March 28, 2012

Photo Essay: Mt. Lowe Railway's Rubio Canyon

After all of my skulking around the site of the former Mt. Lowe Railway, there was one area I hadn't dared to venture into by myself: Rubio Canyon. It looks innocuous enough, its trailhead situated between two houses on a residential street in Altadena.

The Mt. Lowe Railway actually originated in Pasadena, but the first stop was Rubio Canyon, just beyond the town of Altadena and just into the mountains...

...on a trolley that took locals and affluent tourists alike through a wild canyon.

You can now hike along the railway's original path...

...crossing old railroad ties...

...and planks...

...past a number of old metal pipes, many of which still carry the sound of rushing water.

I'd been daunted by reports of narrow ridges and steep boulder scrambles, but thanks to a docent-led hike this weekend, I didn't have to tackle it alone. And fortunately, all those water pipes provide a nice handrail for leverage along harrowing climbs.

The Rubio Canyon hike takes you past the ruins of the old Rubio Pavilion...

courtesy of

...the lower terminal for the incline railway and the departure point for the famous "White Chariots" that took the affluent passengers who could afford the trip up to Echo Mountain's White City.

Most of the local residents, if they could afford the trip at all, only went as far as Rubio Pavilion and returned home. Others walked.

The canyon itself was once quite a tourist attraction even aside from the railway.

There were several waterfalls in the area at the time, with a number of catwalks, stairways and walkways that led pedestrians past the sites, lit by Japanese lanterns at night.

Though now, only small clues of its original splendor remain...

In fact, there was so much water in Rubio Canyon at one time that the Mt. Lowe Railway was actually partially powered by water...

...and the area is still a source of local water supply with a nearby reservoir.

The hike normally ends at the Pavilion site, but we kept going, off-trail...

...along what looked like a stream bed... the upper Moss Grotto Falls and the lower Ribbon Rock Falls.

You can keep going from there, but as spry as we were, we stopped under threat of rain, turned around, and went back.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Mt. Lowe's Inspiration Point to Altadena
Photo Essay: Pasadena to the Mt. Lowe Alpine Tavern
Photo Essay: Heart-Pounding Hike to a Lost City

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  1. Hi Sandi, thanks for coming on Sunday! I'd like to add that this hike was put together by the Arroyos and Foothills Conservancy, and that the docent providing hikers with background information (me, Michele Zack!) is a local historian whose works have been recognized by the American Association of State and Local History. For those interested in more information, please see my book, Altadena: Between Wilderness and City, or check out story I published in Altadena Blog last week on Altadena's Commercial History.
    Michele Zack

  2. nice write up, thanks for sharing, looks like a great hike