I’ve wanted to check out the Epsom Salt mines for sometime… but given its remote location never got the courage to drive all the way out there. How far? Well, as the crow flies it is about 60km (37 miles) from route 127 over dirt roads to the trailhead. Yes… 37 miles! As it turns out, most of the time the road was not too terrible but it was pretty darn bumpy. There were a few stretches where 4wd was very helpful if not required.
The below map gives you a good idea of the off-road drive I had I took this weekend and where the salt mine is. It took me about 2 hours from when I turned off the paved road to to the trail head. I was slightly faster on the way back.
The beginning of the drive along Satatoga Springs Rd. The condition of this part was the best and almost good enough for a normal car.
The wildflowers were up in force everywhere I went. The colors were spectacular.
Owl Hole Spring is basically the 1/2 way point. This old spring was used as rest stop for caravans going from Death Valley to LA. These days it looked a bit unclean likely due to all the wild donkeys crapping in the water. The fence looks to be some type of trap/guard (i can’t tell which) to either keep the donkeys out or in.
Old mining relics at the spring.
Back on the road this is the descent into a small valley (about 25 miles from route 127)… actually you can’t even tell this the road here.
Eventually I made it the 37 miles and parked where I knew the hike started. The hike starts by following an old road. The well used trail u see here is NOT from humans but burros (wild donkeys).
The trail dead ends at the Davis Gate. This is the edge of the China Lakes Navel Weapons area. I saw no sign of any activity and have no clue what they use this land for. I made a right turn here and followed the fence.
The fence then ends? How odd. Anyways from this point I could see the Crystal Hills in the background and headed off in that direction.
As I got closer to the hills I saw the old monorail! This monorail was state of the art back in the early 1900′s. It connected the Epsom salt mine with the main rail road in Trona 28 miles away. It was completed in 1924 and was in operation for a few years. Read more about the monorail here.
Back on an old road I was approaching the main camp.
Various structures lie in ruin at the mine site.
It seems many mines in Death Valley have an old oven/furnace rusting out front.
One of the actual salt mines. It is all collapsed in. No free epsom salt for me.
Maybe even more interesting than the salt mine is the spectacular geology of this region. Mixed in with some surface salt the area is littered with crystals.. hints the name: Crystal Hills.
This is a closeup i took of the ground. Everywhere you step looks like this.
Many of the crystals are pretty big. I’m guessing this is quartz (sorry.. im terrible at chemistry and geology but this stuff sure was neat).
The next few pics come from my vantage point atop a small hill. I climbed up there to get a better view of the area. You can see the mine ruins as well as the amazing colors of the hills.
Around 4pm I headed back to where I had parked the truck to setup camp. I had some afternoon tea to cap off a long long day.
It got dark around 630. ZzZ
First light on Sunday morning. Sunrise in the desert is always special.
Time to saddle up and throw in one more little adventure before I head home.
From where I had parked the road continues up another 4 miles or so to an old radio tower.
Here it is. It is not in operation anymore… but I am happy it is here. The view from the top was great and because of the tower.. the road build up here was in pretty good shape compared to some of the old mining routes I’ve found myself on before. By pretty good don’t think you will be getting your BMW or even rear wheel drive SUV up here. 4wd was defiantly needed on this last stretch. There are no guardrails up here either so a skid will leave you pretty much dead at the bottom of ravine.
While the radio tower is dead I think this GPS beacon is still working.
A few more looks around at the top. 43 total driving miles off road to get here :) Then I had to go all the way back. Oh.. and after you get back to route 127 it is another 222 back to Marina del Rey. Oh potato… good thing I only commute 2.5 miles to work each day.