inclines. Nonetheless, the trail was more durable than that earlier incarnation, and easy to follow. In several areas, anchors and boards had been engineered into the ground to help retain the trail from eroding away so quickly.

This "new" trail from Rubio Canyon meets up with the Sam Merrill trail just before the Sam Merrill goes under the powerline towers.

Unfortunately, just before you reach that point, you pass a place where (at least yesterday) several people have recently decided made a great bathroom. The smell of human excrement and the streamers of used toilet paper was an unwelcome sight and smell added to my little Sunday walk.

Once on the Sam Merrill, it's a wide and easy (though still altitude-gaining) route, up to Echo Mountain. I'd guess it's about 1.4 or 1.5 miles from the junction to Echo Mountain, so call it 2 1/2 to 2 3/4 miles total from the Rubio Canyon trailhead to Echo Mountain. That makes it 5 to 5.5 miles, roundtrip.

Along the way, at least one very large group was strung out along the trail, probably 30-35 hikers, altogether. That, plus the regular weekend crowds of Echo Mountain, were why I couldn't find parking on Lake. So lots of people on the trail, though it was not especially crowded when I reached the top.

The "top," of course, is Dr. Lowe's old White City. Foundations and the last bit of rail for the funicular that brought you up from Rubio Canyon are all that remain of what was once a very posh resort.

I rested here for about 20 minutes, trying to stretch my back out (it was giving me trouble yesterday). Then I headed back down the way I came. I got back to the car before sunset. Nice to be out again, even if my hike was shorter than I had originally hoped for a weekend day.


  1. Hi-The trail between Rubio and the Merrill is the lower portion of the Old Echo Mt. Trail built in 1892 to move material to Echo Mt. prior to the construction of the Incline. It was built as a work trail not a recreational trail, so it is steep and unsophisticated. As much as possible I have tried to maintain the original grade but have added swithbacks where that was not possible. The Lone Tree is also very steep because it too was "designed" as a work trail.-Paul Ayers, Rubio Trailmaster, AFC.