Desert Queen Mine is one of hundreds of abandoned mining sites that sit alongside the Joshua Trees, giant boulders and unique rock formations that dot the barren desert landscape of Joshua Tree National Park. It’s an easy and picturesque hike to Desert Queen Mine and it provides a fascinating glimpse into the history of the park.
For those of you planning a trip to Joshua Tree National Park, we wanted to share our experience and tips for hiking to Desert Queen Mine.
What is Desert Queen Mine?
Desert Queen Mine is located in California’s Joshua Tree National Park. With its unique rock formations and distinctive Joshua Trees set against a barren desert landscape, Joshua Tree National Park is one of the most magical and enchanting places on the planet.
The long abandoned mine is located in the North Eastern section of the park, a few miles from Park Boulevard and the distinct Skull Rock rock formation.
The Desert Queen Mine was once a profitable mine which operated on land that is now part of the Joshua Tree National Park. The presence of gold was discovered in the area in 1894 and the mine operated from 1895 to 1961. Its chequered past includes tales of murder, robbery and bank foreclosure which are all said to have played a hand in the changes of ownership throughout the years.
Hiking the Desert Queen Mine Trail
With its trail head located at the end of a ¾ mile dirt track, Desert Queen Mine is a little off the beaten track. The picturesque trail, long abandoned mining artifacts and the fascinating glimpse into the history of Joshua Tree make it well worth the effort.
There are two options on the trail for the Desert Queen Mine: the first is a 0.7 mile round trip which leads to an overlook across from the mine. It is also possible to cross the canyon over to the mine and this adds an extra 0.9 miles to the hike.
- Hike Length: 0.7 miles round trip to overlook or 1.6 miles round trip crossing the canyon to the mine itself.
- Hike Time: 1 to 2 hours
- Hike Difficulty: easy hike across relatively flat terrain. The 1.6 mile hike has a couple of hundred feet in elevation change after crossing the canyon but it is still a pleasant hike. Depending on when you hike, high temperatures increase the difficultly of all Joshua Tree hikes.
- Parking Lot: at the end of Desert Queen Mine Road. Parking is shared with the Pine City trail.
- Facilities: primitive restroom located at trail head
Where to Stay in Joshua Tree
The North Entrance (Twentynine Palms) and the West Entrance (Joshua Tree town) are the most convenient for visiting many of the Joshua Tree National Park highlights. We have a full guide on where to stay in Joshua Tree, but here are our top 3 places to stay in Joshua Tree and are perfect for couples, small groups and families:
- M&L Desert Cottage: this beautiful 2 bedroom cottage is just 6 minutes drive from the north entrance to Joshua Tree. The cottage has been completely remodeled and is the definition of desert chic. The interior is gorgeous and there is a fire pit, BBQ and hammocks on the patio for stargazing and al fresco dining. – check prices now!
Location: North Entrance/Twentynine Palms. We love this entrance as it’s both close to many highlights of Joshua Tree National Park and is also a much quieter gate to enter the park by. M&L Desert Cottage is a 20 minute drive from Joshua Tree Town.
- Castle House Estate: with the accommodation options including guard towers, yurt tents, a tiny container house (the perfect chance to experience tiny home living!) and a vintage RV, Castle House Estate perfectly encompasses the unique Joshua Tree vibe. It’s the perfect mix of indoor and outdoor living and the accommodation is beautifully presented and incredibly unique. The hardest part is choosing which accommodation to reserve – check prices now!
Location: West Entrance/Joshua Tree. Castle House Estate is a 10 minute drive from Joshua Tree Town and is 20 minutes north of the park entrance.
- Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Twentynine Palms – clean and well equipped, the Fairfield Inn is one of our go to hotels when we’re exploring the park and want somewhere clean and quiet to rest up. The hotel has a small pool out back, free breakfast, laundry facilities and there’s a grocery store just across the road for supplies – check prices now!
Location: North Entrance/Twentynine Palms. We opt for the convenience of the Fairfield Inn when we have early starts and late evenings in the park.
Getting to the Desert Queen Mine Trail Head
The Desert Queen Mine trail head is located at the end of the Desert Queen Mine Road, a ¾ mile long dirt track located off Park Boulevard, one of the main roads running through Joshua Tree National Park.
Desert Queen Mine tip: the dirt track is relatively easy to navigate in a low clearance car when conditions are dry. Use your own judgement on road conditions and your vehicle if it has been raining.
- If you enter from the North Entrance then follow Park Boulevard to the turn off Desert Queen Mine Road. You will pass the intersection for Park Boulevard/Pinto Basin Road and the turnoffs for Split Rock, Skull Rock and Jumbo Rocks Campground along the way. Without stops, the drive from the North Entrance to the trail head will take around 20 minutes.
- If you enter from the West Entrance then follow Park Boulevard to the turn off Desert Queen Mine Road. You will pass the intersection for Park Boulevard/Keys View Road and the turnoffs for Lost Horse Mine, the Hall of Horrors area and Ryan Mountain trail along the way. Without stops, the drive from the West Entrance to the trail head will take around 30 minutes.
- If you enter the Park from the South, drive north on Cottonwood Springs Road and continue North on Pinto Basin Road after reaching the junction of Pinto Basin Road and Cottonwood Springs Road close to the Cottonwood Springs Visitors Center. Continue on to the junction of Park Boulevard and Pinto Basin Road and take the turn off for Park Boulevard. Follow Park Boulevard to the turn off Desert Queen Mine Road. You will pass the intersection for Park Boulevard/Pinto Basin Road and the turnoffs for Split Rock, Skull Rock and Jumbo Rocks Campground along the way. Without stops, the drive from the South Entrance to the trail head will take around one hour.
