The Lost Mine Trailhead is on Basin Junction Road near the Chisos Basin Campground. The parking area is small (about 15 cars), so it’s a good idea to get there early. In case you’re wondering, 9:30am is not early. There were no spots, but we found another tiny lot about a quarter-mile east and road-hiked back to the trailhead. The mileage on this hike includes that extra distance, but the coordinates represent the actual trailhead.
Your mileage may vary.
As on our South Rim Loop hike (read here), we were starting in the shadow of Casa Grande Peak; this time to the east of that majestic alp. We started off uphill directly into the blinding morning sun. The temperature was hovering around 50°F, and the sky was a brilliant azure broken only occasionally by a fluffy white cloud. The first hundred yards or so was paved, but the trail soon turned to gravely dirt and began to narrow. We were hiking into the same autumn-colored forest that we had enjoyed a few days before. Casa Grande again peeked over a mottled sea of red, orange, and brown.
After gaining some altitude, we we were able to look west through The Window and see the rumpled Texas desert stretching off to the horizon. The higher we climbed, the better the view. Soon we were getting views to the south as well, down into Boot Canyon. Twisting and turning, we wound our way east toward Lost Mine Peak. The countryside was stunning; much more open than the South Rim Loop (the rim itself being a noteworthy exception, with some of the most expansive views we’ve ever seen). Still, this climb was a delight; at every turn in the trail we had a different vista to view.
We were headed in the direction of the Lost Mine Peak, but we would not gain that summit. We found it a little peculiar that the Lost Mine Trail doesn’t go up Lost Mine Mountain. The trail instead eventually turns south and culminates on a rocky bald about three-quarters of a mile southwest of that peak. Legend has it that somewhere near the summit of the Lost Mine Mountain was a particularly lucrative gold mine run by Spanish explorers. So protective were the Spanish of their find that they made the miners (usually life-term prisoners) wear blindfolds as they marched to work from their barracks. The legend holds that a band of indigenous people of the Comanche Tribe, resentful of the European invaders, slaughtered the Spaniards, leaving no man alive who knew the location of the mine. No one has been able to find it since. Curiously, the legend also states that if, on Easter morning, one stands at the former location of the door to San Vicente’s mission (sixteen miles to the southeast on the Rio Grande), the sun’s first rays will fall on the mine’s entrance. For our part, we couldn’t have cared less about gold, except for that which gilded the leaves of nearby trees; our coffers were full to the brim with sunlight, fresh air, and magnificent views. We were rich.
We continued to climb, and eventually we were high enough that we were looking over some lesser peaks to the landscape beyond. A mile and a half into our ascent, we reached a series of intense switchbacks. The next mile would be a dusty back and forth to the apex of our hike, alternately looking up a wooded incline or out over the valley to Casa Grande. Due west was The Window and miles of Texas desert beyond. Immediately below us, we could see Chisos Basin and the Basin Junction threading its way through the sage and brown countryside. We bent to our task.
Leaving the switchbacks behind, we emerged onto a spacious, rounded bald. Here, the view truly opened up. The trail followed a ridge toward a large rock formation to the south. Other hikers were milling around, snapping photos, and chatting. Small children buzzed about, climbing on the boulders that were scattered around the ridge. The general consensus seemed to be that this was the end of the line. It was not. The trail dipped into a shallow draw and climbed back toward the distant rock formation. We continued on, determined to tramp every foot of trail available. Focused on the jumble of massive boulders ahead, we hiked on, now virtually alone.