Big Horn Mine Trail Hike
|In This Guide|
|Distance||4 miles (6.4 km)|
|Time||1.5-2 Hours (Total Time)|
|Total Climbing||1,200 feet (366m)|
|Highest Elevation||6,932 feet (2113m)|
|Park Name||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. I recommend:
If you do this in the winter there is one section (more below) that requires extra care. Micro-spikes and trekking poles will help you navigate that icy section.
My Top Gear Picks
Do you have the right hiking gear? Will it stand up to the test? I waste lots of money testing hiking gear every year so that you don’t have to. My gear picks are solid choices that will serve you well on the trail. I don’t do sponsored or paid reviews, I just the share actual gear that I use all the time that’s made the cut. Here are my top picks:
- Garmin InReach Mini Emergency Beacon – Hiking out of cell phone range? Make sure you have one of these two-way satellite texting devices in case your hike doesn’t go as planned. You can read my full review here.
- Injinji Sock Liners With Darn Tough Hiking Socks – This combo is a great way to avoid blisters out on the trail. I have some insider-hiking tips for avoiding blisters here. Pair them with modern, high-tech hiking boots (for women and men) and your feet with thank you.
- Garmin Fenix 5x Plus – It’s a little pricey, but man do I love this thing. Not only does it have all the topo maps and navigation tools on my wrist, but it also acts as a long battery life, rugged, outdoors version of an Apple Watch. Track your workouts, sleep, heart rate, all that stuff.
I have lots of other great, sponsor-free, trail tested gear picks on my “best gear” page.
See My Full Gear List
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.
I highly recommend bringing a good paper map with you, and then using it in conjunction with a GPS device. You can see the navigation gear that I use here (I’m currently using the Fenix 5x Plus and love it). Just download the GPX file below and load it onto your GPS.
Many people also print out this web page for the turn-by-turn images. And if you really want to get tricky, YouTube Premium lets you download videos for offline use, so you can download the hike video and save it.
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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You can watch this video in 360 degrees.
I have a version of this video where you can pan around in 360 degrees and see every angle of every trail junction, the trail conditions, and more. This is how you can use and view them.
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.
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