The Ashford Mine Camp hike is a 2.1-mile trudge up a steep canyon wash without established trails that leads to the well-preserved ruins of an abandoned mining camp last used in the 1950s. The trek from Ashford Mill presents a fascinating look into some of the mining history of Death Valley National Park.
In 1907, Harold Ashford and his brothers had been mining a claim held by the Key Gold Mining Company near the southern end of Death Valley. Though they held the claims for the land, the Key Gold Company had not kept current on the annual assessment work necessary to retain the claims, and in 1910, a court granted Ashford title to the land.
Over the years, a road was constructed up the rough wash to the camp, and as many as 28 men lived at the mining camp. The mine floundered, however, and was never able to turn a profit. Eventually the lease was turned back over to the Ashfords, who continued to mine the land off and on until eventually leaving it for good in the 1950s.
The mining camp has several cabins and other structures that remain standing and semi well-preserved in the arid climate. The camp itself overlooks the valley far below, and it is possible to find mines, shafts, and remnants of the infrastructure that existed far up this canyon. The camp's isolation and absence from park maps assures that it gets few visitors, and the peak of this hike will leave you in a ghost town with a palpable sense of silence in the air. There are other ruins and mines that remain from the camp's mining activity for those who want to explore a little.
The old road is mostly washed out or buried, but portions of it are still visible in places in the hike up the canyon. The camp is fairly simple to find with a few directions. Begin the hike at a trail marker at the edge of a dirt parking area. At 0.3 miles into the hike, look across the wash as the trail dips into the canyon bottom. The trail continues on the opposite side of the wash, climbing an inconspicuous trail that continues on the north side of the ridge. From here you will crest the ridge and drop back into another canyon. At mileage points of 1.2 and 1.6, two other large washes meet up with the canyon; just fork to the right at both of these points.
Also of note is the 2.8-mile drive from Badwater Road to the parking area. This is a steep, rough road that crosses a few soft washes. A high-clearance car should be able to make it, and a passenger car may be able to make a portion of it. There are numerous areas where visitors can pull over and park if the road gets too rough.
There are no facilities of any kind once you leave Badwater Road. Bathrooms are located at the Ashford Mill ruins directly across Badwater Road from the turn-off.