Dating back to 1895, Eagle Cliff Cabin is one of the oldest and best preserved historic structures within the boundaries of Joshua Tree National Park. Built inside a natural cave-like alcove of giant boulders and not found on any tourist maps, the hike to the mine and hidden cabin is well worth the effort.
Finding Eagle Cliff Cabin has been on my list for many years. Due to its historic importance and fragile state, its location has purposely been kept hidden in order to protect it.
When I attempted to find it last January, I started at the Pine City backcountry trailhead and made my way past the Desert Queen Mine.
I started that hike feeling confident I would be able to find the cabin. I had some directions I had cobbled together from a few blogs I found while doing my research and also had a couple of hand drawn maps of where I thought it might be located.
Joshua Tree National Park is spread out over 790,636 acres of wilderness – an area slightly larger than the state of Rhode Island and when you’re hiking off trail in the backcountry (like I was that day), it’s really easy to get lost. What I thought would be a two hour hike, ended up being a five hour disorienting trek through the desert. Not being able to find the cabin that day was a huge disappointment but at least I knew what not to do on my next attempt.
Knowing I was going to be spending my birthday weekend in Joshua Tree this year, I made it my goal to find the cabin while I was there.
After some more research, I decided to take a different approach and start the hike from the Split Rock picnic area. The pressure was on, I now had five people (four of which were JTNP virgins) and two dogs that were relying on me to take them to this magical place I had been talking about all weekend.
The trail begins on the north end of the parking lot at Split Rock.
Follow the Split Rock Loop Trail to the Eagle Cliff Trail split. The Eagle Cliff Trail continues NW along a steep, narrow and very faint path.
As you continue to gain elevation, higher concentrations of juniper, pinyon, and even oak trees come into view.
The trail squeezes through a gap beneath adjacent boulders…
…and then continues up to the crest of a high ridge. Let ‘boner’ rock (aka ‘thumbs up’ or the ‘like’ rock) be your guide.
You’ll eventually pass an exploratory mine, which only goes back 20 feet or so but is still a great place to take a break after your strenuous hike up the ridge.
After leaving the exploratory mine and making it to the top of the ridge, I was fairly confident we were on the right track. The cabin had to be around here somewhere, right?
After making our way down the ridge and searching numerous trails, doubt began to fill my mind.
I kept looking at the satellite maps and photos I had saved on my phone in order to see if I could match any features to the surrounding landscape. After 40 minutes of searching and not finding anything, I decided to call it off and start heading back. I was pissed but figured if we cut our loses now, we would still have enough time left in the day to try our luck on another hike.
As we made our way back, a friend spotted another trail that veered off in a direction we hadn’t checked yet. As I made my way along the trail, I started to get a good feeling about what I was seeing. The rocks started to look familiar and in the distance I saw some tailings and tailings can only mean one thing…
…MINE! And once I saw this mine, I knew we were in the right place.
Up ahead, hidden in those rocks is where we would find it.
The Eagle Cliff Cabin is part of the Northern Pinon Mining District. By 1897, two shafts were sunk into the surrounding rocks; one to the depth of 75 feet, the other to 40 feet.
Bill Keys had possession of the mine for many years and kept up the assessment from 1916 through the 1930’s.
Rocks and cement create walls and seal up several openings between the boulders.
Flattened tin cans make up a portion of the roof, which is supported by branches taken from the surrounding area when the cabin was built.
The front wall has a wood frame doorway and window space. At one time, the front section of the cabin had a roof made from Pinyon pine branches and logs, which is no longer present.
A masonry and iron stove is built into the northern end of the cabin…
…while several shelves line the walls.
Many artifacts still remain in the structure.
Looking out the six-pane glass window which is set into the masonry wall.
The cabin has remained in pristine condition because it’s off the beaten path and wasn’t rediscovered until 1975.
Help preserve America’s past by respecting this historic site when visiting.
The shaft near the cabin only went back 40-50 feet.
Can you see the trail? It’s easier to find on your way back. Happy hunting.