Ascent of Muir Peak on 2014-03-09

Climber: Joseph Esparza

Date:Sunday, March 9, 2014
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Muir Peak
    Elevation:4712 ft / 1436 m

Ascent Trip Report

It was a time before television, it was a time before Hollywood, it was a time before what we know as Los Angeles itself, when the Trolleys of Professor Lowe, a wealthy business man, trudged up the slopes of the San Gabriel Mountains. The time period was certainly different but indeed creation remains very much the same. Experience the glory of both history and creation in this rewarding day hike through time.

In the latter part of the 1800's and the early parts of the 1900's, trolley cars carrying SoCal tourists made the spectacular journey from Rubio Canyon (Altadena) and onward up the steep slopes of the White City (no, not Minas Tirith from the LOTR...), Echo Mountain. Upon this small summit (3,250') stood Southern California's greatest attractions: a zoo, two hotels, a casino, tennis courts, and restaurants, all powered by its very own power plant and reservoir. And, so that those dwelling in the lowland could see this city after dark, the strongest searchlight in the world, bought from the Chicago World's Fair, was shown against the White City. Indeed it must have been a sight to behold.

For those with more spending cash, the Mount Lowe Railway was built up the steep slopes of Muir Peak to Ye Alpine Tavern at 4,500', 3.5 miles from Echo Mountain. At its time, this railway was one of the architectural wonders of the world, with dozens of bridges connecting the two destinations. Truly this "Railway to the Clouds" was an ingenious marvel, but it is hard to imagine just how amazing it was today. Eventually, natural forces decimated the both White City and Ye Alpine Tavern, namely fire and wind, and by 1938 even the infamous railway was abandoned. Today, thanks to the efforts of many, this historical hike through time is still possible, and is a must for all serious Southern California hikers.


Category: Strenuous
Miles: 11.5 (5 miles to Echo Mountain and back)
Elevation Gain: 2,910' (1,400' to Echo Mountain)
Location: Angeles National Forest (no Adventure Pass needed)
Directions: From the I-210 in Psedena, exit Lake Ave. and head towards the mountains. Follow this street through Altadena until it ends. Park here and enter through the Iron Gates of Cobb Estate.

The Trail: From Cobb Estate, proceed behind local's backyards, and follow the signs to Echo Mountain on the Sam Merrill Trail. You soon enter Las Flores Canyon and cross a dry wash bed. From there you switchback steeply up chaparral covered slopes (unpleasant on a hot day). You probably won't be alone, as this trail is one of the most used in the San Gabriels. You continue going under power lines, and after 1.5 miles, the trail narrows and you find yourself hugging rock cliffs above Las Flores Canyon. Continue climbing this trail until you reach a trail split. This is the Mount Lowe Railway Trail. Go to the right and proceed in a few steps to the summit of Echo Mountain amidst all its ruins. Read the informative and interesting interpretive signs to grasp the full history of the railway. For moderate hikers, this is a good turnaround point. If you want to experience the full glory of this trip, retrace your steps back towards the Sam Merrill Trail , but continue straight on the Mt. Lowe RR Road, which gently winds Las Flores Canyon. After you gain 300' above Echo Mountain, you pass the Cape of Good Hope and meet the paved Sunset Ridge Fire Road. At the intersection of this road go right and climb up steadily past gone-by-era monuments, marked by interpretive signs, such as the Horseshoe Curve, Gran Circular Bridge, Dawn Station, and at 4,80', Granite Gate. I failed to mention previously, that most of this hike climbs both the south and hot exposed side of the range, and travels through vegetation burned in to 2009 Station Fire,for both of these reasons, you should refrain from taking this trek on a hot day. Nonetheless, this trip is skirted by oak, sycamore, pine and fir, and is especially pleasant when it treks through the north slopes of Muir Peak to Ye Alpine Tavern (now Mt. Lowe Trailcamp) and the Tom Sloan Saddle (4400'). This was the end of the line (pun intended) in the olden days and from the saddle there is an in-your-face view of the hogback of Mt. Wilson. If you are especially energetic, you can continue up to the 5,600' peak of Mount Lowe itself, and get picked up at Eaton Saddle. No less worthy an endeavor is to summit Muir Peak, which requires a 300' bushwhack/scramble to its noble 4710' summit. A good topo map is recommended for this. To return, from the saddle, go onto the Upper Sam Merrill (Sunset) Trail on the north-side of Muir Peak and travel steeply down the Upper Sam Merrill Trail back to Echo Mountain Intersection and take the Sam Merrill Trail 2.5 miles back down to your car at Cobb Estate. Thank the creator for this most tiresome and rewarding trek through history.


Hiked 3-9-14, Los Angeles County

Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:2905 ft / 885 m
    Total Elevation Loss:2905 ft / 885 m
    Round-Trip Distance:11.5 mi / 18.5 km
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Bushwhack
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Pleasant, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:2905 ft / 885 m
    Distance:6.5 mi / 10.5 km
    Route:Sam Merrill Trail/Mt Lowe Railway Trail
    Start Trailhead:Cobb Estate-Lake Ave  1807 ft / 550 m
    Time:4 Hours 30 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:2905 ft / 885 m
    Distance:5 mi / 8.1 km
    Route:Upper Sam Merrill Trail
    End Trailhead:Cobb Estate-Lake Ave  1807 ft / 550 m
    Time:2 Hours 7 Minutes
Ascent Part of Trip: EchoMtn/Muir Peak

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Echo Mountain2014-03-091400 ft / 427 m
2Muir Peak2014-03-092905 ft / 885 m
Total Trip Gain: 4305 ft / 1312 m    Total Trip Loss: 2905 ft / 885 m

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