Contact Mine was in operation at the start of the 20th century, extracting gold and silver from the mountains south of Twentynine Palms, California. A hundred years of desert decay have left the mine rusty but recognizable. The old road to the mine is worn down and eroded, now just a little-used hiking trail. This 3.95-mile round trip trek ascends 700 feet up a wash, a canyon, and an old road to a mountainside mine site that offers a glimpse into the mining history of Joshua Tree National Park.
There is no trail marker for Contact Mine. To locate the trailhead, drive half a mile south of the north entrance on Route 12 (Utah Trail) and pull into the parking area on the southwest side of the road. There is a kiosk displaying information about the park, but no mention of Contact Mine. Hike southwest past the kiosk, following the footsteps of previous hikers across open desert toward a pile of distinct boulders. After 0.15 miles, and just before reaching the rock formation, you will hit a wash. Turn right heading up the wash toward the canyon carved into the mountains to the west. There is more evidence of an actual trail from this point on.
Looking up the wash
After half a mile of brisk cross-desert travel, a line or rocks directs traffic to a small track exiting the wash to the left. Follow this trail, and its periodic cairns, on a course paralleling the wash. The wash becomes choked with boulders as it meets the canyon, while the fading mine road remains navigable. After another 0.37 miles, and just over a mile from the start, the trail drops into the canyon at a Y in the drainage. Take a few steps up the smaller right fork and relocate the trail ascending the ridge up the center of the Y. The fading road rises above the left fork, which is the main channel of the canyon.
The road becomes steeper, climbing toward the back of the canyon where it makes a broad curve to the left. The quality of the stone construction is apparent as you tackle the remaining 500 feet of elevation up to the mine.
Looking down the old mining road
The trail crosses a saddle into a neighboring branch of the canyon and angles to the right. At this point, 1.65-miles from the start, Contact Mine comes into view for the first time. Continue the last quarter mile to the old mine site. The trail breaks up just below the mine, so make your own way across the slope strewn with a surprising amount of rusting remnants. A mound of discarded gravel forms the base of Contact Mine. Either scramble up the rock pile, or circle up to the mine, where old machinery, rail tracks, and covered mine shafts are still in place.
Enjoy the nice view down the canyon from Contact Mine before returning the way you came. The hike back is easy and downhill, with wide vistas beyond the canyon toward the Pinto Mountains. This unmaintained trail sees few visitors and provides a secluded desert hiking experience. There is no permit required to hike to Contact Mine, but a park entrance fee must be paid to reach the trailhead.
A winch rusting at Contact Mine
To get to the trailhead: The hike begins from the parking area four miles north of the intersection with Pinto Basin Road and Park Boulevard, which is half a mile south of the north entrance of Joshua Tree National Park near the city of Twentynine Palms. There are signs posted for the parking area on the southwest side of the road, but no markers for the trailhead.
Trailhead address: Park Boulevard (Utah Trail), Joshua Tree National Park, CA 92277
Trailhead coordinates: 34.072315, -116.032695 (34° 04′ 20.33″N 116° 01′ 57.70″W)
Use the map below to view the trail and get directions:
Or view California Desert trails and campgrounds in a larger map
|Fortynine Palms Oasis|
The 3-mile round trip hike visits a cool desert oasis.
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|Crown Prince Lookout|
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|Desert Queen Mine|
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|Wall Street Mill|
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|Lucky Boy Vista|
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|High View Nature Trail|
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This 1.2-mile hike leaves the crowds at Keys View for even grander views at a 5,550-foot summit that looks out on the Coachella Valley, the Salton Sea, Mount San Jacinto, and much of Joshua Tree National Park.
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|Lost Palms Oasis|
This 7.2-mile hike visits a desert oasis nestled between mountains in the southeast corner of the park.
|Hikes in the California Desert|
Explore more trails in Death Valley National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and Mojave National Preserve.
|New York Peak in Mojave National Preserve|
This 7 to 9-mile round trip hike summits the highest point of the New York Range in the northeast corner of the preserve.
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This 8.5-mile hike summits a 6,365-foot peak in the Granite Mountains.
|Joshua Tree Campgrounds|
There are nine campgrounds with 500 total sites spread throughout the park to facilitate your visit.
|Joshua Tree Wildflowers|
The desert in bloom is something any outdoor enthusiast in California should see.