The hike to Lost Horse mine in Joshua Tree National Park is a moderately strenuous hike that takes you to a very well preserved gold mine that dates back to the 1800’s. To get there you have two choices, there is a loop of about 6.8 miles, that will give you about 1,215 in elevation gain, or a 4 mile in and out hike if you prefer. The loop hike takes you around Lost Horse Mountain and gives hikers fantastic views of Pleasant Valley, and other areas of Joshua Tree National Park. The in and back out hike doesn’t provide quite as spectacular views, but gives you the opportunity to view the mine.
The last time I did this hike was several years ago, and when I decided to put it on the website I searched for some information on it to refresh my memory of this hike and came across a description of it at Modern Hiker by Brian Eagen that was very helpful in helping me remember the hike.
While the hike is not real strenuous, you will need to be in decent shape, and have proper hiking shoes or boots, plenty of water and follow all the normal hiking tips. Don’t try this trail in flip-flops with no water, and unless you are very experienced and prepared don’t do this one in the summer, it is just too hot and dangerous.
I recommend doing the loop hike in a counter clockwise direction much like Brian does in his description at Modern Hiker, as that gets hiking in the soft sandy wash out of the way first. I say that because hiking in sandy washes can be a little tiring, and I would rather do that at the start of the hike, instead of saving it for the end because at my age I like to get the harder parts of a hike done first before I get tired.
To do the loop in that direction, instead of going to the marked trailhead at the end of the parking area, look to towards the south entrance of the parking lot and you will find the trail on the other side of the hill to the south, just look for the obvious wash. There are signposts marking the way in the wash every 1/4 mile, so you shouldn’t have a difficult time keeping on the trail.
After 2.25 miles the trail leaves the wash and begins the climb up the southern side of Lost Horse Mountain. As the trail winds its way up the mountain you will pass an old chimney, which is a left over from the Optimist Mine Bunkhouse, and then it begins a rather steep climb where you will gain about 400 feet in elevation. It is at this point you will begin to see some great views of Pleasant Valley, Malapai Hill, and the Geology Tour Road.
Along the trail you will see Joshua trees and yucca, during the right time of the year plenty of wildflowers and some man-made items left behind by all the miners over the years.
You will get your first view of the mine after about 4.3 miles after coming over a ridge, make sure to take the time and go down to the fenced off area of the mine, it is pretty interesting.
The mine, and the intact mill is enclosed by a chain-link fence to help prevent vandalism, and to protect folks from some of the dangers in the area, so you will have to look at it from a distance, and point your camera through the fence to get photos that don’t show the chain-link.
To continue the loop hike and to get a really good view of the mine, continue up the steep ridge behind the mine. This part of the loop is the in and out option for hikers who were looking for a shorter hike. You will drop down onto a well established trail and continue on about two miles to get back to the parking area.
How to Get There: Lost Horse Mine is located along Keys’ View Road in Joshua Tree National Park. From Highway 62 in the town of Joshua Tree, turn south on Park Boulevard. Continue straight for 15 miles. Turn right onto Key’s View Road, then continue another 2.4 miles where you will turn left onto Lost Horse Mine Road and follow it for 0.9 mile to the parking lot.