Sam Merrill Trail

#17 of 152 trails in Angeles National Forest
Sam Merrill Trail is a 5.6 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Altadena, CA that features a river and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

5.6 miles 1341 feet Out & Back
dogs on leash kid friendly camping hiking mountain biking walking horseback riding river views rocky
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Mark P.
8 days ago

Courtney Jones
2 months ago

17 Completed13 Reviews

Long switchbacks, but the kind where it's not frustrating because you're definitely making progress. It was super smoggy when I went and I got a late start (3:30). But, the hotel ruins were pretty nifty and I'm sure on a clear day the views would've been phenomenal. Once heading back to the main trail from the hotel, take the first little trail to the right to go to "inspiration point;" it adds approximately 4 miles total. While on this trail, you'll come to a point where there's rocks essentially "blocking" the trail and kinda making you go up and left on some rocks. Take this path. Also, you won't see inspiration point until you're only a few minutes from reaching it, so don't give up! Overall, really well maintained trail, not too crowded, dog friendly, and you don't even need a clear day to enjoy this hike. Good breaks in the sun throughout the hike; to inspiration point is almost completely shaded. Total distance for my pup and I was about 10 miles and we did it in 4 1/2 hours including time to take it all in. :). Gorgeous sunset; thanks smog!

Hamed Khajavi
3 months ago

1 Completed1 Reviews

Jim Kurilich
5 months ago

1 Completed1 Reviews

Fantastic! Loved it!

Monique Beatty
7 months ago

14 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
8 months ago

3 Completed1 Reviews

Has anyone done this trail during the night?

Rich Carlson
9 months ago

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
11 months ago

15 Completed15 Reviews

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

Casey Moyer
11 months ago

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
1 year ago

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
1 year ago

24 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 year ago

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.
1 year ago

Kevin Varner
2 years ago

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!

Lynda C.
2 years ago

I have hiked the Sam Merrill trail numerous times and I was very surprised today to discover the ruins of an observatory that was on ECHO Mtn. I love this trail. It guides you through a beautiful forest. There is always something new to see. It is always fun to take people who have never been there and watch them enjoy reaching Inspiration Point. A great reward!!

Jessica B
2 years ago

2 Completed1 Reviews

Blaahhh, didn't like it at all. Boring switch back trail that is good for running I guess. There really wasn't much change in the scenery. Very crowded with several groups carrying portable music players that echoed up and down the mountain. Don't really want to hear electronic/techno, Ozzy Osborne or Michael Jackson when I am out on the trail.

Lynda C.
2 years ago

This is the solstice in the loop trip up Echo Mtn trail to Castle Canyon. It was quiet today on the whole trail really and I only met 3 people on this trail. Merry Christmas. What a wonderful way to spend the day. Being grateful for all the beauty of nature that the Lord created. This trail has a little of everything but the best part is the canopy of trees and peaceful forest.

Jason Day
2 years ago

23 Completed15 Reviews

Good trail, deducted one star for the volume of traffic. As soon as you turn off onto one of the trails that branch from Echo Mountain, you lose a lot of people and start seeing quiet stretches.

Lynda C.
2 years ago

Wonderful hike with moderate temperatures today. Forest was very quiet and serene. Great views. Skies clear.

Gail Kawaguchi
2 years ago

5 Completed4 Reviews

A blast from the past - I have vague memories of hiking up to the foundation of the resort as a teenager... I went with a large group and saw many other groups and people out getting fit. Great views past downtown to the Pacific. Was a bit windy at Inspiration Point recommend having another layer to pull on if planning to sit up there for longer than five minutes. (9/22/13)