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The Inspiration Point referred to here is just below Mt. Lowe, above Echo Mountain, in the Mt. Wilson area of the San Gabriel Mountains.
Inspiration Point (4714') is one of five officially-named Inspiration Points in Los Angeles County alone! Interestingly, this is one of those cases where the place in common usage differs from the place officially named by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names. Most people, including ourselves, Jerry Schad and John Robinson, think of Inspiration Point as the ~4540' saddle just east of the official Inspiration Point. That location is the one used here. The official Board, for good reasons, probably couldn't bring themselves to name a saddle as a point.
Inspiration Point and the area have a rich history. The storied Pacific Electric Railway built an open-air shelter there in 1924-1925, with locating tubes showing the location of points of interest ranging from nearby sites to Catalina Island. The locating tubes are pieces of pipe that are oriented so that the view through the pipe is centered on the point of interest.
Pacific Electric was the owner of the Mt. Lowe Railway when Inspiration Point became famous. The Mt. Lowe Railway was the creation of Thaddeus S.C. Lowe and David J. Macpherson, who built it from 1892 - 1895. As is often the unhappy case, the dreamers responsible for the Railway lost control of it due to bankruptcy in 1896, and the Railway was operated by Henry Huntington through his Pacific Electric Railway Company (of the Red Car fame) from 1902 to 1936. The Mt. Lowe Railway ended at Ye Alpine Tavern, later the Mt. Lowe Tavern, 0.5 mile north of Inspiration Point. The Tavern burned in 1936; the site is now the Mt. Lowe Trail Camp.
The original shelter long ago disappeared, but the volunteers of the Scenic Mt. Lowe Historical Committee rebuilt the shelter, which was dedicated on 11/16/1996. Some of the original tubes at Inspiration Point remain today, with missing ones replaced by the Committee. There are several picnic tables under the roof of the shelter.
The official Inspiration Point is the northwest end of a fairly-flat ridge that descends to the ~4540' actual Inspiration Point and continues for one mile to a knoll at 4504'. Tom has always referred to this ridge as Inspiration Point Ridge, but we don't know if this name is used by anyone else. The Ridge is easily seen from the Pasadena area. Muir Peak (4688') is the highest point at the southeast end of the ridge.
Muir Peak was first climbed by John Muir in 1877, and was officially named for him in April 1991. The Peak is also known as John Muirs Peak and Muirs Peak.
The flat road connecting Inspiration Point with Muir Peak was built for the One Man & Mule Railway, which ran between Inspiration Point and Panorama Point at the end of the ridge. We couldn't find the exact location of Panorama Point, which is not an official name, but suspect it is the 4504' peak just before the ridge precipitously descends in elevation. If any reader can confirm this location, please let us know.
The One Man & Mule Railway was built and owned by a Mr. Zetterwall, the One Man, who came to the Alpine Tavern around 1915 to recuperate from tuberculosis. He built the railway for income. The mule, Herbert, pushed the open-bench car both ways to keep dust off the passengers. As Robinson says, this is "truly a case of putting the cart before the horse"! Actually, the Railway ran via mule only whenever the mule was not on escape, which could occur for days at a time. Herbert's backup was a cut-down Model T Ford.
The Railway operated until 1935.
Sources: Mount Lowe: Railway in the Clouds, pp. 192-193; The San Gabriels, pp. 150-151; Trails of the Angeles, p. 60; Angeles Chapter Sierra Club Activities #283, p. 36.
Map: Mt. Wilson Region (The location is halfway between the MC and ES near the right center of the map)
See also: USGS 7.5' x 7.5' Map: Mount Wilson. Latitudes and Longitudes:
- Inspiration Point: official position: (34° 13' 21" N, 118° 06' 37"W)
actual position: (34.2216°N, 118.1093°W)
- Muir Peak: (34° 12' 56" N, 118° 06' 05"W)
- Panorama Point: (34° 12' 56" N, 118° 06' 05"W)?
By Car: No public access.
By Trail: Mt. Lowe East Trail from Markham Saddle; Mt. Lowe Fire Road from Eaton Saddle or Sunset Fire Road; Upper Sam Merrill Trail or Castle Canyon Trail from Echo Mountain.
Season: November - May.
Warning: This list does not get updated as often as the hikes listed in the region tables. Consult Mt. Wilson Region Hikes for the latest listing.
Season Name 22 11 2400 nov-may Mount Lowe Railway Self-Guided Tour - Sunset Ridge via old railway bed to Mount Lowe Campground 22.1 11 2400 nov-may Mount Lowe Railway Self-Guided Tour - Sunset Ridge via old railway bed to Mount Lowe Campground, Inspiration Point, Castle Canyon Trail, Echo Mountain 23 12 2800 nov-may Mount Lowe Railway Loop Tour - Altadena to Echo Mountain, old railway bed, Mt. Lowe Trail Camp, Inspiration Point, Castle Canyon, back to Echo Mountain and Altadena 28 13 4100 nov-may Altadena to Henninger Flats, Idlehour Trail to Eaton Canyon, Idlehour Trail Camp, Inspiration Point, Castle Canyon, Echo Mountain, back to Altadena
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Go to Field Guide to the San Gabriel Mountains: Places
Copyright © 2000 by Tom Chester and Jane Strong
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Updated 4 February 2000.