Big Eye Mine Trail
Take the trip through the rugged and historic Castle Dome Mountains to the site of the little-known Big Eye Mine, deep within Kofa National Wildlife Refuge. The moderate trail ends at a wilderness gate and a short hike is required to see the extensive ruins.
Where to go:
The trail begins on Castle Dome Mine Road, at marker post 75, just southwest of the Castle Dome Mine Museum. From Highway 95, you can proceed to Castle Dome Mine Road from either Quartzsite or Yuma. Head east on unpaved Castle Dome Mine Road for about 8 miles. A small sign marks the lesser traveled turnoff to Big Eye Mine on the right. Alternatively, you can complete the Castle Dome Mountains trail, which is longer but more scenic. That trail begins on Highway 95 closer to Quartziste and traverses 23 miles through the mountains to end at the mine museum. Simply continue past the museum and follow the sign on Castle Dome Road (it’ll be a hard left turn) to access the trail. Look for “BIG EYE MINE 15 MILES”.
From Castle Dome Mine Road and the “Big Eye Mine 15 Mile” sign, head southeast. The trail will cross a wash and wind its way south across several more wash crossings. Stay on the main trail and ignore all side roads as you pass near private property and mine workings off to the left at 0.6 miles. As it continues on, the trail passes through a unique flat section of “desert pavement” where large sections of black rocks line either side of the trail. Continue to follow the main track as several vehicle tracks veer off on each side.
The trail crosses another section of washes and passes through the Colorado Mine area at 2.8 miles. There are a few ruins to check out including a wooden vertical shaft off to the left. Continue past the mine. The trail gets rougher as it continues to wind through some spectacular rock formations on either side. The trail heads downhill through numerous washes for a short period and then turns to the east at 6.1 miles.
Continuing east, the trail climbs and occasional washouts add some challenge to the drive. The most difficult spot on the trail comes at 9.7 miles. As the trail heads left downhill, you have to navigate an eroded wash bottom with several sections of exposed bedrock. Careful tire placement and 4WD are necessary here. After the short obstacle, the trail climbs out of the wash briefly and continues east before entering another, easier wash.
Head northeast in the wash bottom for about a quarter of a mile. The trail returns to hard packed dirt and continues past the very scenic Thumb Butte off to your left. The big notch in the butte is called the big eye, which is the namesake for the mine. The surface remains rocky before turning north at 12.4 miles. After this point, the trail once again enters a wash, but from here to the end, will remain in and out of a series of washes where the trail gets narrower and rockier in places.
Follow the most established line. This section is incredibly scenic as it passes through towering mountains on either side. The trail leaves the wash and you’ll stay left past a locked gate at 14.7 miles. After one more stint in the wash, the trail ends at a second locked gate at 15.3 miles. Park off to the right. To get to the Big Eye mine remnants, you’ll have to hike north on the trail, past the locked wilderness gate, for about half a mile. The hike is mostly uphill and you may be out of breath, but it is worth it. Several old cabins remain with numerous mining artifacts on display. Take some time to explore the extensive remains. For more exploring, continue hiking north past the cabins. You’ll find the ore chute, several pieces of machinery, and the mine entrance further up the trail. Technically, the mine is closed to entry, although there is no physical barrier to prevent you from entering. Hike back to your vehicle when you are done. Because the road simply ends here, you have to return the way you came.
Notes & Trail Ratings:
The trail to Big Eye Mine and back is about 30 miles round trip. You’ll want to allow for 2-3 hours of drive time, with additional time to hike and explore. This region, especially at the end of the trail, is very remote and has no cell coverage. Travel with a group. We’ve rated Big Eye Mine trail a ‘5.5’ out of ‘10’. Majority of the trail is relatively smooth and flat trail, however, some washed out, off-camber, and rocky sections require high clearance and 4WD. While a stock vehicle could probably do the trail at a slower pace, a lifted vehicle would certainly be a better choice. For more backstory and pictures on the mine itself, visit our page on the Big Eye Mine.