Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Hike 2011.013 -- Echo Mountain and Lower Castle Canyon

Hiked Tuesday, March 1. I started out this hike planning to head up to Inspiration Point, because I thought there might still be some snow at the top. But I got distracted by a pretty waterfall.

The Sam Merrill trail head is at the north end of Lake Avenue. From the 210 freeway, head north, until you can see the end of the road. Then start looking for a parking spot.

At its end, Lake runs into Alta Loma. East of Lake, there are large gates that enclose the former Cobb Estate. Walk to the right of the gates, through the opening. There's an old paved road that begins heading east, and you can walk along this road, or just to the right of that road.

When the pavement curves sharply to the left, you have several choices. If you head left, along the curve, you'd be on the Alta Dena Crest Trail, heading west. That trail only goes a few miles before it peters out. There are also some use trails that split off this way, right along a fire break, straight up the hill. Or you can just head north, to the water tank. Or you can take the trail that runs into the bottom of this canyon, where you'd see a small but graffiti-stained waterfall.

Heading straight where the pavement ended would take you east-bound on the Alta Dena Crest, which would take you to Eaton Canyon (with about 1/2 along the streets of Alta Dena). On the other hand, if you go straight off the pavement, then hang a sharp left, you'd be on the Sam Merrill. That's the path I took today.

Because I intended to go to Inspiration Point, I walked slowly but consistent-ly. When I neared Echo Mountain, I ignored the two left-branching trails that would have taken me up alternate (but officially closed) trails to Inspiration Point. Currently, under the Station Fire recovery order, the only legal way to Inspiration Point is via the Castle Canyon trail, which is the third left turn you're presented with as you close to within about 1/10th mile of Echo Mountain.

However, as noted, shortly after making the turn on the Castle Canyon trail, I saw a beautiful (but distant) waterfall (A wide-angle view of Castle Canyon is the first picture in this post; the second is a close-up of the section near the center but bottom quarter of that picture, showing the waterfall). When I soon came to the first water crossing of the Castle Canyon trail, I got the crazy idea to try to hike down the creek to the waterfall I saw. This is after only about 1/2 mile on the Castle Canyon trail.

I felt like I was making some pretty decent progress down the creek, but I kept hitting impassable sections. It was a lot of 100 yards down, 75 yards sideways, 100 yards down, 75 yards back, etc., etc. In reality, I probably made it no more than 300 yards down the creek. I was no where near the waterfall I saw. But I was tired, so I headed back out.

On the way out, I came across a tent. It looked like it had been there a while, and evidence of camping were all around. No idea how long they had been there and how long they planned to stay.

Once I got back to the Sam Merrill, I took the short detour to Echo Mountain. Then I headed about 200 yards over the top, just to see a few of the Rubio Canyon Waterfalls. In addition to the very thin and tall waterfall, I noticed another thin waterfall feeding that one, from the right.

Then I came back up and took a few shots of "The White City" before heading home. While there, I noticed a nice view to the east, towards Henninger Flats. I also noticed that the wall near the steps had been painted an unusual shade of blue. I guess it was supposed to hide graffiti.

Got back to the car about four hours after I left. Probably 6 1/2 miles of walking, maybe 7.

Bottom line: Lots of waterfalls visible in Castle and Rubio Canyons. But they're all pretty far from the Sam Merrill and Castle Canyon trails. I may try hitting Rubio Canyon again, since the water looks to be flowing pretty good, now.


  1. Hey SkyHiker...we think a lot alike. Echo Mt. was my other option for this past weekend, but I ended up on Monroe TT since I figured the views of the snow-capped high country would be better. My Rubio write-up my help you in exploring the waters.

  2. Dan--I've read your write-ups on Rubio Canyon a number of times. That's how I first found out there were waterfalls in there! But it's been probably a year since the last time I ventured past the Thalehaha overlook. Going past there was tricky, to say the least.

  3. Skyhiker, I did Echo a few weeks ago. When coming down the Sam Merrill Trail after sunset, I passed a middle-aged black man was heading up. All he had was a grocery bag of stuff, and a Nalgene water bottle. He wasn't dressed as a hiker. I suspected he was living up in the mountains and maybe that tent you found was proof.

  4. Yeah, I've seen people heading up there way too late to get back down before dark. Some of them might just be planning on a moonlight or starlight hike, but I also suspected some of them were living up there, even before I came across the tent.