This California Hike Takes You Through an Abandoned Village

If you’re seeking an offbeat and thrilling trek in Southern California, consider exploring the Big Horn Mine and Vincent Cabin trail. Spanning four miles, this hike winds through the picturesque San Gabriel Mountains, offering a glimpse into the remnants of an ancient gold mine and a historic cabin. Along the journey, you’ll be treated to breathtaking vistas of surrounding peaks and valleys while delving into the captivating history of the region.

The Big Horn Mine

Discovered in 1895 by Charles Tom Vincent, a keen prospector on the hunt for bighorn sheep, the Big Horn Mine unveils a rich narrative of gold prospecting. Vincent stumbled upon a lucrative gold vein, prompting him to carve a tunnel into the mountain. Operational until 1906, when a devastating fire ravaged the mill and equipment, the mine underwent multiple ownership changes but never realized its full potential. Despite extending the tunnel to 1,200 feet in length and 300 feet in depth, and yielding over $100,000 worth of gold, the mine grappled with accidents, legal battles, and low-grade ore. By the 1930s, it stood abandoned, a relic of bygone days.

Today, trekking to the mine’s entrance unveils a scene of rusty machinery, rails, and pipes amidst the rugged landscape. Brave souls can venture into the dark, damp tunnel, equipped with a flashlight, sturdy footwear, and a spirit of adventure. Inside, wooden supports, metal tracks, and abandoned ore carts paint a picture of the toil that once echoed through these caverns. Despite the allure, caution is advised due to the tunnel’s unstable nature. Exploration culminates at a metal gate barring passage to deeper sections of the mine.

The Vincent Cabin

Nestled about a mile from the mine, the Vincent Cabin stands as a testament to pioneer life in the late 19th century. Erected in 1894 by Charles Tom Vincent himself, this well-preserved log cabin was home to the enigmatic prospector for over four decades. Known for his eccentricity and generosity, Vincent’s lore also carries whispers of a darker past, including a murder in Arizona that led to his alias and eventual sanctuary in California.

Hidden amidst pine trees, the cabin exudes rustic charm with its stone fireplace, metal roof, and wooden porch. Stepping inside, visitors are greeted by remnants of Vincent’s life, including original furniture, tools, and personal effects. A small plaque recounts his tale, offering insight into a life marked by adventure and secrecy. Maintained by volunteers, the cabin welcomes visitors to sign the guestbook and contribute to its preservation.

How to Get There

The trailhead for the Big Horn Mine and Vincent Cabin hike lies at the Vincent Gap parking area on Highway 2, beyond Wrightwood. Parking requires an Adventure Pass, obtainable from nearby ranger stations or visitor centers. From the lot, follow the dirt road trail leftward, with no explicit signage for the mine or cabin. For specific directions:

  • To the mine: After about a quarter-mile on the dirt road, take the right fork, following a winding path for approximately 1.5 miles. The mine entrance, marked by a wooden sign, emerges on the left.
  • To the cabin: Similarly, proceed a quarter-mile on the dirt road before veering left. Descend into a valley for about 0.5 miles, crossing a stream. Beyond the stream, watch for a faint uphill trail on the right, leading to the cabin.

What to Bring

While not overly strenuous, the hike necessitates some preparation:

  • Carry ample water and snacks, as no facilities or water sources are available en route.
  • Equip yourself with a flashlight or headlamp, especially for exploring the mine’s tunnel.
  • Dress in layers, anticipating temperature fluctuations in the mountainous terrain.
  • Wear sturdy footwear and long pants to navigate rocky, overgrown sections.
  • Show reverence for the area’s history and environment, refraining from vandalism or littering.


The Big Horn Mine and Vincent Cabin hike offers a blend of history, adventure, and natural beauty, making it a standout excursion in Southern California. From tracing the footsteps of gold prospectors to immersing oneself in pioneer lore, this trek promises an unforgettable journey through time. With panoramic mountain views and a sense of exploration, it’s an experience tailored for those captivated by the allure of the past and the majesty of the outdoors.

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