Joshua Tree National Park: Lost Horse Mine

Explore a desert moonscape of otherworldly cacti on this 4.2-mile hike to an abandoned gold prospect. Take plenty of water and sunscreen.

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This 4-mile out-and-back hike takes you a through a tour of days past. Start by hiking into sparse piñon scrub and ancient alluvial fans. About a half mile in, you’ll encounter views of exposed granite monoliths. Look for stark, metamorphic rock patterns in a terrain of playas and desert varnish. Another half-mile in, you’ll be able to peek through rugged canyons to get a glimpse of Pleasant Valley in the distance. Be careful—six species of rattlers live among the California junipers here. Enjoy superb views of Malapai Hill in the only shade on the whole hike here.

Just over three quarters of a mile later, you’ll have an option: Turn right at the loop around the mine, or scramble straight over boulders. After that, note the junction of the Colorado and Sonoran deserts with spiky ocotillo plants and jumping cholla cactus. Bring a comb with you just in case the cholla stick to you. Once you hit the two-mile marker, you’ll reach 5,278 feet in elevation and crest the abandoned Lost Horse mill—watch your footing around the uncovered mineshafts. On your hike back to the car, scan the east-facing valleys for bighorn sheep. (There’s a bighorn sheep refuge nearby.)

From 2023