Dawn Mine Trail: Hike to an Abandoned Gold Mine from 1895

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Distance 

6 Miles

Time

~3 Hrs

Difficulty

Easy – Moderate

Season

All Year

Elevation Gain

1,600+ Ft

The Dawn Mine Trail via Sunset Ridge is a 6-mile round trip hike to an abandoned gold mine near the city of Altadena, California. It’s a heavily trafficked, easy to moderate trail that is best to hike in the fall to spring months. The elevation gain of the trail is about 1,600 feet or more. Dogs are welcomed but must be leashed. 

 

Dawn Mine Trail Map

 

Directions and Parking

This address leads to the parking lot for this trail: 34.214819, -118.147778

I had to drive up on Chaney Trail Road to get to the parking lot area. It’ll be on W. Loma Alta Drive street in Altadena, California. 

Here’s a picture of where Chaney Trail road begins. 

From there, I drove up to the small parking lot. Be aware that there is limited parking on weekends.

The lot can fit up to 10 cars. There’s additional parking near the Millard Falls trailhead. 

Hike to Dawn Mine Begins

In the parking lot, there’s a sign that shows you the different trails and roads. 

OPTIONAL: If you want to do Millard Falls and then Dawn Mine, you can totally do that. At Millard Trail Campsite, you can access the Sunset Ridge Trail by ascending up a narrow trail. Just be sure to watch out for mountain bikers as the trail here is very narrow. 

I took Mt Lowe Rd on the left-hand side of the sign and walked around the white gate. 

The Hike

The walk to Sunset Ridge is a bit steep. The sun was shining bright above my head, and it felt very warm. I could tell this part is unpleasant during the sizzling summer months. Be sure to wear sunscreen and a hat!

Still on Mt Lowe Rd, I reached a junction. To the left of the picture, you can see where Sunset Ridge Trail begins, which is also the trailhead to Dawn Mine. 

Walking along the Sunset Ridge trail is nice since it was mostly shaded. I could hear Millard Falls flowing and people’s voices echoing throughout the canyon.

After walking over a very interesting iron bridge and passing old cabins, I had reached the canyon floor. From here, I had to cross the creek to continue. Some sturdy trekking poles are recommended, but not necessary for creek crossings along this trail.

I can see why this trail can get a little confusing for someone who has never been here but keep a lookout for any signs like the one below.

There’s a fun wooden bridge to walk on. I spotted old steel remnants scattered about this trail, like the one on the left of this bridge. 

After carefully crossing through the stream a few times and climbing over big boulders, I was getting closer to the mine. 

I came across another junction. The left side leads down, then ascends up to the mine. The right side requires more work, climbing up the rocky stairs. It also takes a little longer than the left route.

 

The Mine

This old water pump system is a very popular photo spot before getting a look into the Dawn Mine itself.

It’s well over a century old!

Behind the rocks, you can see where people used to access the inside of the mine. Since June 2017, it’s been boarded up by this metal gate…never to be accessed again.

The tunnel above this one, which is pretty risky to climb to, is sadly boarded up as well. That one has a 20-foot shaft, which you wouldn’t want to fall into.

I flashed my light through the darkness and got a peek inside this small and narrow tunnel.

Although inaccessible, it’s still really awesome to see!

It’s interesting to imagine how they used to perilously and bravely walk through these tunnels, over a century ago, in search of precious gold.

These miners risked their lives for riches and in dreams of better lives. Now, the Dawn Mine sits cold and untouched.

Is there still gold in this mine? Possibly, but now we’ll never be able to find out for ourselves.

BONUS: Open Tunnel Upstream

There’s an exploratory dig further up the creek which you can enter and explore. It’s only about 50 feet long but worth the extra trek. 

To get there, continue up the trail. When you spot the sign in the image below, take the “Tom Sloane Saddle” path. 

About 5 to 10 minutes later, you’ll see the portal on the left side of the trail. 

It goes in less than 50 feet. At the end of this tunnel, you’ll see a wall of slimy, icicle-looking stalactites, called calcium carbonate deposits.

Although it’s interesting to peer through the Dawn Mine portal, it’s not as exciting as venturing inside.

Dawn Mine History

Back in 1985, a man by the name of Bradford Peck staked his mining claim above Millard Canyon in the San Gabriel Mountains. He worked at it for about 7 years, which was barely successful.

Later, in 1902, the ownership of the mine was transferred to a very experienced Australian miner by the name of Michael T. Ryan. 

Ryan took the operation further and went tunneled deep inside the Millard Canyon walls. He was bringing in some profit for about seven years, but then reached a problem. It was becoming more and more difficult to transfer the ore down the canyon. 

He ended up building a steep trail for his mules, Jack and Jill. These hard-working mules would carry the ore up to the Dawn Mine Station. From here, the ore traveled via railway down to the valley for further processing. 

Sadly, in 1929, Ryan’s death approached. The mine sat still for some years. A few years later, other miners would try their look in search of hitting it big.

But, the Dawn Mine was ultimately a cycle of hopeful miners, some success, and then official abandonment by 1954. 

Over the years, curious adventurers would crawl through the lower tunnel and explore the inside. They would find 55-foot deep water shafts, along with small exploratory inlets. 

Other, more experienced adventurers, would carefully climb up to the upper tunnel and carefully walk around the 20-foot deep shaft that is located right by the entrance.

Now, it’s closed for entry. But, it’s still an interesting and fun hike to venture to in the San Gabriel Mountains. 

Fun Fact 

Funny enough, the Dawn Mine isn’t named after any of the owners or men who worked there. It was actually named after Peck’s friend’s daughter, who was from another mining company. Her name was Dawn Ehrenfeld.

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I’m Phillip, and just like you, I feel very passionate about California and the outdoors. After many years of exploring amazing and hidden places, I thought I’d share them with you. Life goes by fast so get out there and enjoy it.  

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