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.
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.
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. No permit is required to hike to Contact Mine, but a park entrance fee must be paid to reach the trailhead.
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)
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Explore more trails in Death Valley National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and Mojave National Preserve.
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The desert in bloom is something any outdoor enthusiast in California should see.