Friday, June 13, 2014

Mount Muir with One Essential

Hiked: 6/13/2014
Distance: 6.5 miles round trip on trail
Summit Elevation: 4688'
Prominence: 168'
Elevation Gain: 1750'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 1.4
Round trip time: 2 hours 10 minutes
Recommended water: 48 oz.
Parking/Fees: Adventure Pass
Difficulty: Moderate

Note: distance and elevation gain estimated

Not to be confused with the 14000'+ Mount Muir near Trail Crest in the High Sierras, the San Gabriel Mount Muir is #8 on the Sierra Club Great Lower Peaks list. It sits between Echo Mountain and Mt. Lowe overlooking Castle Canyon. I chose to approach it from the north at Eaton Saddle so I could do a canyon style hike with the gain on return.

While driving the 90+ minutes through LA traffic, I wondered if this hike would be worth it. I just wasn't feeling it. The low hanging peaks were long gone, so bagging every new listed peak required a substantial drive. When I got to Eaton Saddle, I got out of the car, opened my back door and realized I had left my pack at home. It was Friday the 13th and this hike just got interesting. I pride myself on preparation and sometimes overpack. Now, I had none of the water I packed, no food, no GPS, no map, no first aid kit, no lighting, no sunscreen, no extra clothing, no compass, no knife, and no way to make fire. I also didn't have my driver's license, credit cards, or money. I did have my trekking pole and my phone so I could document whatever disaster might unfold. I usually have spare water in my trunk, so I opened the trunk and guzzled 16oz of water, then took two more 16oz water bottles to carry with me. The hike was less than 7 miles and now it was more of a challenge. I was energized.

I jogged up the road and passed through the Mueller Tunnel. My mind immediately started messing with me. My mouth was dry and I was thirsty already. I denied myself any water until I was past Mt. Markham, and then only sips. I felt light without the missing pack and moved quickly. I cruised past the junction to the Mt. Lowe summit and was on new trail for me. As I rounded Mt. Lowe, I could see Inspiration Point across the canyon. The final descent was somewhat steep and I knew it would be harder coming back. I paused a minute at the 4-way intersection of trails to check the signs, then made it to Inspiration Point in minutes. Four people were lounging there enjoying the views. I took a quick photo of the old time sighting tubes, then trotted down the road toward Mount Muir. Before long, I found the summit trail and was on top of Muir in one hour flat.

Inside the Mueller tunnel

Mt. Lowe summit trail junction

Descending the Mt. Lowe East trail

Inspiration Point

Sighting tubes at Inspiration Point

Mt. Muir summit trail

Mt. Muir summit, Mt. Wilson in the background

Panorama from Mt. Muir

I found no benchmark or register, just a wooden stake at the summit and a round candle holder. There were great views of the urban sprawl, Verdugo Mountains, and the multi-peak Wilson area. With no food and no reason to linger, I turned back. I was still nursing my first bottle and only finished it when I started up the steep section of Mt. Lowe East trail. On the way up Mt. Lowe, I cracked open my second bottle of water and knew I would make it without any trouble. Why do I bother carrying a backpack again? I slowed my pace around Mt. Markham and noticed all the poodle dog bush I had rushed past before. Pretty and dangerous. I extended the last bottle of water to the car and wondered if I would have had as much fun if I hadn't forgotten my pack.

Mt. Lowe and San Gabriel Peak from Mt. Muir

Heading back up Mt. Lowe

Poodle dog bush


  1. Headed up this peak from Altadena in March.... Great Views....Thanks for the report.
    I am attempting to climb Whitney in 10 days... in your opinion what was he hardest part?

    1. Joseph,

      The hardest part for me was from Trail Crest to the summit. Trail Crest is 13600' and the altitude started giving me a headache. It seemed a lot longer than a couple miles. It was also the most beautiful part with spectacular views, Best of luck! It will be memorable I am sure.

  2. Thanks for the tip, I'll let you know how it went in a future post.