Joshua Tree's Secret Aerie
Hiking to Eagle Cliff Mine in Joshua Tree National Park
You won’t find Eagle Cliff Mine on the official Joshua Tree National Park map—which is part of the appeal of this challenging 4.6-mile (round-trip) out-and-back trek. This semisecret destination is not so much the mine (which is completely sealed off), but rather the unique mining cabin, high on a hillside, wedged between two boulders.
The site dates back to 1895, making Eagle Cliff one of the oldest mining projects in the park. Amazingly, it still stands in relatively untouched condition. Start off at the Split Rock Loop trailhead, where you’ll get to immediately see Split Rock, a formation that easily earns its name. The way along Split Rock Loop Trail is marked for easy following.
In this portion you’ll see teddy bear cholla and Mojave yucca, which look like baby Joshua trees. Ironically, you won’t see any actual Joshua trees on this trail. At the 0.3-mile mark, an intersection sign points the way for Split Rock Loop Trail. This is where you turn right onto a rough trail that’s behind the sign. The trail is unmarked and unnamed. You’ll traverse two hills before coming across a steep hill that rapidly ascends almost 400 feet and requires some bouldering. This is also where the trail becomes very difficult to follow. Small cairns will be your best friends during this section. You’ll also appreciate the shade from an occasional juniper.
When you reach the top, you’ll only have a quarter-mile left to go. Keep a close eye on the trail, as some parts are obstructed by boulders. Eagle Cliff Mine had two entrances—both on the right side of the trail and both easy to miss. When you see the first one, you’ll know you’re close, and the second is within sight of the cabin. When you slightly descend on a plateau, you’ve arrived. The cabin is hidden in the boulders on the right side of the plateau and slightly obscured by a mesquite tree. Inside is a logbook where you can sign your name as one of the few visitors who’ve experienced Eagle Cliff Mine. Final note: You’ve come this far, so don’t miss out on the sweeping desert view that’s just past the cabin.
Take CA-62 and the Joshua Tree entrance to the park. Continue on Park Blvd. for 18.2 miles and make a left onto an unnamed road at the first intersection after Skull Rock. A sign will precede the intersection showing that Split Rock is to the left. At the end of this short road is Split Rock Loop Trailhead. No dogs. Trailhead coordinates: 34.009613, -116.055877
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