The Eagle Cliff Cabin is a unique and fascinating little place. Many artifacts left over from mining days are still here: Pots, pans, and utensils are scattered about the old wooden shelves. The cabin has a crude stacked rock fireplace and stove. A single window with original panes of glass is in one wall. And a roof made of flattened tin cans and supported by native pinyon logs lies overhead. This is a wonderful glimpse into the life of a solitary prospector.
We first visited this site back in 2000. I had read that a small miner’s cabin was built from stacked rocks in the Joshua Tree backcountry and I wanted to see it. We couldn’t find this place the first time but the second time was the charm. And what a neat spot it is!
I returned in 2013 to take better photos and have a look to see how the place is doing. Some of my photos are older and from scans.
If you head out to visit the Eagle Cliff, please respect this unique place and leave everything there for the next explorer to discover. Removing anything from a National Park is illegal, and besides its real value is there.
Discovered by Robert Muir in 1895, a 75-foot shaft was put in following a vein of gold. By 1916, Bill Keys owned it. Some minor production was done by his brother-in-law, Albert Lawton, and a partner in 1933. They milled the ore at Keys’ Wall Street Mill. After that, the mine was only intermittently worked in small batches. It was never a big producer or very profitable. It also never had a road built to the mine so all the ore had to be packed out on mules. Exactly who built the rock cabin and lived there remains unclear. Some sources believe it was Lawton.
Farther to the north and down a steep, massive jumble of boulders is another prospect. A small blacksmith area marks the shaft entrance. You can see it on the right if you look carefully from the overlook. It is difficult to reach however and not really worth the effort.
Parking for the trailhead is at the Desert Queen Mine and Pine City Backcountry Trailhead. To find it, head 1.6 miles west of Jumbo Rocks Campground, turn right (north) onto Geology Tour (dirt) Road and follow it 1.3 miles to the end. The dirt parking lot holds about six cars.
Trail finding can be tricky on this hike. From the trailhead, walk east along the old road. The other trail to the north heads to Pine City. After about 600 ft an old road heads off to the south. This is the main trail to the Desert Queen Mine and you can go this way, but if you walk a little farther on this road you will come to a nice overlook for the Desert Queen Mine and an old three-room stone building ruin. This was probably a cabin for the miners. You get a nice overview of the Desert Queen Mine from here.
From the ruin, head down into the wash. After a few hundred feet you will catch up with the old mine road again as it winds its way down into a larger wash. Follow the road up to the gated remains of the Desert Queen Mine itself. This was once the largest mine in the Park. The large piece of equipment along the way is the remains of an air compressor for the mine but otherwise, there isn’t too much to see here, so continue up the old road to the top of the ridge. You will come to a few more shafts up here as the top of the hill begins to look like Swiss Cheese.
The views to the north and the canyon are very nice. Looking east, you will spot the next section of the old trail on the next ridge over. The trail becomes harder to follow but walk southeast and cross over to it. The trail returns to the canyon edge. The trail grows fainter and heads east, skirting around a granite boulder outcrop to the next valley. Up until now, the geology underfoot has been mostly Queen Mountain Granite, but now you will enter the lighter White Tank Granites.
Head south-southeast and uphill in this little valley, leaving the canyon behind. There is a rocky ridge on your left and we will be headed to the other side. Follow the valley to the end and find a path up to the saddle with an adit with a white mine dump. The trail is faint in some places here so having a GPS is useful.
Make a left here at the adit and head north. This turn is easy to miss. If you do, you will come to another trail junction in about a hundred feet. This junction is where a trail heads down to the Split Rock Picnic Area. If you went too far, make a left here. The trail will circle around a boulder outcrop and join back up with our trail. Regardless, you should soon be able to look down into a narrow valley to the north from here. This is where the Eagle Cliff Mine area is. Follow the trail down about 500 ft to the gray mine dump. The cabin is hidden in the granite boulders and shrub oaks on the right.
- Season: October to May
- Region: Mojave Desert
- Public Land Agency: Joshua Tree National Park
- Trailhead access: 1.3 miles (2.1 km) from the Park Blvd on Desert Queen Mine Road to the Pine City and Desert Queen Mine trailhead. 2wd graded dirt road to the parking area.
- Hike distance: 3.5 miles (5.6 km) (Out and Back)
- Type: Use
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Elevation gain: +900 ft (+274 m)
- Hiking time: 2 hours
- Desert Queen Mine Trailhead: 34.02363°, -116.07768°
- Desert Queen Mine: 34.02377°, -116.07145°
- Eagle Cliff Mine Cabin: 34.02232°, -116.06182°
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