“A quiet refuge from people and wild life forever,” declares a sign at the entrance to the Sam Merrill Trail. While you’ll only linger here for a few hours, forever wouldn’t be too long. This hike feels more like a weekend destination than an after-work jaunt, unless you live in the neighborhood. And based on the hydration packs and hiking poles you’ll see, it's a bit more serious hiking, than say, at Griffith, but that doesn’t mean it’s too challenging for a novice.
The hike begins by scaling the wall of a canyon and emerging onto the face of the mountain about 15 minutes later. The views of Downtown L.A., Pasadena and the San Gabriel Valley are stellar even at low levels. But once you get to the top, there’s the added bonus of a fascinating L.A. history: In 1894, ambitious industrialists linked this mountaintop to nearby Pasadena with a train and then established an alpine resort, unofficially dubbed the White City, complete with a 70-room mansion. Two fires burned everything to the ground within a decade of its opening. All that’s left now are ruined foundations and train tracks for hikers to explore and picnic on. It’s a poetic view of the charred remains of a long-lost dream.
Part of the Angeles National Forest, the trail doesn’t officially close and is popular with night hikers.