Smack in the middle of Joshua Tree National Park, this excellent day hike weaves in and out of desert washes, through groves of pristine Joshua trees, among historical sites, and allows for ample extracurricular exploration. In the springtime, the wildflowers ignite the hillsides along the Lost Horse Mine Hike—the quiet desert hills almost feel as though they are breathing.
Although the trail can be a bit difficult to track as it parallels Quail Wash, the hike is relatively well-marked with signage appearing every quarter mile at most. That said, bringing along a good topo map, a compass or GPS device, and some navigational savviness is ideal. Additionally, as with all desert travel, bring more water than you think you’ll need and expect sometimes excruciatingly hot temperatures with not much reprieve if you travel in late spring to early fall.
At the terminus of this gently-graded 4-mile trail sits the Lost Horse Mine. It rivals the Wall Street Mine for the best-preserved historical mines protected within the park. Strewn about the area are relics of the early 20th century miners’ day-to-day lives—keep a sharp eye out for old food storage tins and other miscellaneous items.
Though mining in these and the surrounding hills yielded enough precious metal to spark a second, slightly smaller gold rush, the Lost Horse Mine was purportedly one of the only ones to actually yield productive quantities. According to the National Park Service, this small mine yielded about 10,000 ounces of gold and 16,000 ounces of silver.
Feeling like going the extra mile? Don’t turn back and do this one as an out-and-back—summit Lost Horse Peak and finish the trail as a loop.