The Virginia May Mine (also known as the Horn Mine) had been on my “To Do” list for years. It was never a high priority, but its remoteness called to me. Located in the southern Turtle Mountains of California, it is out in the middle of nowhere and there is not much else around. Still, I knew there was once a mine camp there at an old spring and an ore bin still stood high on the mountain.
Also, there is a story that the mine was discovered and worked by one of the Earp brothers (as in Wyatt Earp). Wyatt Earp did indeed have a small house in nearby Vidal Junction and owned claims in the Whipple Mountains to the east, so it could be true. The mine was worked for a few years sometime around 1900 for high-grade copper. It went idle and then it was worked again sometime in the early 1950s.
Anyway, that was enough of a reason for me to go out there and explore it. Having told you all of this, and now, having been there, I can tell you something else… Don’t bother going.
The mine really isn’t worth hiking to. It’s just not. It has a pleasant view, and it was a good walk out in the desert (although it was really windy when I was there) but there really isn’t any reason to go there; not much is left.
So, having given you fair warning about the site. I’ll tell you how to get there anyway. And if you don’t go, you can enjoy my photos.
Make your way to Vidal Junction, CA, where highways US 95 and CA-62 meet. Head west 8 miles (12.9 km) on CA-62 and turn right onto BLM NS 733 Castle Rock Road, a graded dirt road. Start here.
The road quickly crosses over the Colorado River Aqueduct. Finding the correct path can be tricky here as there are many intersections. Cross over the aqueduct and take the second left. The first left will follow the aqueduct and you don’t want that. The correct road parallels a dike westward. After 1.9 miles (3.1 km) the road will cross over the dike and get rougher; 4WD and high clearance is recommended from here to the trailhead 5.4 miles (8.7 km) farther at the wilderness boundary.
|Hike Distance||6.9 miles (11.1km) Out & Back|
|Elevation Gain, Loss||1420 ft (433m) gain round trip.|
|Hike Time||3.5 hours|
The trail starts at the Turtle Mountain Wilderness boundary. It follows the old mining road up to the mine camp and mines above. If you are pondering driving passed the wilderness boundary; don’t bother. Besides being illegal there are large boulders on the road ahead that block vehicle access. And farther up the road it gets worse with natural rockfalls. A quad couldn’t even make it to the upper mine portal at the ore bin anymore.
Follow the road up the alluvial fan. At about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) in you will come to the cab of an old car. I’m not sure what type it is but it must have seen some adventures.
At 2.2 miles (3.5 km) the old road crosses a big wash. You can see the remains of a gate here and the old road enters a canyon. At 2.6 miles (4.2 km) you will come to the Virginia May mining camp. Only concrete foundations, a water tank, broken glass, and bits of pipe remain of what once must have been a few buildings.
Look for a 1940s Cadillac down in the wash. That must have been a really nice car at one time. One wonders how it got here, or, more exactly, down in the wash.
The mine camp makes for a nice lunch spot. If you really want to press on (Why?), keep hiking up the road. At almost 3 miles (4.7 km) from the trailhead the road forks. Make a left and head up the switchbacks here. You can also go straight ahead. That road goes to a couple of non-descript mine adits and ends. But climb up the switchbacks here. The road gets steeper and worse as you go. It eventually ends at an ore bin, a couple of short mining adits, and that pleasant view.
Congrats if you’ve made it this far. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Last Updated on May 21, 2021 by Guy Starbuck