The Lost Horse Mine is rugged antiquity located in the Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California. The Lost Horse Mine has a long, rich history as far back as 1890, when it was purchased for $1,000 by a local rancher named Johnny Lang.
The mine was exceedingly productive throughout the time it was operational. It was reported to have produced more than 16,000 ounces of silver and over 10,000 ounces of gold over the course of 37 years, which sums up to about $5 million.
The Lost Horse Mine is one of the major highlights of the Joshua Tree Park hike beside the many attractions leading there. To get to the mine, you can either hike round the loop from the Lost Horse Mine trailhead, which covers a 6.7-mile distance, or the direct out-and-back route, which is only 4 miles.
The journey starts at the large parking lot at the far end of the Lost Horse trail. Around that area, you should be able to spot a wash at the terminus with a sign pointing to the Lost Mine Trail.
If you’d like to take the counter-clockwise Lost Horse Mine Loop, which is far more enjoyable than the clockwise route, you’ll have to head west and search for a faint trail to the south, over a small hill. You should find another sign that says the Lost Horse loop trail starts here—the entrance of the Lost Horse Valley Loop mantles round the south-western flank of the mountains.
After hiking for a short distance, the trail markings appear fainter, although it is only for a short distance until you reach Quail Wash Road. Remember to keep an eye out for signposts while going around the loop to ensure in the right direction.
Many big trees trail the way path to the Lost Horse Mine. You’ll also come across the natural beauty of the Pleasant Valley and different kinds of vegetation, including Creosote, Mojave Desert Flora, Juniper, and some Joshua trees.
While there were over 300 mines in the Joshua Tree National Park, the only one that was able to produce any substantial amount of gold was the Lost Horse Mine. It made quite the return on investment, far exceeding the initial $1,000 amount used to acquire the land rights. The accounts of the mine’s history state that Johnny Lange, a cattle driver, was camping one night when he noticed one of his horses was missing.
He ventured into the hills searching for the horse, then stumbled upon what has now been dubbed the Joshua National Park Service, where he met a stranger who speculated about the lands’ mineral-producing capacity. Lange later acquired the deed to the land after paying $1,000 in the late 1800s. He later found some partners who also invested in the idea; they all went to the site to see if there was any truth to the claim.
In 1895, Johnny Lange sold his shares of this gold bullion mine to one of the partners; a wealthy rancher named J.D Ryan, who went on to establish the mine, which sits in the Joshua National Park today. Mining operations in the mine shafts of the Lost Horse Mill were suddenly halted in 1905 when the miners who worked there lost the link to the natural resources after going off trail and hitting a fault line.
If you’re taking the west entrance to the mine, keep heading west for about 2.25 miles till you can see the Ten-Stamp Mill in the distance. The trail climbs steadily as you get closer to the Ten-Stamp Mill. This indicates that you’re getting closer to the once steam-powered mine. The Lost Horse Mine remains in good condition long after its extensive operation, which is why it’s deemed one of the few best-preserved mills under national protection.
This national relic was one of the highest producing mills among many failed and low-yielding speculations at the time, one of which is the optimist mine bunkhouse located around the Lost Horse Mine Road.
The NPS recorded that the mine produced approximately 16,000 ounces of silver and 10,000 ounces of gold. The trail leading to the Lost Horse Mine has a slight but easy-to-hike uphill grade.
On the way to the old mine, you’ll see several Joshua Trees strewn across the Joshua Tree National Park landscape, the Coachella Valley, the Ryan Campground, and the desert Queen Valley. It’s truly an incredible sight if you visit during wildflower season. If you’re hiking through the area at any other time, you might find the boulders strewn on the road to the mine site somewhat mechanical.
The trailhead address of the Lost Horse Mine points east and then turns southeast. You’ll have to walk a few miles on the Lost Horse Mountain trail to reach the Lost Horse Mine. Then, you’ll notice the trail leaning towards the north side of a rock-strewn slope after a while. Continue straight until you see a pair of ravines; this is one of the many signs you’re close to the mine.
Go a little further, and you should spot a chain link fence surrounding the Lost Horse Mine; visitors aren’t allowed in, so you’ll have to gaze at it from outside the enclosure. If you’re planning on visiting the Lost Horse Mine, we recommend taking a little detour after seeing the mill.
Continue hiking through the steep ridge at the other side of the mine; a vast overlook offers a great landscape view. Once you finish seeing the area, you can easily make your way back by taking the long loop which leads back to the trailhead.
To get to the Lost Horse Mine from Boulevard Park, you need to head South on Keys View Road, then make a left turn onto the dirt road which leads to the trailhead. Once you get there, you can make your way to the Lost Horse Mine. The Lost Horse Mine Trail is a moderate hike and one of the renowned attractions of the Joshua Tree not just because it leads to the Lost Horse Mine but due to the breath-taking visuals on the trek to the historically rich mine.
The exciting and challenging aspect of the Lost Horse trail hike is getting to the west side of Lost Horse Mountain and the loop hike. At the parking lot, you’ll find a sign directing you to the clockwise loop, which leads to the Lost Horse Mine, but strangely enough, hiking around it anti-clockwise is a lot more satisfying even though it takes the same amount of time to get there.
This incredible hike starts at a trailhead located southwest of a dirt road. You should have no problem spotting it on the official park map. The road to the mine is not as rugged as one might imagine, which means you can easily make your way there with a two-wheel drive car if you prefer not to walk the dusty old road.
Once you arrive at the mine, you must park your vehicle and proceed uphill into the mountains. Not to worry, though; the trail isn’t all that steep. However, the heat might be uncomfortable since there’s no shade in the area.