Hiking The Mt. Lowe Railway Loop To Inspiration Point And Echo Mountain
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Hiking The Mt. Lowe Railway Loop To Inspiration Point And Echo Mountain

More than 100 years ago, an ambitious man by the name of Thaddeus Lowe began planning for a scenic mountain railway that would take passengers from Pasadena to the crest of the San Gabriel Mountains. Explore the historic Mt. Lowe Railway on this hike.

More than 100 years ago, an ambitious man by the name of Thaddeus Lowe began planning for a scenic mountain railway that would take passengers from Pasadena to the crest of the San Gabriel Mountains. The railway opened on Independence Day 1893 at the corner of Lake Avenue and Calaveras Street in Altadena. The electric traction railway consisted of seven miles of track that took passengers up to Echo Mountain and The (Ye) Alpine Tavern. On the top of Echo Mountain was a 70 room Victorian hotel called the Echo Mountain House, the 40 room Echo Mountain Chalet, an astronomical observatory, a casino, and a dance hall.

Hiking The Mt. Lowe Railway Loop To Inspiration Point And Echo Mountain
Echo Mountain House via LA Public Library. See more: http://www.thaddeuslowe.name/mlechohouse.htm

Over the years the railway ran into a series of troubles with floods and fires. The Mount Lowe Railway was officially closed in 1938 after a flood destroyed what was left of the facilities. Only the ruins of this once shining venture still remain, and can be visited by hikers willing to make the trek up.

Hiking The Mt. Lowe Railway Loop To Inspiration Point And Echo Mountain


Directions And GPS Tracks:

  • To hike the Mt. Lowe Railway Loop To Inspiration Point And Echo Mountain, drive to Mt Lowe Rd, Altadena, CA 91001. The final turn onto Cheney Trail Rd from W Loma Alta Dr can be easy to miss, so be vigilant. There is a small parking area next to the gated trailhead, and more parking available down the road.
  • Download GPX
  • See my track on Strava

Key Points:

  • Distance: 11.2 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 2744 ft
  • Minimum Elevation: 2110 ft
  • Maximum Elevation: 4540 ft
  • Time: 5-8 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Dog Friendly: Yes, on leash
  • Permit Required: No
  • Parking: Parking lot at trailhead and overflow lot
  • Season: Year Round
  • Trail Condition: Lots of asphalt to begin, then a mix of fire roads and single-track
  • Cell Phone Reception: Poor

Make sure to hike with the right gear. See my current hiking gear list. 


Hike Map And Elevation Profile:

Hiking The Mt. Lowe Railway Loop To Inspiration Point And Echo Mountain Hiking The Mt. Lowe Railway Loop To Inspiration Point And Echo Mountain


Hike Description:

0.0 miles- From the parking area on Chaney Trail, pass the gate blocking the entrance to the Mt. Lowe Railway. The major downside to this hike is that the first quarter of it is on asphalt. There is an option to avoid the asphalt that I will highlight in the next mile marker.

Hiking The Mt. Lowe Railway Loop To Inspiration Point And Echo Mountain
Trailhead Gate
Hiking The Mt. Lowe Railway Loop To Inspiration Point And Echo Mountain
Starting On Asphalt

0.3 miles- You’ll come across the junction for the Sunset Ridge Trail. I took the Sunset Ridge Trail downhill, but you can also take it uphill without missing Echo Mountain or Inspiration Point. The Sunset Ridge trail is far more beautiful and scenic when compared to the asphalt Mt. Lowe Rd.

Hiking The Mt. Lowe Railway Loop To Inspiration Point And Echo Mountain
Junction
Hiking The Mt. Lowe Railway Loop To Inspiration Point And Echo Mountain
Sunset Ridge Trail Junction
Hiking The Mt. Lowe Railway Loop To Inspiration Point And Echo Mountain
First Views

1.6 miles- You’ll see a side trail veer to the right of the Mt. Lowe Motorway. This is for a steep firebreak. You can take this trail or stay on the road. As you can see in the map below, you’ll get to the same place either way. The trail GPX that I had downloaded on Alltrails included this section of firebreak. I did not check it beforehand, otherwise I would have stayed on the road.

Hiking The Mt. Lowe Railway Loop To Inspiration Point And Echo Mountain
Firebreak Cutoff
Hiking The Mt. Lowe Railway Loop To Inspiration Point And Echo Mountain
Firebreak Trail To The Right

Be mindful that the firebreak trail is very steep. Do not attempt this unless you have experience with class 3 scrambling. Most hikers should continue hiking on the Mt. Lowe Rd.

