The Mount Lowe Railway is a historic railroad grade that used to transport people up the mountains to several different hotels and resorts that used to rest high up in the San Gabriels. Today the train tracks are gone, but you can still ride through an old tunnel, see old bridges, and even the ruins of some of the hotels.
The railway itself is a wide doubletrack that descends down from the Mount Wilson Observatory road all the way down to the city below. However, singletrack trails have been built around the railway, forming an excellent network of mountain bike trails!
You can ride up the railway and down the singletrack, as the guidebook recommends, or you could just get shuttled up to the trailhead at the top of the railway (on Mount Wilson Redbox Rd.) and just enjoy the delectable downhill! GPS coordinates for the top trailhead are given above (insert your address and click the â€œmap itâ€ function), or if you want to climb up from the bottom drive to these coordinates: 34.21482, -118.14553. If you do decide to shuttle, I recommend leaving a car down at Loma Alta Park, as itâ€™s free (you have to buy a National Forest Adventure Pass if you park at the bottom of Mount Lowe) and there is singletrack dropping down basically right to the park (see GPS track provided).
There is a comples trail network up here with an untold number of options, but here is one route to take down.
From the top, begin by descending the Mount Lowe Railway for a couple of miles. Soak in the gorgeous views, and live it up as you ride through a tunnel in the mountainsideâ€”how often do you get to do that on a mountain bike? Ignore a few of the trails branching off, but when you reach the junction with the turn off to Inspiration Point, catch the Sam Merrill trail, which parallels the road for a while and then turns downhill.
After shredding the rolling singletrack through the trees, Sam Merrill pops out into the exposed face of the mountain, turning into a technical, switchbacked descent. Look out for trail junctions, and eventually youâ€™ll see a sign for the Sunset Trail, heading back to the Mount Lowe Railway. Turn back on yourself and begin the climb back up the hill. From here, there are other trail options that I believe drop quickly down the mountainside into town. If you live in the area, these other options are worth exploring.
On with the recommended route: climb up the gradual grade until you reach the Mount Lowe Railway again, turn left to head down it, and take the first right onto the Sunset Trail. Thereâ€™s been some awesome descending up to this pointâ€¦ now itâ€™s time to really rip! The singletrack drops fast and furious, but there are numerous tight, technical switchbacks to negotiate, so watch out! The Sunset trail is an awesome singletrack rideâ€”enjoy it!
Eventually, the Sunset trail rejoins the Mount Lowe Railway, so hang a right and continue descending. If you parked a car at the Mount Lowe trailhead, just head down the road a little ways to hook up with your ride. If you choose to take my advice and park further down the mountain at Loma Alta Park, however, hang a left off of the Mount Lowe Railway near the sign in book and map, and drop down the road next to the chain link fence.
Pick up the singletrack trail on the right that continues dropping down the mountain, and enjoy a rutted-out descent that is signficiantly more technical than most of the trails up above! Continue straight across the road to continue onto the trail, and eventually the trail drops you out right at the parkâ€”score!
If you have enough time, shuttle back up and do it again!