Lumber magnate Charles Cobb and his wife, Carrie, built an Altadena mansion in 1918. Over the next decades, the Spanish-themed estate survived brush fires, a public plan to turn the land into a cemetery, and ownership by the Marx Brothers before it was ultimately turned into public parkland. Now owned by the U.S. Forest Service, the estate is said to be haunted. The wildlife-rich acreage it sits on makes for good walking too.
1. Drive to the end of Lake Avenue in Altadena and look for a place to park. Then walk to the corner of Lake Avenue and East Loma Alta Drive, and past the big gates that once marked the beginning of the Cobb property.
2. Walk up a paved asphalt road along a line of tall, thin trees, staying left as the road curves slightly uphill.
3. As you near the ruins of the estate, note the proliferation of more exotic flora as cactus, feijoa and palm join the more expected eucalyptus and oak.
4. Walk past the ruins of the estate, turn left onto a wide path and continue uphill. Pass a working water fountain, clad in river rock, under a big oak tree. Stop where the path ends, beside a covered reservoir and above a waterfall that you can hear in the canyon below.
5. Come back downhill, but instead of turning right onto the road in front of the ruins, continue straight on the narrower trail. Follow this to a T intersection — where you meet the Sam Merrill Trail as it begins the long climb to Mt. Lowe — and turn right to make your way back to the main road and the main gate.
Distance: 1.5 miles
Difficulty: 2 on a scale of 1 to 5
Duration: 45 minutes
Details: Ample free street parking. Dogs on a leash are OK.
Fleming is the author of "Secret Stairs: A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Los Angeles" and "Secret Walks: A Walking Guide to the Hidden Trails of Los Angeles." Each month, he leads a free walk at one of his favorite spots in Southern California. Find out more at his Facebook page, Secret Stairs. He can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.