Big Horn Mine Trail Hike
|In This Guide|
|Distance||4 miles (6.4 km)|
|Hike Time||1.5-2 Hours (Total)|
|Total Ascent (?)||840 feet (256m)|
|Highest Elevation||6,932 feet (2113m)|
|Fees & Permits||Parking Pass|
|Park Contact||Angeles National Forest|
The hike to Big Horn Mine is a fun and relatively easy way to enjoy the breathtaking scenery of Angeles National Forest without a major effort. The trail to Big Horn Mine winds it’s way along the side of a mountain, eventually arriving at the abandoned mine, where you can explore a historic structure from 1895 and grab some iconic photos (with Mt Baldy in the background).
Big Horn Mine and the surrounding sights have an interesting history too, but more about that later.
Where is Big Horn Mine?
Big Horn Mine is in the heart of Angeles National Forest, with the parking area at Vincent Gap. Use this trailhead address:
Vincent Gap, CA 93563
And just a note. The Google Maps link works, but some other mapping programs don’t get Vincent Gap correct.
You need a parking pass for the trailhead lot. I use the affordable National Parks Pass, which gets me in every park, monument, and national forest. You can also use an (Southern California only) Adventure Pass, or buy a $5 day permit from the ranger’s office.
In the winter the road can be closed, so if in doubt, check the park website and/or call the ranger station before leaving.
Gear for the Hike
This is a relatively short hike, and in normal circumstances you shouldn’t need any special gear. If you do this in the winter when there is snow and ice, there is one section (more below) that requires extra care. Micro-spikes and trekking poles will help you navigate that icy section.
Here’s the gear that I personally use, have tested, and recommend for this hike*.
Good for light and more hardcore hikes. Feels like a sneaker but protects like a hiking boot.
This is a super-light and comfortable backpack that can hold everything you need on a hike, including a hydration bladder. It also works great as a general backpack or carry-on.
Make your photos stand out by using this lightweight, do-anything tripod. The Joby attaches your smartphone to trees, rocks, whatever you can find on the trail. Folds down compactly too.
Don’t waster your money on hiking gear that’s no good, I’ve done that for you already! Full HikingGuy Gear List
* No company pays me to promote or push a product, all the gear you see here is gear I use and recommend. If you click an REI link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps offset website expenses. There is no cost to you.
Also → Big Sale at REI On Now:
Big Horn Mine Trail Maps
This hike is straightforward. You basically hike straight on the trail until you reach the mine, then return. It’s a great way to hike in the mountains without doing a big effort.
Note: If you’re exploring OSM maps of the area on your own, be warned that some (other) trails on the OSM map are little more than animal runs. The trail in this guide is easy to follow and plenty wide.
Big Horn Mine Trail Hike Map Downloads
Download the Hike GPX File
View a Printable PDF Hike Map
What You Need To Know About the Hike
- While people climb all over the mine, be aware that it’s over a hundred years old. You can get hurt. There are also 1,200 feet of mine shafts that are not meant for you to be in. Tread lightly and carefully.
- If you want to see what the inside of the mine looks like without killing yourself, check out the great images on this Straynger Ranger post.
- The Big Horn Mine is situated at the headwaters of the East Fork of the San Gabriel River. The waters that you see here eventually flow through the Sheep Mountain Wilderness to the Bridge to Nowhere.
- Gold was discovered here in 1891 by local mountain main Charles Tom Vincent while he was hunting bighorn sheep. Vincent had fled to the area to live a solitary life in the mountains after killing three men in Arizona. No one knew of his past until he confessed on his deathbed. Today Vincent Gap and Vincent Gulch are named after him. You can visit Vincent’s cabin as a side trip on this hike (see below).
- The mine first opened in 1895 and remained in use until 1985, when it was determined that the price of gold was too low to justify further drilling and exploration. Over the life of the mine, 3,701 ounces of gold, 2,430 ounces of silver, and 1,357 pounds of copper were extracted. The Wrightwood Historical Society has an article if you want to learn more about the history of Big Horn Mine.
- In 2006 the Wilderness Land Trust purchased the land back from the mining company and returned it to Sheep Mountain Wilderness.
- If you’ve got the energy and fitness, you can do this and the Mt Baden Powell hike in one day.
Big Horn Mine Hike Directions
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Turn by Turn Directions
Side Trip to Vincent’s Cabin
If you make the left turn at the first intersection (see the earlier directions) it’s only a half-mile hike to Vincent’s Cabin. You can go inside the cabin and poke around, seeing how Charles Tom Vincent lived life as a mountain man.
Charles Tom Vincent was originally from Ohio and served in the Civil War, eventually taking up mining in Arizona where he and his partner killed three men who were ransacking their shack. He fled to the mountains, making his way here after spending some time in the High Sierras.
Vincent lived on solitude by choice for forty years, continuing to mine for gold, and selling it once a year in Los Angeles. He was an interesting character. According to an account by his mailman “every afternoon when he came in from work he stripped to the buff and threw a potfull of hot water over his strong, rugged body, regardless of company; so we learned to vamoose. He was strong as an ox, the picture of health, thin and wiry with pink cheeks and snowy white hair. He could and did, walk for miles tracking a deer and he never fired an unnecessary shot. He loathed the city fellers that banged away regardless, when after game.” The Wrightwood Historical Society has a great write-up on Vincent and his life. Vincent passed in 1926.
Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.