Hiking LA is one of the most fun things do in Southern California, and one of the benefits to living in this warm-weather metropolis near the sea. While there are many trails for hiking LA — all of them unique in their own way — Echo Mountain is arguably one of the most enjoyable.
Perhaps what sets the Echo Mountain hike apart from other Los Angeles hikes is that it not only allows you to experience Southern California nature, it also give you a taste of history.
Hiking LA: The White City
At the top of the hiking trail at Echo Mountain sits the burnt-out ruins of The White City, a late 19th Century hotel. The hotel was built in 1896 by Professor Thaddeus S. C. Lowe, an inventor and Civil War balloonist (no, I don’t know what that job really means either) and engineer David J. MacPherson.
Together they built the resort 3,207 feet above sea level with two hotels, an observatory and a small zoo. It became a must-see attraction. Guests were not expected to hike to the resort, instead they took a tram line that was built to reach the complex!
After a series of fires and windstorms the resort was abandoned in 1938 but its remains are still on view for anyone that enjoys a good hike.
Hiking LA: Relics and Ruins
Following the trail up Echo Mountain you will know when you’re close to the hotel’s concrete foundations when you pass the rusted tram still sitting on an abandoned track. Just a short stretch up is a giant wheel that was used to pull the tram along its 4-mile journey through the mountains. I’m sure this tram journey was at least half the fun back when it was in operation.
At the site of the remains, many sign posts show pictures of the original hotel accompanied by text on the history of each spot.
When you are done with the stellar view of Pasadena that stretches out to Downtown LA (I’m told you can even see the ocean on a clear day) you can then cross the ruins towards Castle Canyon, the big mountain that Echo Mountain foots.
Hiking LA: Echophone
Past the ruins you will find the Echophone.
This peak is named Echo Mountain because when you shout into Castle Canyon you get a clear repeated echo. At some point the Boy Scouts tested out the quality of the echos and found what they called the sweet spots. They then placed metal megaphones pointed at Castle Canyon. Replicas of the Echophones remain for you to try out yourself. The original Echophones are now parts of personal or museum collections.
How Hard a Hike Is It?
This hike is a five mile round trip, two and a half to the peak, and back down again.
The first half can be a little tough (especially in the summer), so remember your water and maybe a protein bar. At the top there is a picnic area surround by pine trees, this well-shaded spot is a great place to cool down and rest before you head home.
To access the Echo Mountain hike drive towards Pasadena and exit the 210 to head north on Lake Avenue. At the head of the road you can get street parking and follow the path on the right that enters Angeles National Forest.
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