Mount Lowe Railway Loop

HARD 147 reviews
#12 of 191 trails in

Mount Lowe Railway Loop is a 9.8 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Altadena, California that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

9.8 miles
2762 feet

dog friendly




mountain biking

nature trips

trail running




wild flowers


Fascinating historic railway, great views, pine trees, deep canyons. This is a hike along the ruins of the Mt Lowe railway, Echo Mountain, and the Alpine Tavern. These locations were the most popular in Southern California in the late 1800's, before being destroyed by floods and fire. More than a dozen historical markers along the way tell the fascinating story of this railway. To top it off, the hike includes stunning views, pine forests, deep canyons, and lots of hiking. The first half of the hike, up to Alpine Tavern (now Mt Lowe Camp) and Inspiration Point, follows the Sunset Ridge Fire road to the top. The return leg is a bit more convoluted, but quite fun. A quarter mile down hill from Inspiration point, take the Sam Merrill Trail to Echo Mountain and visit the ruins of the former Inn at this location. Next head right on Echo Mountain Trail back to the Sunset Ridge Fire road. A hundred yards down the fire road on the right, take the unmarked trailhead for Sunset Ridge Trail, which parallels the fire road, and will get you home.

1 month ago

Wow, what a enjoyable walk!

1 month ago

I love this area but it’s easy to get lost because there are so many trails and roads. It is not moderate, it is hard if you are not in good shape! Road/trails are a steady incline but so worth it. For those asking about the swing: once you get to the campground, you will see 2 white signs. Hike between them (trail is on the right). After a short distance you will meet up with the road again. Take Sam Merrill trail east or west (there are signs) to get to the top of Mt. Lowe. I took West because it looked easier to navigate (the trial is slightly hidden by a log and I walked right past it. Look for the sign). Gorgeous views and a cool little swing. 18 miles total for me, using sunset ridge to start the hike. I uploaded the funky little map I saw, which is pretty accurate!

2 months ago

Very great hike. Like a few others, the hike will certainly test your resilience and endurance. The hike is a continuous upward hike. If your body is not conditioned, you will have a hard time getting up there. Still looking forward to finding the Mount Lowe tavern ruins. Did not get there today due to time.

2 months ago

We started from Millard camp ground and hiked about 6 miles up. We were looking for the swing on top of the mountain but never found it. Can anyone direct us to the swing for our next attempt? It would be greatly appreciated

2 months ago

just get there super early for parking but it's all worth wild

2 months ago

What an amazing hike! It is beyond beautiful! I also ran into a few deers this morning :)

3 months ago

Beautiful trail but definitely crowded during peak hours around noon. Best to get an early start!

4 months ago

I did a very similar hike to this in which I descended from Mt. Lowe Trail Camp via the Sam Merrill Trail (at around the 5 mile mark, according to the route on this page). Check out my recording. The entire route is a great mix of paved roads, fire roads, and trails.

5 months ago

Great place to hike. There's a lot of bikers along the path. Amazing view. Definitely one of my favorite places to hike. Very easy trail to hike

6 months ago

We started out doing the Dawn mine hike and ended up here. Quite a ways to get lost haha after going through the canyon we kept hiking up not knowing where we were going. I'm guessing the route we took was the one far less traveled, which I don't recommend, we were very high up on the mountain and going down made for a VERY narrow path way with little to no room for error. The story is pretty lovely and sparked my interest in learning more about it. Very cool wonderful views for a wonderful hike. If I decide to go back you can bet it won't be the way I came last time

7 months ago

The gate to the trailhead opens at 6:00am but you can park at the gate and add more miles to your hike if you want to start early. However we were there at 6 but someone showed up to open the gate around 6:20...
We are definitely going back to this trail to hike it counterclockwise because you can tell it will be more fun. By more fun I mean more difficult :))!
It's a gorgeous trail with lots of shading BUT use bug spray if you don't want to wave your hands every 10 seconds.

8 months ago

interesting hike along the old Mt. Lowe railroad. lots of signs showing the history of the railroad are an added bonus.

9 months ago

I rode up mt Lowe rd from the top of Chaney trail. it is a steep climb till you pass the Trail from echo mountain. after that it is a more manageable grade, as it follows the old railway. I took it to mt Lowe trail camp, site of the old alpine Tavern. it's a short bit further to inspiration point. at this point I returned the way I came. I'm slow, it took me about 3 hours round trip.

10 months ago

This trail honestly should not be rated as moderate. It will absolutely kick your ass if you are not conditioned for steep long distance hiking. It is a steep incline for more of the trail. There is very little coverage, so you are exposed to the sun most of the trail, which on a hot day can be very dangerous. BRING LOTS AND LOTS OF WATER!!!
The bugs were awful. I was eaten alive by bitting flies. Bug spray is a must this time of year.
Be prepared for the hike back down to your car. Since it is very steep, it can really do a number on your knees and feet.

