Contact Mine Joshua Tree

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 where a kiosk displays information about the park, but does not 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.

Joshua Tree Contact Mine Trail
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 445 feet of elevation up to the mine.

Joshua Tree Contact Mine Trail
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.

Joshua Tree Contact Mine
Contact Mine

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. No permit is required to hike to Contact Mine, but a park entrance fee must be paid to reach the trailhead.

Joshua Tree Contact Mine
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. Signs are posted for the parking area on the southwest side of the road, but the trailhead has no markers.

Trailhead address: Park Boulevard (Utah Trail), Joshua Tree National Park, CA 92277
Trailhead coordinates: 34.0723, -116.0327 (34° 04′ 20.3″N 116° 01′ 57.7″W)

Elevation Profile
Click or hover over any spot on this elevation profile to see the distance from the start and elevation above sea level at that location, which will be highlighted on the map.
Trail Map

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These photos were taken in November of 2010. Click to enlarge.
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Tagged with · Desert Canyons · Mines · National Parks · Off Trail
Distance: 3.95 miles · Elevation change: 700 feet

5 Comments on Contact Mine in Joshua Tree National Park

  1. Steve wrote:

    Directions are very good. Photo 6 was key in locating the base of the trail.

    Steve's ratings for this hike: Steve gives a rating of 4Steve gives a rating of 4Steve gives a rating of 4Steve gives a rating of 4Steve gives a rating of 4
  2. Terry Tyson wrote:

    Thank you for these directions. We tried to find the mine yesterday by following a guidebook with very vague directions; and in the end were WRONG! Even our topo didn’t help much, either. We’ll return in the spring but use your directions and photos to find the mine.

    Thanks again…well done!

  3. Patrick wrote:

    Hiked a different trail that connects with the Contact Mine Trail yesterday. The trail has signs this year which I had not noticed before that went as far as the second marker. Going to hit this trail this coming Saturday. I will update about markers, though I am sure they go the entire way if they put up that many through the wash.

  4. Jerry Kroeger wrote:

    We read about the contact mine trail in a trail guide book at the visitor center and asked about it there. We were discouraged from trying it unless in possession of a compass and topo map. There was a map in the book but it appeared to cover a large area and looked pretty useless. The map you get when entering the park did not show the trail. The trail head is located just inside the North entrance, less than a mile, on the right there is a small parking area and a bulletin board with a map that aldo does not show the trail. I looked it up on the All Trails app that I had just just downloaded from the Play Store on my android phone. The trail shows up as a bold red line. you click on record and your position shows as a blue dot. You don’t neeed a phone signal once you have the map downloaaded as you are just using the gps and you don’t need to buy the Pro version to download the map. The beginning of the trail is a large wash leading away from the road and is now marked with some red signs on a post. There are maybe 6-8 of them widely spaced so it may be hard to see the next on until you walk a bit. After maybe half a mile of this you are on your own. I think we could have followed the trail without our gps but it was a confidence booster. This was on February 20 and the weather was on the cool side but I was comfortable in a T shirt while my wife wore a jacket. A younger couple, the only other souls we saw on the 4 mile round trip, passed us as we approached the mine and then maybe 20 minutes later passed us coming back. We asked them about the mine and they had not a clue, they just said the trail petered out and we turned around. At this point you could see the tailings on the other side of the creek bed. There was some machinery under the tailings that some vandals may have pushed over, an engine with large pulleys, a 55 gallon drum with some fittings and some small gauge railroad rails and some leaf springs and an axle. I made my way up the faint trail to the top of the tailings and at that level area the were four shafts covered over with heavy metal grate boxes and more machinery and rails and above that the winch machinery. Below this to the side we saw remains of a tine roof, a spring matress bed, a small fuel tank, a destroyed cast iron stove, some crushed stove pipe and below, towards another dry creek bed werethe remains of numers rusty tin cans and a bit of broken glass. This was a very small mine and the indication were of a single or very few miners. It was by far the most interesting hike we have done after a few spectacular palm tree oasis and waterfall distinationss. The return was mostly downhill and we did not need any help from the gps.

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