Sam Merrill Trail

#20 of 196 trails in Angeles National Forest
Sam Merrill Trail is a 5 mile out and back trail located near Altadena, California that features a river and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for camping, hiking & mountain biking and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

5.59 miles Out & Back 1400 feet
Kid Friendly Dog Friendly
camping hiking mountain biking dogs leash kids river
Hide Map
Sign up now to see this map!

Monique Beatty

15 Completed7 Reviews

Fantastic panoramic views of the LA basin. The relatively long switchbacks make this climb a fun one. Moderate traffic. No rest rooms.

Roxanna Kurz

3 Completed1 Reviews

Has anyone done this trail during the night?

Rich Carlson

2 Completed2 Reviews

Hiked the Sam Merrill Trail up to Echo Mtn on Tuesday. Started at sunrise and hiked in the shade most of the way. Round trip was 2:15, including a short time at the top to take pictures and explore the ruins of the old hotel and rail line. I wouldn't take little kids on this hike. It's a steady 2.5 mile climb and would have taken much longer on a hot afternoon in the sun. But there are some great views on the way up and from the top,
I saw some comments about the crowds on the trail. There is litter that you won't see at higher elevations on more remote trails. And not everyone looks like a seasoned hiker. But I think it's a really good trail for urban dwellers to experience the mountains. For me it was a great before work hike - lots more fun than going to the gym. I hope I can do it again, and maybe extend the hike further up the mountain.

Kenji Nakamura

16 Completed15 Reviews

Too crowded with some guy with speedos. Not going back.

Casey Moyer

8 Completed2 Reviews

Trail is in good condition, there was one or two collapsed/landslide spots, nothing that blocked the entire trail. But if you were on a bike things might get sketchy. It's very exposed on this trail with one or two shade spots. The view at the top is excellent, the echo mountain ruins have excellent shade once you get up there. Take a hammock it's worth the extra weight.

Doris Wang

11 Completed10 Reviews

This hike had been on my list of hikes to do for the past few months, and we finally did it!

Directions to trail: take the 210 freeway and get off at Lake Ave, and drive towards the mountains. It also pulls up on Google maps if you type in Cobb Estate Altadena, CA. Trail head is on the left, people just park on the street.

Trails: You start up the paved driveway of the estate, then shortly you come to the beginning of San Merrill Trail on the right hand side, you don't go all the way to the end of the drive. San Merrill is a 2.5 mile trail that leads you up to Echo Mtn, once there you can go to the right and see the old hotel ruins.

As for getting to Inspiration Point: There are two trails you can take, they both lead up to Inspiration Point. The entrance to both trails are near each other. We went up Castle Canyon Trail and came down San Merrill Trail. I'm glad we chose this route because going up Castle Canyon, you can spot Inspiration Point from a distance eventually, giving you motivation to keep hiking. You can do a full loop and go back down using the Merrill trail. If you are staring at the Inspiration Point sign, you go right down the road and a lil ways down you will spot the trail head to San Merrill, it's a bit forest-y looking.

If you go back down San Merrill you will past a look out with a giant rock. Good spot for picture taking. So the trails we took were:
1) Sam Merrill Trail Head
2) Mt Lowe Railway Trail (aka Echo Mountain)
3) Castle Canyon Trail
4) Inspiration Point
5) San Merrill Trail

Round trip roughly 10 miles. Fun urban hike!

Elena Ceridono

23 Completed1 Reviews

First off....beautiful views at the end. I thought I was hiking up Thunder Mountain. Lots of different terrain. Watch out for the stakes and the dog poop. So your are walking and walking and walking and marching as though you are in an ant farm. There are so many people on the trail with you that you feel like you are cattle being marched toward slaughter. It's was a hot day on the trail and then you get these nice cold air breezes. I have to say that the sites at the top of the hill are worth it and far superior to the butt cheeks of the person hiking up in front of you. Oh and take note that the app in my phone said 7.8 miles not 5.

Natalie Dixon

1 Completed1 Reviews

Really enjoyed this hike today. Ran into just enough people on the trail so I felt safe. Everyone was super nice. It's a great workout for just being 5 miles.

teri c.

Kevin Varner

1 Completed1 Reviews

I have really enjoyed hiking this trail over the years. I have since moved from the Pasadena area, but had hiked this trail regularly (4-5 times a week for 5 years). It's a great source of exercise of steady elevation climb for a little over 2.5 miles each way. The major criticism that I've seen in these reviews is that the trail is crowded. These observations are true for weekends. Weekends are extremely crowded with many people from Pasadena and the LA area (not always the best crowd that you want to encounter while enjoying nature). However, this trail is quite serene on weekdays with very few hikers except a few regulars. Beside the fantastic workout, this trail offers a great finale at the end. There are ruins of an old hotel which burned down at the beginning of the 20th century and a cool megaphone at Echo Mountain. If anyone is looking for a longer journey or a change of scenery, there are three trail heads that connect to the end of this one. One of which is the Castle Rock Trail, which leads another 2 miles up to Inspiration Point. Each of these connecting trails (particularly Castle Rock) are more remote, challenging, and for the more adventurous hiker. There ate NO crowds, more vegetation and shade, and GREAT views of Southern California (especially on clear days after rain). You know that you reached the top of the Sam Merrill Trail when it finally diverges into two trails. This will occur after a switchback in which you walk Eastbound in the direction toward Sierra Madre/Arcadia. The trailhead for the Castle Rock Trail is last trail on your left before you approach the rest area with the hotel ruins. You can track you progress to some degree along the Sam Merrill Trail by observing the Mile Markers along the side, which are wooden posts that signify each mile from the bottom. Again, if you want enjoy the trail without the crowds... just don't go on weekends. Take care & happy trails!