Hiking The Mt. Lowe Railway Loop To Inspiration Point And Echo Mountain
Rope Assist
Hiking The Mt. Lowe Railway Loop To Inspiration Point And Echo Mountain
Firebreak

2.0 miles- You meet back up with the Sunset Ridge Trail. (If you decided to take the Sunset Ridge Trail on the uphill and avoid hiking on the 2 miles of asphalt, you can continue the guide from here.)

Hiking The Mt. Lowe Railway Loop To Inspiration Point And Echo Mountain
Join Back With Sunset Ridge

2.0 Miles- The two mile marker is also where the loop around Inspiration Point, Mt Lowe Campground, and Echo Mountain begin. I suggest you hike clockwise to start on the Mt Lowe Motorway to see Inspiration Point and Mt. Lowe Campground first and then finish with Echo mountain. I will write this guide for hiking this loop clockwise.

The interesting thing about Mt. Lowe Campground is that it was once the site of the Mt. Lowe Alpine Tavern… If only those rocks could talk.

This is also the point at which the asphalt ends and the trail becomes a fire road, making things much more pleasant on the legs.

Hiking The Mt. Lowe Railway Loop To Inspiration Point And Echo Mountain
Head Left At The Junction For A Clockwise Loop
Hiking The Mt. Lowe Railway Loop To Inspiration Point And Echo Mountain
Stay Left
Hiking The Mt. Lowe Railway Loop To Inspiration Point And Echo Mountain
Leaving The Asphalt Behind Past The Cape Of Good Hope

Just after beginning your clockwise loop, you’ll see what was once the longest straight stretch of track on the Mt. Lowe Railway. This stretch was only 225ft long! The 3.5 mile stretch of trail from Echo Mountain to the Mt. Lowe Campground (Alpine Tavern) had 127 curves with 114 straight segments of track.

Hiking The Mt. Lowe Railway Loop To Inspiration Point And Echo Mountain
Curving Track
Hiking The Mt. Lowe Railway Loop To Inspiration Point And Echo Mountain
Hiking Up

2.5 miles- You’ll come to what used to be Dawn Station and get to see the Three Levels view. This view lets you see the three levels of track switchbacking up the mountains to cover the 225 ft of elevation change between Dawn Station and Sunset View.

Just after the Three Levels view, you see what used to be the Mt. Lowe Railway Circular Bridge. The bridge edged out over the side of the cliff and was the feature image on Mt. Lowe souvenir photos. The circular bridge allowed the Mt. Lowe Railway to reach into the upper sections of Millard Canyon. At 400ft in length and a diameter of 150ft the bridge climbed a 4.5% grade to end 20ft higher than it started.  The bridge has since crumbled, but the views this area offers of Echo Mountain are still quite nice.

Hiking The Mt. Lowe Railway Loop To Inspiration Point And Echo Mountain
Above The Circular Bridge

Shortly after seeing Circular Bridge, you’ll come to an area that used to be the Halfway Bridge that marked the half-way point between Echo Mountain and The Alpine Tavern. The bridge was later removed for the construction of the road.

Hiking The Mt. Lowe Railway Loop To Inspiration Point And Echo Mountain
Heading Uphill
Hiking The Mt. Lowe Railway Loop To Inspiration Point And Echo Mountain
Near Halfway Bridge

4.8 miles- You’ll see the Mt. Lowe Campground on the foundation of what used to be The Alpine Tavern. The original Alpine Tavern was made of pine on a granite foundation, and was intended to blend in with it’s surroundings as per Thaddeus Lowe’s request. When buildings on Echo Mountain were lost in 1905, the Tavern became the mountain’s main attraction, with tennis courts, shuffle board, and ping pong. The round trip from Los Angeles cost visitors $2.00. Rooms were $5.50-$7.00 a night and a little extra for an included bath.

Hiking The Mt. Lowe Railway Loop To Inspiration Point And Echo Mountain
The Old Alpine Tavern
Hiking The Mt. Lowe Railway Loop To Inspiration Point And Echo Mountain
Alpine Tavern via LA Public Library: http://www.thaddeuslowe.name/mlalpinetavern.htm
Hiking The Mt. Lowe Railway Loop To Inspiration Point And Echo Mountain
Alpine Tavern via LA Public Library: http://www.thaddeuslowe.name/mlalpinetavern.htm

5.0 miles- After leaving the Alpine Tavern, you’ll reach a junction with the Sam Merrill Trail, the Idlehour Trail, and a fire road heading to Inspiration Point. Take the fire road towards Inspiration Point.

