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The Mount Lowe Railway was created as a scenic tourist line to bring visitors to see Mount Lowe and Echo Mountain. The railway opened in 1893 and stopped services in 1938. Interestingly, the railway was the only scenic mountain electric traction (overhead electric trolley) railroad in the country. Another of its features was the remarkable incline up Rubio Canyon to the Echo Mountain House, and a circular bridge that was as an engineering landmark in itself.
Today the Mount Lowe Railway Trail offers access to the ruins at Echo Mountain and the Alpine Tavern (Mt. Lowe Camp), once frequented by LA tourists and subsequently destroyed by flooding and fire. Along the trial you'll find historical markers that relate the story of the rail line. The trail is quite sinuous as snakes through the Angeles National Forest, offing superb views of the mountain, canyons and surrounding pine forests.
There is no easy way to get to the Mount Lowe railway Trail. The easiest is to follow the paved access road up to the rail-trail near its Echo Mountain end point.
To reach the access road and trailhead from Interstate 210 in Pasadena, take the Lake Avenue exit. Head north on Lake Avenue for 3.7 miles to Loma Alta Drive, which is at the base of the steep massif. Turn left (west) on Loma Alta Drive and go for 1.1 miles to Chaney Trail; a flashing yellow light marks the road. Turn right (north) on Chaney Trail and follow this for 1.4 miles, passing a display about the Forest Adventure Pass, to a gate. If the gate is open, you can proceed for another 1.1 miles to a saddle where you will find another gate and the beginning of the paved access road. There is limited roadside parking.
It's a tough hike but not crazy. At the summit you're rewarded with ruins to explore. Continue on to Inspiration Point for more great views and exploring opportunities.
I have a full Echo Mountain hike turn-by-turn guide on my blog here:
"I walked Mt. Lowe Rail Trail from the first gate up to the old Alpine lodge, where the track bed ends. The walk is steep and grand. The views of Pasadena and the surrounding area were super. I planned while at home in Matyland to devote a day to this, while visiting the LA area. I'm glad I did."
"The easiest way is to drive up to Mt. Wilson, park at the Eton Saddle trailhead and ride down. You need a car shuttle or face a long ride uphill. This ride has side trips to Inspiration Point and the Mt. Lowe Trail Camp."
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