Map of Desert Queen Mine Trail
We’ve put together the below map of the hiking route to the Desert Queen Mine. The full trail is shown in Yellow. The green trail leads past the overlook and is nice to follow as an alternative route out or back if you are doing the entire trail.
Click here for the Google Map
We highly recommend saving the GPS location of the rock and the surrounding area on an offline map app before you visit Joshua Tree to avoid getting lost. There is almost no cell-phone reception in Joshua Tree National Park so make sure to save the location on Google Maps ahead of time.
Caching your Google Map: In case you didn’t know, you can save a map area on Google Maps for offline use. This is really useful when visiting places like Joshua Tree National Park that don’t have cell service. To do this using your cellphone, zoom to the area you’d like to save for offline use, and then in the Google Maps search box type “OK Maps”. You’ll then get a prompt to save your map.
How to Use this Google Map: Click on the grey star at the top of the map and this map will be added to your Google Maps account. You can then view it on your phone or computer in Google Maps by clicking on the menu button, going to “Your Places” and selecting this map. We use these maps all the time as you can set out your itinerary ahead of time and quickly reference the saved maps.
Desert Queen Mine Trail
The trail for the Desert Queen Mine starts at the Pine City trail parking lot. The Pine City trail is marked with a trail information board and the Desert Queen Mine trail ventures off to the right close to the restroom. The trail follows an old mining road so it is quite easy to identify.
A few minutes into the trail, about 0.1 miles from the trail head, you will reach a junction. You can go either way: the main trail is accessed via a right turn at this junction while going straight on leads to a viewpoint overlooking the mine and passes some amazing artifacts and ruins. The trails join up again as the hike descends towards the riverbed. We went out to Desert Queen Mine and returned via the main trail.
Desert Queen Mine tip: please respect the trail and do not remove or damage any of the artifacts along the route. They are an amazing part of Joshua Tree’s mining history and belong in the park.
Continuing along the trail you will see the spoil tip of the mine across the canyon.
The trail then descends into a wash known as Gold Dust Gulch. After crossing over the wash follow the trail left as it climbs the hill.
After ascending the hill the remains of the Desert Queen Mine come into view along the trail. There are old mine shafts, some of which are open and some which have been boarded up, and old mining machinery. There are lots of disused mine shafts around the top of the hill so take some time to wander around and explore the old mine.
Desert Queen Mine tip: be careful around the old mine shafts. There’s a strong bat community in the area and it’s common to see bats flying in and out of the shafts. Some of the old shafts have collapsed in so it could also be dangerous to explore any further.
Once you’re finished exploring, follow the trail back to the Gold Dust Gulch wash. As you ascend out of Gold Dust Gulch you can either take the main trail or the alternative trail back to the Desert Queen mine trail head.
Extending the hike: Eagle Cliff Mine
If you wish to extend the hike is it possible to continue on the trail after reaching Desert Queen Mine. The trail continues to Eagle Cliff Mine, a well maintained mining homestead and a viewpoint great views of the park. Access to the cabin, known as Boulder House, is via an unmarked trail. We haven’t done the hike yet but if you are planning to include it make sure to save the trail details before you set out. There are some amazing artifacts in the cabin so, again, make sure to leave everything exactly as you find it.
Desert Queen Mine tip: the extended trail to Eagle Cliff Mine is a more difficult hike.
Hiking to Desert Queen Mine with Kids
The trail to the Desert Queen Mine overlook is an easy and flat trail and a great hike with kids. The full hike is also very manageable but the extra distance and elevation change require a little more stamina. The path can be uneven at times which can be difficult for younger kids.
On our most recent visit to Joshua Tree we did the hike with our 2 year old and 9 month. Our 2 year old walked a good part of the way there and back but got tired and hopped into his hiking carrier when the temperatures rose on our return to the car.
Desert Queen Mine tip: there are no severe drop offs along the trial but do be careful around the viewpoints, along the higher areas and around the open mining shafts.
Tips for Hiking the Desert Queen Mine Trail
- Arrive early: The park gets extremely busy and the sun is unrelenting so the earlier the better! We started our mornings at sunrise and it was incredible to enjoy the almost empty roads and trails and the uninterrupted views.
- Closed toe boots: cacti are abundant in the desert and closed toe shoes are useful.
- The wildlife: outside of the winter months of November to February there is the possibility of encountering Joshua Tree’s most hostile residents – the park is home to some venomous wildlife which includes rattlesnakes, scorpions, and black widow spiders. It shouldn’t be a problem if you keep your feet and hands where you can see them and make sure kids do the same!
- Snacks and Water: Bring lots of water on any hikes in Joshua Tree. There are water filling stations throughout the park. There are water filing stations at the Oasis Visitor Center in Twentynine Palms, West Entrance Station, Black Rock Campground, Cottonwood Campground, Indian Cove Ranger Station. Bring snacks and lunch if required.
- Cellphones: there is very little cellphone service once inside Joshua Tree National Park. Make sure to save your trails offline and bring a phone charger for the car.
- Mining Artifacts: please respect the trail and do not remove or damage any of the artifacts along the route. They are an amazing part of Joshua Tree’s mining history and belong in the park.