Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Hike 26: Altadena Crest Trail and Echo Mountain

Today was a two-part hike. Part one was exploring the Altadena Crest Trail segment that runs west from the Sam Merrill Trail. Part two was to hike to Echo Mountain, which I hadn't done in about a month.

From the street parking near the corner of Lake and Alta Loma, you head east, around the stately gates of the Cobb Estate. After about 150 yards, you come to a few signs. The Altadena Crest Trail sign points both north and southeast. The trail for Echo Mountain heads off to the northeast. This is where I ended my westward hike on the Altadena Crest trail yesterday.

From the sign, I headed north. After about 100 yards along the road, a downed sign seemed to indicate the Altadena Crest Trail now headed west (it did). You then walk up and to the west. After about 200 yards, you discover that you are only about 150 yards north of where you entered the Cobb Estate. Oh, joy: You've just circumnavigated the lower portion of the Cobb Estate.

Here, a firebreak bulldozer trail cuts across your trail. The adventurous or stupid head up the very steep cut, due north (they may also have just headed up this steep cut that begins just west of the Cobb Estate sign and gotten to this point more out of breath but much faster than you).

As with the segment to the east, this segment is also south-facing and overlooking some large custom houses. However, the trail drops down the street level at Devonwood. You cross the street and the trail then goes right in front of a large home. You're then walking along a sort of alley between homes for a bit.

When the alley widens, there's an Altadena Crest Trail sign indicating the trail heads north. But, from there, it is very unclear which way you are supposed to go. I eventually did get on what I believed to be the main trail. But within a half-mile, this trail led me to a street. I passed a sign that indicated 300 Taos Road was up a certain way. I went the other way, down Taos. After a bit, I passed a sign facing the other way. It said, "Private Road--Residents Only." So obviously I hadn't gone the right way.

I continued down Taos to McNally Avenue, then followed that down to Loma Alta. I then wandered up several roads, including Fair Oaks (discovered that the north end disappears into some sort of private development). Didn't run across any other Altadena Crest Trail signs, or any other access to the mountains. It then occured to me that this sort of exploring would be a lot faster in a car. So I decided to save this exploration for another day.

Instead, I returned to Alta Loma and headed east, back to Lake. Then I did the Echo Mountain hike, just because. This time, rather than going to where the tracks run in front of the old hotel, I took the Sam Merrill Trail a bit further north, to visit the ruins of the old observatory. A sign there indicated that the tall pillar once supported a 16" refractor. That's the picture at the top of this blog post. My mouth drooled at the prospect of looking through such an instrument.

The second picture is a slightly less-cropped version of the picture above. In this one, you can see the outline of distant Mt. San Jacinto, on the left. I'm hoping to hike up that mountain in the summer.

It was a relatively clear day. I sat on the low wall that marked the foundation of the observatory dome, admiring the view, drinking Gatorade and eating a Cliff Bar. Downtown LA was easily visible. The Pacific Ocean was easy. Palos Verdes and Santa Catalina Island were also easy.

Right (north) of Catalina was another small island that I don't remember seeing before. It was probably Santa Barbara Island. Yep, good visibility.

Refreshed, I headed back down the mountain. Probably 8 miles of walking, total.

After returning home, I checked again for further information on the Altadena Crest Trail. Appears there is another segment in existence at the western terminus, out near Loma Alta Park. This is at the corner of Lincoln and Loma Alta. I'll probably be checking out this segment within a week.


  1. hey there!

    I really like your page. Noticed that not too many Mount Lowe fan pages have "comments" sections for enthusiasts like me, so I thought I'd leave a comment.

    You know, I haven't been up to Echo Mountain since the early 90s, used to hike up all around there thru most of the early 1980s, and ALWAYS wondered just exactly where the observatory was.

    Judging from your photo, I think that I probably did not wander far enough away from the "white city" area, always thought it was MUCH closer to the hotel/tracks. Pretty cool!

    I'd like to make it back up there some time to check out the area soon.

    A few years ago, when I mentioned Echo Mtn. to my dad, he joked, "I bet there's a McDonald's up there by now!" ha!

    We used to get the BEST pastramis from the Hat in Altadena, then take the lunch over to Rubio Canyon.

    Take care, if you ever want to meet up there some day, shoot me an e-mail.


  2. You are correct; it's well above the "White City," and not along the track grade. It's along the "other" trail, the middle one (not the Castle Canyon one and not the grade to Sunset Point). I think it's still the Sam Merrill, here.