10 months ago

If you were to go in early spring when it's cool out I can understand this trail having a "moderate" rating but when it's anywhere above 85 degrees outside this trail is BRUTAL. You are very exposed through most of the trail. The incline isn't bad but all of the reviews and articles I've read about this trail greatly underestimate how much of it is uphill. The first half is pretty but the scenery stays pretty much the same all the way to Inspiration Point. The portion of the trail between Inspiration Point and Echo Mountain is an easy and comfortable descent and it is easily the most beautiful and interesting portion in the hike. Once you finish exploring Echo Mountain the path splits into like five different trails. Be careful; it can be very confusing. Once you finally find the right trail prepare yourself for yet another daunting uphill climb, followed by a knee busting descent back down the concrete road you came up at the start of the trail.

Also....cyclists.....cyclists everywhere.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Beautiful hike, lots of wildflowers. There are lots of alternate ways to do this hike. We went up the creek in Millard Canyon, and it was a great choice.. a little longer and a steep climb up, but beautiful.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

This was the first hike I did this year on Jan 2nd. Great hike.

Friday, January 06, 2017

We usually take this the opposite direction, starting up towards Echo Mountain, then on up to Inspiration Point via the Castle Canyon trail then back down the Sam Merrill trail rather than the fire road. The area is really beautiful. Keep your eyes/ears open for cyclists.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Great trail, it's well maintained for most of the hike and is pretty clearly marked. Just make sure you save the main turn points so you don't get confused! It's a hike and a history lesson! Took me around 4:30 for the whole trail having to park outside the gate to the road because it doesn't open til after 6am

Sunday, October 16, 2016

such beautiful views! it's a steady incline which helps with the hike!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Loved this trail!

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

It was a spectacular hike with amazing vistas. We went after a rain and the clouds were beautiful. This upside down hike amazes.

Monday, February 22, 2016

My dad and I did a variation on this loop. We started at the Cobb Estate/Sam Merrill trail head. The Sam Merrill trail up to Echo mountain was in good condition, but was very crowded. The view from Echo Mountain and the remains of the hotel and machinery was interesting. From Echo Mountain we tool the long way to Inspiration Point via the railway trail. Trail is wide, but pretty empty after Echo Mountain. Lunch in the shade at Mt Lowe Trail Camp. Back down the railway, we went down Dawn Mine trail, which wasn't in the best condition. There were a few stretches where we debated turning back. A hiking stick would have been good to have. The Dawn mine was interesting, and there was lots of flowing water in the creek. Going down the Milliard Canyon trail was not as fun after all of the nice trails. Lots of hoping down rocks and climbing under trees. We missed the turn-off to the Sunset Ridge trail, but caught it after a brief scramble just above the falls. Ended at Chaney trail head and got a ride back to our car.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

The views are fantastic, and as said, the side trails can get you to an amazing overlook. The history is interesting too. Best done after rattlesnakes are away, or at least be super cautious
- for I've sure seen a big one up there on the trail.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Beautiful place! At the end it's a Good spot to take a break and have a few sandwiches.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

I didn't do the full loop I just hiked from the fire road entrance on Chaney Trail Rd. all the way up to Echo Mountain I have to say it's a bit challenging just because sometimes there's no where to go when the bikers come down sometime. I arrived at 930 on saturday to the fire road entrance and it wasn't packed they mentioned you don't need a parking pass I think you'll need an adventure pass if you decide to camp.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Very interesting to see the historical spots

Monday, June 01, 2015

Had a great hike. The side trails are fantastic.

mountain biking
Thursday, May 28, 2015

This trail has something for everyone. It was very challenging to do this on a mountain bike. I started in the morning during a weekday so I didn't run into very many hikers. (wow, that sounds bad) I didn't encounter very many hikers. The views on this trail are amazing if the sky is clear, which is another reason to start this in the morning.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

I've done this hike a few times all the way to Echo Mountain and back up to the Red Box area. Best done in late fall, winter and early spring before it gets too hot as it's mostly west facing and not fun to do in the heat. Mostly downhill all the way down and uphill all the way back.

Bring snacks or a lunch and LOTS of water for you and your dogs. Gets rather crowded at times at least to the Mt. Lowe viewpoint, then the day hikers drop off a bit. However, this trail is well supported so if you bring your dogs be sure they are socialized and friendly with other dogs, otherwise keep them on a leash and controlled.

I have not hiked it since the Station Fire so can't speak to the current watershed but most areas are in recovery from the damage.

The hike is about 11 to 12 miles so be sure you are up for it.

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