I’ve hiked to the top of Quail Mountain from Covington Flat, but I wanted to visit the Johnny Lang Mine. Johnny Lang being noted for his involvement at the Lost Horse Mine made me curious about his mine on the shoulder of Quail Mountain. He worked this small mine after he left the Lost Horse Mine.
This route starts from the Quail Springs Picnic Area and climbs up to the Lang Mine before heading up to the summit of Quail Mountain.
The trailhead for this hike is at the Quail Springs Picnic Area which is about 3 miles (4.7 km) east of Hidden Valley Picnic Area.
|Hike Distance||10 miles (16.1km) Out & Back|
|Elevation Gain, Loss||3270 ft (997m) gain round trip.|
|Hike Time||7.5 hours|
This hike is long and strenuous hike so be prepared. Bring plenty of water. A GPS device will be very useful for this cross-country venture, if not required.
At the trailhead signage at Quail Springs, instead of taking the obvious Quail Spring trail to the west, follow a use-trail southwest to the canyon coming out of the hills. Crossing the flat, the trail enters Quail Springs Wash in a third of a mile and follows it to an intersection with the wash from the canyon. Turn upstream into this unnamed wash. Watch for the trace of an old road to quickly climb up the slope between two rock outcrops in another 0.1 mile. As you follow the old road up the hill, you’ll notice the geology changing. The darker rocks are a metamorphic gneiss of Precambrian age, and the lighter colored ones are the familiar White Tank granite (monzogranite) that makes up most of the Wonderland of Rocks off to the north.
The trail crosses over a gentle ridge at one mile and follow a newly cut trail that turns right (an old road descends to a mining camp with a minor amount of historic debris. Please leave any artifacts in place.) Follow the trail as it contours along the mountainside and cuts through a granite outcrop. The trail comes around and drops into the upper section of Johnny Lang Canyon. Cross the rocky canyon as best you can (and cross a different trail that follows the canyon) and climb the closest ridge coming down from the mountain beyond. You might notice the evidence of wildfires that have charred much of this landscape. This area was probably burned by the large May 27th, 1999, Memorial Fire. The desert takes a long time to recover.
About halfway up the ridge and at a small saddle, our trail meets up with the old mining road Johnny Lang used to reach his mine. This point is 2.1 miles (3.4 km) from the trailhead at Quail Springs Picnic Area. Follow the old mining road as it climbs the ridge and then cuts across to the southeast. You should easily spot the mine dump of the mine from here. Heads towards it. You will cross a small wash and reach a poorly defined set of switchbacks that make the final climb up to the Lang Mine.
Not much remains at the mine. The mine shaft itself is gated with a steel cupola. An old hand winch used to lift ore buckets out of the mine still sits inside the shaft. A tent platform is just off to the left of the shaft and a shady pinyon pine makes this is a great place to sit and take a break. Enjoy the fantastic views of the desert to the north and contemplate the arduous work a solitary prospector must have had to live out here in this wilderness.
Once you have had your fill of the Lang Mine, contour around to the right (west) and climb up to the ridgetop behind the mine. The ridge turns west and at 3.5 miles (5.6 km) out you will cross just south of 5,405 ft (1647 m) Mount Minerva Hoyt (34.0132°, -116.2268°). This peak was named in honor of Mrs. Hoyt for her determination in getting his land set aside by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a National Monument in 1936. Mount Minerva Hoyt has some fantastic views, but even better ones await atop Quail Mountain, which is the next obvious summit 1.2 miles (1.9 km) to the west. Reaching it is fairly straightforward now, hike southwest and drop down into the saddle the separates the two mountains by following the connecting ridges. Climb the prominent ridge on Quail’s eastern flank. The trail gains the summit on the south side.
Once on Quail’s broad summit, find the summit register. It is usually in a pile of rocks next to the USGS benchmark on the north end. Look for a small coffee can. At 5,813 ft (1772 m), Quail Mountain is the highest peak in Joshua Tree National Park, with expansive views of Mt. San Jacinto and the Santa Rosas to the south; San Gorgonio to the west; the Wonderland of Rocks, Queen, and Ryan mountains to the east. On a clear day, you might even be able to see far off ranges like the Old Woman and Providence ranges to the northeast or even the more distance Mt. Charleston in Nevada to the north. The views here are among the most spectacular in the park and well worth the trek. Spend some time here. It is 5 miles (8 km) back to the trailhead at Quail Springs.
I gave this hike a suggested round trip time of seven and a half hours, but I did the hike in six and a half hours. I didn’t take many breaks though.
On the south side of the summit, you might notice debris from an airplane wreckage. Two North American T-28 Trojans crashed just below the summit on a rainy February 4th in 1999. Please leave everything you find here.
Last Updated on May 21, 2021 by Guy Starbuck