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Close Encounters

Altadena’s Haunted Forest: More Than What Meets the Eye



The Echo Mountain house and chalet.

By Anthony Almaraz

You’ve got to walk through “The Haunted Forest” to reach the Sam Merrill Trail to Echo Mountain in Altadena, but you probably know it better by its more historical name, The Cobb Estate. Designated, as a sign says ‘A quiet refuge for people and wild life forever’, may have extended into the afterlife, given the stories of spectral sightings and weird noises from the vacant estate. 

Echo Mountain is one of the most popular hikes excursions into the San Gabriel mountains for Los Angeles residents. It is located at the end of Lake Avenue, one of Pasadena’s main streets, the trail provides access to both great hiking and LA county history. 

You may not know, but atop of Echo Mountain once housed a beautiful hotel and a full railway system to shuttle people from Pasadena to the Echo Mountain House.  Today there are only remnants of this structure that crumbled over a century ago. 

Atop Echo stood the magnificent 70-room Victorian hotel, the Echo Mountain House. Only a few hundred feet away stood the 40-room Echo Chalet.  The complement of buildings on Echo included an astronomical observatory, car barns, dormitories and repair facilities, a casino and dance hall.Passengers could then transfer to another trolley line, the Alpine Division, which would take them to the upper terminus at Crystal Springs and Ye Alpine Tavern, a 22-room Swiss Chalet hospice with a complement of amenities from tennis courts, to wading pools, to mule rides.

A series of natural disasters ate away at the facilities, the first of which was a kitchen fire that destroyed the Echo Mountain House in 1900. A 1905 fire destroyed the rest of the Echo buildings except for the observatory and the astronomer’s cabin. In 1909 a flash flood tore out the Rubio Pavilion. In 1928 a gale force wind toppled the observatory, and in 1936 an electrical fire wiped out the Tavern. The Mount Lowe Railway was officially abandoned in 1938 after a horrendous rain washed most everything off the mountain sides.

Postcard from Mt. Lowe Railway

Mt. Lowe Railway is a very historic railway full of myths and legends, from hauntings to mysterious glowing lights to the sounds of an unseen train. The railways were built in 1893, so Pasadena residents could have a way to access Echo Mountain’s beautiful views, and the magnificent hotel that was built on top of Echo Mountain. There are many dangers you may encounter on your hike up Echo Mountain. Depending on what time of year you decide to hike. 

The frequent reports of nighttime paranormal activity make it a popular hot-spot for the curious and those looking for a thrill.  There have been unofficial reports of unexplained screams, laughter, and strange lights. One investigation crew received an EVP saying ‘Get Out!’

I have experienced mud slides during the rainy season that take out the trail, mountain lions, snakes and extreme heat. Be cautious, if you decide to take on this courageous six mile hike, it has an elevation gain of 1,500ft. 

** Excerpts from California Through My Lens

Paranormal investigators of Los Angeles

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