Hiking The Mt. Lowe Railway Loop To Inspiration Point And Echo Mountain
Junction Sign
Hiking The Mt. Lowe Railway Loop To Inspiration Point And Echo Mountain
Taking The Fireroad
Hiking The Mt. Lowe Railway Loop To Inspiration Point And Echo Mountain
Shipping Out

5.3 miles- You’ll reach Inspiration Point and the “Wold Famous” Telescope View at 4540ft.

Hiking The Mt. Lowe Railway Loop To Inspiration Point And Echo Mountain
Inspiration Point
Hiking The Mt. Lowe Railway Loop To Inspiration Point And Echo Mountain
View Scopes
Hiking The Mt. Lowe Railway Loop To Inspiration Point And Echo Mountain
Looking Out

Leaving Inspiration Point behind, you’ll take the Castle Canyon Trail to descend towards Echo Mountain. It is a 2.0 mile hike from Inspiration Point to Echo Mountain. After the early stretches of asphalt and fire road, the lush single track of Castle Canyon is a nice change of pace.

Hiking The Mt. Lowe Railway Loop To Inspiration Point And Echo Mountain
Trail
Hiking The Mt. Lowe Railway Loop To Inspiration Point And Echo Mountain
Nice

7.3 miles- You’ll reach a junction with an option to head out and explore the ruins of Echo Mountain.

Hiking The Mt. Lowe Railway Loop To Inspiration Point And Echo Mountain
Approaching Echo Mountain
Hiking The Mt. Lowe Railway Loop To Inspiration Point And Echo Mountain
Remnants
Hiking The Mt. Lowe Railway Loop To Inspiration Point And Echo Mountain
Foundations

Echo Mountain was once adorned by a casino dance hall, tennis courts, a power plant, a car barn, and the Victorian Echo Mountain House.

Hiking The Mt. Lowe Railway Loop To Inspiration Point And Echo Mountain
Incline Car via LA Public Library
Hiking The Mt. Lowe Railway Loop To Inspiration Point And Echo Mountain
Picnic Area
Hiking The Mt. Lowe Railway Loop To Inspiration Point And Echo Mountain
Remnants II
Hiking The Mt. Lowe Railway Loop To Inspiration Point And Echo Mountain
City Views

Echo Mountain gets it’s name from the echoes that carry throughout Rubio Canyon. In the early 1900’s, the Mt. Lowe Railway installed an Echo Phone so that visitors could amplify their voices. The original echo phone was lost, but it’s foundation still remains right in front of the newer one.

Hiking The Mt. Lowe Railway Loop To Inspiration Point And Echo Mountain
Echo Phone

Once you’ve explored Echo Mountain, head back towards the trail that your arrived on and look for a junction. Take the Mt. Lowe Railway Trail to finish your loop of Inspiration Point and Echo Mountain.

Hiking The Mt. Lowe Railway Loop To Inspiration Point And Echo Mountain
Stay Right Here
Hiking The Mt. Lowe Railway Loop To Inspiration Point And Echo Mountain
Mt. Lowe Railway Trail

8.5 miles- You’ll have finished the loop and will have returned to the asphalt Mt. Lowe Rd with an option to take the Sunset Ridge Trail back to the parking area. Take the Sunset Ridge Trail and enjoy the pleasant downhill hike back to your car.

Hiking The Mt. Lowe Railway Loop To Inspiration Point And Echo Mountain
Mt. Lowe Rd
Hiking The Mt. Lowe Railway Loop To Inspiration Point And Echo Mountain
Sunset Ridge Junction
Hiking The Mt. Lowe Railway Loop To Inspiration Point And Echo Mountain
Sunset Ridge Trail

11.2 miles- End of hike.


I'm Drew, creator of Trail to Peak. Trail to Peak brings content to life on the web through breath-taking photography and captivating video. I launched Trail to Peak in 2014 with a goal to inspire readers to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors. I have traveled to 19 countries, walked Camino de Santiago, hiked the John Muir Trail, trekked through the Andes of Peru, and am constantly seeking new adventures in my home state of California. Joining me on my weekly adventures is my partner, Julia, our son, Owen, and our two goldendoodles, Isla and Lilly.

6 comments on “Hiking The Mt. Lowe Railway Loop To Inspiration Point And Echo Mountain

  1. I love the way your posts give complete info about the hikes! Cheers! ✌

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lyvly Bee

    I love how this is so detailed, especially with the photos. People often suggest routes but seldom have detailed information about the actual trail itself. This is incredibly helpful. I can’t wait to see what other insightful trail tips you have to offer for other locations.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! As a hiker, I often find suggested routes with nothing more than a few photos. I started my hiking guides in hopes of answering all of the questions an aspiring hiker might have of a trail.

      Liked by 1 person

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