Lost Horse Mine Trail
|In This Guide|
|Distance||7 miles (11.3 km)|
|Other Options||4 miles|
|Hike Time||3 Hours (Total)|
|Total Ascent (?)||1,040 feet (317m)|
|Highest Elevation||5,140 feet (1567m)|
|Fees & Permits||Park Entry Fee|
|Park Website (?)||Joshua Tree National Park|
|Stay In Touch||Newsletter - Instagram - YouTube - Facebook|
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
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.
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: Women – Men
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.
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.
Lost Horse Mine Trail Map Downloads
Download the Hike GPX File
View a Printable PDF Hike Map
|Lost Horse Mine||2.1||5070|
|Optimist Mine Ruins||3.4||4800|
Quick Hike History
- Johnny Lang arrived at Joshua Tree in 1890 after fleeing rival cowboys that killed his brother. When he arrived, there was “nothing but cattle and Indians.” Even here at Joshua Tree, the local McHaney Gang stole his horses and made life generally miserable.
- When Lang found gold and bought the land at Lost Horse Mine for $1000, he brought in partners to help him protect it from the McHaney Gang.
- From 1895 to 1905 the massive 850lb steam-powered stamps crushed rock, 24 hours a day, eventually producing 10,000 ounces of gold and 16,000 ounces of silver (worth about $5 million today).
- Lang’s partner, Ryan, discovered that Lang was stealing gold from the mine and burying it nearby. When confronted, Lang ended up selling his share in the mine and living in a cabin nearby. He lived in poverty for the rest of his life and at one point had to kill and eat his mules.
- Lang would periodically come around the Lost Horse Mine to dig up his stolen gold and harass people. In retrospect it is believed that Lang’s erratic behavior was attributed to mercury poisoning, which was used to extract gold from the ore.
- The mine stopped working in 1905 when the gold vein ended at a fault line. Lost Horse Mine was sold and resold a few times until 1936 when the area became Joshua Tree National Monument.
- In January of 1925 Lang left a note at his cabin, “gone for grub.” Three months later Bill Keys found his dead body clutching a piece of bacon wrapped in wax paper. He was buried where he died, and you can still see his gravestone on the way to the hike. I have the spot marked on the map in this guide.
- Lang had allegedly hidden a “mother lode of pure gold bullion” and never retrieved it before dying. In 1983 some lowlives dug up his grave to look for clues, stealing his skull in the process. Today his remains have been moved elsewhere and his gravesite concealed to deter dummies looking for gold. If you visit the grave, please do so respectfully.
Lost Horse Mine Trail Directions
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Turn by Turn Directions
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.
Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.