Lost Horse Mine Trail

Lost Horse Mine Trail

In This Guide
  • Lost Horse Mine Trail Directions  & Video
  • How to Get to Lost Horse Mine Trail
  • Everything You Need to Know to Do the Hike
Distance7 miles (11.3 km)
Other Options 4 miles
Hike Time3 Hours (Total)
Difficulty (?)Moderate
Total Ascent (?)1,040 feet (317m)
Highest Elevation5,140 feet (1567m)
Fees & PermitsPark Entry Fee
Dog FriendlyNo
Park Website (?)Joshua Tree National Park
Park Phone760-367-5500
Stay In Touch - - -

The Lost Horse Mine Trail hike offers not only a peaceful trip to a neat mine that’s over 100 years old but also a great deal of natural beauty and diversity. Hiking to just Lost Horse Mine is only 2 miles (4 out and back), but I highly recommend hiking the full Lost Horse Mine Loop Trail, which offers expansive views and over Joshua Tree National Park, more ruins, groves of robust Joshua Trees, and quiet. Either way, you do it, it’s a fun adventure.

How to Get to the Lost Horse Mine Trail

The Lost Horse Mine Trailhead is about 10 minutes south of the main drag, Park Blvd road. There is a roadside turn marking the turn-off to the Lost Horse Mine Trail. The last couple of minutes are on a dirt road, but it’s in good condition, and passable for cars and lower-clearance vehicles. Use this trailhead address:
Lost Horse Mine Loop Trail, Lost Horse Mine Rd., Twentynine Palms, CA, 92277

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The parking lot is not big. If you can’t find a spot, park at one of the turnoffs down Lost Horse Mine Road.

There is a primitive toilet at the trailhead.

Gear for the Hike

This is a desert hike and you need to prepare accordingly. There is no shade and no water, so bring at least 1L of water for the trip to the mine, or 2L for the full loop trail. Having hiking boots will help keep the rocks and sand out of your feet. And there is no cell reception,; having a satellite communicator in case of an emergency is a smart move.

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La Sportiva Spire

I try a lot of hiking boots and shoes, and there are some great options out there, but the La Sportiva Spire is the best combination of comfort, protection, low-weight, and durability. They are waterproof, and the high cuff keeps debris out without the need for a gaiter. Time tested over thousands of miles. Use them with a two-layer sock system to end blisters for good.
Reviews & Lowest Prices: WomenMen

Osprey Talon

On a medium or longer hike I recommend a pack like the Osprey Talon 33 (men) or Osprey Sirrus 36 (women) which is a little bit larger. These packs are on the upper end of the (35L) daypack range, but they only weigh a small fraction more than a pack with less capacity. Having the extra space gives you more flexibility and means you don’t have to jam things in there. I use the space for things like extra layers in the winter, extra water on desert hikes, and even a tent & sleeping bag on overnights.

Garmin Inreach Mini Beacon

If you’re not familiar with the Garmin InReach technology, it allows you to send and receive text messages where you don’t have cell phone signals. You can also get weather reports and trigger an SOS to emergency responders. Even if you don’t have an emergency, sending a quick message telling a loved one that you’re okay or are running late is well worth the cost. The Mini fits in your palm and weighs next to nothing. Read my review and see the lowest prices and reviews at REI (or Amazon).

Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated March 2020.See All of My Best Gear Picks Here

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 a link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps offset website expenses. There is no cost to you.

Lost Horse Mine Trail Maps

Joshua Tree NP recommends doing the loop hike in a clockwise direction, and so do I. You’ll get better viewpoints and a nice long downhill at the very end.

Click To View Map

Lost Horse Mine Trail Map Downloads

Download the Hike GPX File

View a Printable PDF Hike Map

Fenix 6 Pro

I’m a big fan of GPS watches to follow my GPX track (which I also use as a sleep, wellness, and fitness tracker) and my current watch is the Fenix 6 Pro Solar (full review here). I load my GPX tracks onto the watch to make sure I’m in the right place, and if not, the onboard topo maps allow me to navigate on the fly. It’s pricey but it has a great battery, accurate GPS, and tons of functionality. If you want something similar without the maps and big price tag, check out the Garmin Instinct which is a great buy (prices on REI and Amazon) and does a lot of the same things.

Elevation Profile

Lost Horse Mine Trail Elevation
There’s some uphill to get to Lost Horse Mine, but it’s not a big mountain climb. After that there’s some up and down, and then a nice long downhill back to the start.

Hike Landmarks

LandmarkDistanceElevation
Trailhead04600
Lost Horse Mine2.15070
Viewpoint2.45130
Optimist Mine Ruins3.44800
End Hike74600

3d Map

Lost Horse Mine Trail 3d Map
From this view you can see that the loop hike is a bit up and down, without any major climbs.

Quick Hike History

Johnny Lang Grave
Johnny Lang was the guy who founded Lost Horse Mine in the 1890s. He was a colorful character and is buried near the hike.

Lost Horse Mine Trail Directions

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Video Directions

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Turn by Turn Directions

Lost Horse Mine Trail Directions 3
The hike starts at then end of the parking lot, past the gate. There are interpretive displays just past the gate.
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Shortly after the gate, bear left to start on the official trail.
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This part of the Lost Horse Loop Trail follows the old road to the mine. Gold was transported down this road with a 16 horse wagon train to Banning, five days away, where it was sold.
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At the junction for the Big Trees Trail, continue straight.
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Stay on the trail as it passes through any washes. This is true for the whole hike.
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The trail emerges on a rise after some climbing, and you are treated to great views of Queen Valley.
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Soon you’ll see Lost Horse Mine on the ridge in the distance.
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When you get up the hill by the mine, make the hard left at this post to climb up to the actual mine ruins. It’s a 0.3 mile detour off of the main loop trail.
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The trail is smaller than the one you were on before but is easy to follow. Continue up the hill to the mine.
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When the trail splits, bear left to come out above the mine.
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Lost Horse Mine! You made it! Most of the mine is fenced off; the mine shafts started collapsing in 2000.
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Above the mines you can see the ruins of the housing used by the miners. There are also water tanks used in the steam-based stamp mill, which crushed the rock to extract the ore.

If you want to hike the shorter 4-mile route, just head back the way you came after exploring the mine. Otherwise continue with the directions below.

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To continue on the hike, keep going past the mine.
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You’re going to have to head down the hill on smaller use trails to rejoin the main loop trail.
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Shortly after rejoining the trails and cresting a ridge, the views are jaw-dropping. Below you is Pleasant Valley and after that, the Little San Bernardino Mountains. Pleasant Valley is the site of a fault line. From here the trail skirts down to the right before heading west.
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Keep left when you see the small use-trail up to the right.
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And soon after that the trail twists away from the edge of the valley and into the hills.
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Soon you’ll arrive at the ruins of Optimist Mine. The chimney, an old bed frame, and some metal scraps are all that’s left. Unlike the successful Lost Horse Mine, the Optimist Mine was a bust. If you poke around the site, be careful, there are two open mine shafts right off the trail.
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Once you’re done at Optimist Mine, keep going on the trail. It’s mainly flat and downhill from here.
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The trail is flat and meanders through the desert back to the start. Three are some beautiful Joshua Tree groves here. And keep your eyes out for tree stumps; miners would cut Joshua Trees down to run the (steam-powered) Lost Horse Mine.
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In some sections the trail crosses and enters washes. Look for signs and stones to help you find the way. It’s not hard.
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Soon you’ll see the dirt Lost Horse Mine Road and the toilets at the trailhead in the distance.
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And soon you’ll come back to the other end of the parking lot. That’s the hike!

Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.