By Staff Reports
(Wrightwood)– One of the region’s most popular day hikes is Big Horn Mine, located about 6 miles west of Wrightwood. This moderate 3.7-mile round-trip hike takes you on a scenic journey through the Sheep Mountain Wilderness, where you’ll spot clusters of blue lupine, red Indian paintbrush, and other native wildflowers.
The mine was discovered in 1895 by prospector Charles Vincent Dougherty, a Civil War veteran who arrived in Los Angeles around 1868. On the run for murdering an Arizona claim jumper in self defense, Dougherty took refuge in the San Gabriel Mountains where he built a one-room cabin with shingles hewn from nearby trees.
Big Horn Mine produced 3,701 ounces of gold, 2,430 ounces of silver and 1,357 pounds of copper — generating roughly $100,000. The gold mine was later purchased by the U.S. Forest Service for $2 million.
The crumbling mine complex is still partially intact, with a maze of ore cart rails and tunnels totaling about 3,500 feet. (The entrances to the tunnels are blocked, and visitors are prohibited from entering.)
From the stamp mill, hikers can enjoy breathtaking views of the valley, Mount Baldy and Iron Mountain. According to the L.A. Times,there are still roughly 262,000 ounces of gold in the mine — which is worth more than $496 million today!
The trailhead to Big Horn Mine begins at Vincent Gap, which is also the starting point for Mount Baden-Powell. A $5 Forest Adventure Pass is required (available at Jensen’s Market in Wrightwood). For more information about the history of Big Horn Mine and Miner Charles Vincent Dougherty, visit the Wrightwood Firehouse Museum at 6000 Cedar St., Wrightwood; 760-249-4650.