Some ghost towns are closer to heaven than others. Take the former “White City,” for example. Over a century ago, people ventured to this popular resort set high on Echo Mountain via the Mount Lowe Railway. Today there’s no train, and the resort’s long gone, but its landmark ruins are part of the National Register of Historic Places. To get there, hoof it on a 5.5-mile round-trip hike that burns the thighs and rewards the senses. Start on the Sam Merrill Trail, briefly dipping into a dry creek bed before beginning the 1,400-foot, rather relentless, ascent into the chaparrel rich Los Flores Canyon. The good news: as you climb, the views over Pasadena and Los Angeles just keep growing. Take a moment to catch your breath and look at the surrounding National Forest and LA basin. Near the top of the trail, you’ll find the deserted rail bed. Continue on to the plateau where the White City once stood. A few sections of track remain and interpretive signs with black-and-white photos provide a glimpse of this place during its heyday. On a clear day, savor the outstanding views of downtown LA and Catalina Island in the distance. When you’re ready, bounce back down the mountain, listening for the echoes of times past.
The Sam Merrill Trail and White City ruins are in Angeles National Forest. Take I-210 near Pasadena to the Lake Ave. exit. Continue up the hill on Lake Ave. for 4 miles until it ends at Loma Alta Dr. Find street parking. Enter at the stone gateway (not to be confused with the gate at the Lake Ave. and Loma Alta Dr. intersection) and walk .2-mile to the marked Sam Merrill Trail. After a short descent across a dry creek bed, the trail rises into the Los Flores Canyon twisting up the hillside. When you reach the rail bed of the Mount Lowe Railway, turn right. At about 100 yards you’ll find the historic site. The trail gets hot, so an early morning start is recommended. Dog-friendly!