“A quiet refuge for the people and wild life forever.” Sounds like an innocent enough welcome to the Cobb Estate in Altadena—until you consider the rumor that the forest here has some “forever” residents that tend to make their presence known.
The ominous-innocent greeting is inscribed on a plaque at the entrance to the estate, whose ruins can be explored on an easy 1.5-mile (round-trip) loop trail. Hike it close to dusk for maximum creepiness (just make sure you’re out by dusk, when the park closes). The 107-acre plot in what is now part of the Angeles National Forest was purchased by Charles and Carrie Cobb in 1915 to be their summer home but ended up becoming their permanent residence after Charles retired.
The Spanish-style estate (also known as Las Flores Ranch) is situated at the mouth of Las Flores Canyon in an area now known as the Haunted Forest. It’s easy to see why. After you enter the gate and head toward the forest, the sky immediately becomes dark. You’ve left streetlights behind, and the tree cover obscures most of the ambient light. (Headlamps are good gear to bring.) Follow the road until you reach the split with the Sam Merrill Trail. Keep left at the fork, continuing along the broken asphalt road. As you near the estate, exotic plants such as cactus and palms start popping up among the native oaks and eucalyptus. When the path splits again, you’ve reached the estate.
Fork right to find the old steps leading up to the mansion. This is where most of the spooky occurrences happen. It is said Mr. Cobb doesn’t like people standing on his steps. Visitors claim to have heard screams in the forest and have had the sensation of being followed when no one else is around.
Continue following the path around the old foundation and head left into the hills. Trees with eyes, a rock-covered water fountain, and more broken pieces of the former estate line the trail that ends at a covered reservoir. Turn around here and head back the way you came toward the base of the ruins, admiring the city views below.
Keep going straight past the ruins and take the narrow path into the woods. The path dead-ends at the Sam Merrill Trail; turn right and take it back to the entrance gate. Just remember: You’re probably being watched.
TRICKLESS TREAT: For a post-hike tasty feast, check out Pitfire Artisan Pizza in Pasadena, just 15 minutes from the Cobb Estate trailhead! Seasonal specialties include a wood-roasted pumpkin pizza with goat cheese, greens, and pepitas; wood-roasted acorn squash; shaved brussels sprout salad; and roasted beets with Greek yogurt and mint. Sounds a bit healthier than a bagful of candy, right? Yum!
The trailhead for the Cobb Estate is located at the end of Lake Ave. in Altadena. Take the Lake Ave. exit from the CA-210 and follow until it ends. Open sunrise to sunset; street parking available until 8 p.m. Dog-friendly!