Hiking In Southern California's Gold Country: Stake Your Claim At The Big Horn Mine


By David Lockeretz of Nobody Hikes in L.A. / Special to LAist

If you wanted to take a trip that provided great mountain views and a look at an abandoned gold mine, you’d have to go to the Sierras, right?

Wrong.

High in the San Gabriel Mountains, only a couple of hours from Los Angeles and Orange County, history and nature meet at the Big Horn Mine. Located on the south slope of Mt. Baden-Powell, the Big Horn Mine was first prospected in 1859.

It can be reached with a fairly easy hike of about two miles from Vincent Gap on the Angeles Crest Highway, 53 miles from La Canada and I-210 and 15 miles from Highway 138 near the Cajon Pass.

From the spacious parking lot, which also serves as a trail head for Mt. Baden-Powell, follow the signs to Mine Gulch. Stay right as the Mine Gulch trail branches off to the left. The trail works its way around the eastern flank of Baden-Powell. Along the way, you get dramatic views of Mt. Baldy and Pine Mountain, across the canyon of the San Gabriel River’s east fork (yes, the same San Gabriel River that flows through a concrete channel along the 605 Freeway).

After a mile, you pass by another mine entrance. Continue along the way, taking care along the sometimes treacherous terrain. You head west (right) as the trail bends around the corner of the mountain, and soon you will come to the mine itself. You can get a good look at the stamp mill, although going inside is not advisable. The mine has been more or less abandoned since the 1930s, and never turned a profit. However, it’s thought that large quantities of gold can still be found in the bedrock. (I’m not making any promises, but hey, you never know!)

Gold or no gold, the hike is an enjoyable one. Most people should have no problem with it, but a couple of points to keep in mind: at 6,500 feet above sea level, some might find themselves affected by the altitude. There are a couple of tricky spots on the trail where it clings to the side of the mountain, and hikers will want to be sure of their footing. And to park at Vincent Gap, each car must have a US Forest Service adventure pass, which can be bought at most sporting good stores and costs $5 per day or $30 for a year. The pass is good throughout the Angeles, Cleveland, San Bernardino and Los Padres National Forests.

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