Enter the park from the West Entrance Station below Joshua Tree Town. Continue down Park Boulevard until you see the well-indicated turnoff for Keys View. Turn right here and follow this narrow paved road until you see the small signs for Lost Horse Mine and Trail pointing to the left. Follow this dirt road to its end, where you will find a small dirt parking lot (which typically fills quickly).
Total Gain: 279m
|Type of Hike||Loop|
|Crowd Levels||High until the Gold Mine, Low after|
|Family Friendly||Yes, if they are able to walk|
|When to Do||Spring and Fall, avoid summer heat|
Find the trailhead at the far side of the parking lot, and start hiking on the wide double track trail. The path will ascend slightly and gain a small pass, where you will get your first fantastic views looking back the way you came. You will be able to see many of the stunning small mountain ranges of the park, as well as the small plateau you drove in on.
The trail will ungulate up and down along the side of the hill as it heads towards the old mine. Along this ridgeline you will start to have fantastic views down to the left, of Pleasant Valley. A couple of rock formations will dot the plane.
After going around several bends you will have your first view of the Lost Horse Mine. The mine produced roughly $5 million (in today’s dollars) worth of gold and silver when in operation, before shutting down in 1931, and was one of the few successful desert gold mines in the area.
The trail passes somewhat closely by the fenced off mine, however we recommend turning left onto one of the plentiful unofficial trails and heading up to get a closer look. After admiring the old timber mine, head back to the trail and climb up a steeper trail to another small notch. From here you will traverse along a stunning ridge, gaining and losing elevation steeply. You will have some of the best views down to the left towards Pleasant Valley along this 3/4-mile section.
Finally the trail will veer right and start to slowly drop down into the valley on the other side of the small mountains you contoured around. The trail will join up with a wash (a dried up creek-bed which flows during the flash floods which occur irregularly in the region) and follow it almost all the way back to the parking lot. This is typically the most efficient way to cross terrain of this nature. The only downside is that you will be hiking in (typically) loose sand, which is not only somewhat challenging to walk in, but also gets in your shoes.
Finally arrive at the parking lot near its entrance as the trail turns harder right. Find your car and head out!
- The way described is the clockwise loop of the trail. We recommend completing the hike this way, as it provides a more gradual climb to the scenic ridge.