El Mirage and Bighorn Mine Trail

Life has been seriously stressful lately. Honestly, it’s been overwhelming to the point of nearly having a breakdown. So this weekend, my fiance and I decided we were going to escape that, even if for just one night.

On Thursday night, we started prepping for the next day’s adventure. We settled on camping at El Mirage Lake (or, more appropriately, El Mirage Dried-Up Lakebed, definitely no water in sight).

Since it was such a last-minute trip, we decided to camp in the back of Austin’s jeep. As someone who has been researching and following the Van Life movement, I was super excited to join in on that lifestyle for a night. We paid $15 at the entrance like the good citizens we are, but we totally could’ve just driven right in and camped for free. But come on people – support your environment and the places you love to go, pay your entrance fees!

We left Orange County around 6:30 p.m. on Friday, so by the time we arrived at the lake bed, it was pitch black. This turned out to make for a fantastic surprise in the morning- we got to watch the sunrise and blanket our unknown surroundings in beautiful, soft yet powerful colors.

Waking up at 6 am to the gorgeous sun making it’s way out from behind the mountains, nobody within miles of us, cuddling together and with our dog in in the back of the car was like a dream for me.

We peacefully let the morning take its course, and after the sun was high in the sky, we made French press coffee, finished off our bottle of champagne, and made egg and turkey breakfast sandwiches.

This is going to sound extremely strange- but the post-breakfast shit in the middle of nowhere using the redneck toilet was one of the most glorious moments of this trip.

We left El Mirage (which was fun in itself, driving at 70+ mph across the barren and vast lake bed) around 10 am and headed to our highly anticipated hike: BigHorn Mine Trail!

You can find and learn more about the BigHorn Mine Trail here. It was very easy to locate the trailhead (there’s a large paid parking lot as well as a smaller area of free parking).

The hike is about 4 miles round trip and it was fairly strenuous if you’re asking me (a girl who is pretty out-of-shape) but STUNNINGLY BEAUTIFUL. The forest is densely covered with tons of different plants and trees, and the mountain range you’re able to view during 90% of the hike is a truly breathtaking backdrop.

There are several entrances into the mine tunnels that wind deep into/through the mountain but I personally would not enjoy hiking them (we met two men who hiked 3 miles INTO THE MINE aka into the mountain- it’s pitch black but they said it was “really cool”. Idk… not my thing, I’m afraid to meet the mountain version of IT). For me, I wanted to see the remnants of the building where the raw materials harvested from the mines are processed.

This building makes for the absolute BEST backdrop for a posed photo (I have no shame, OK??). The graffiti adds to the aura of the place, and the crumbling wood/metal parts of the building give it a historic and run-down feel.

Our last-minute weekend getaway was one of the best decisions we’ve made in a long time. I would highly recommend this trip to anyone in the OC/LA area who wants to feel truly out of the hustle and bustle with minimal effort/planning.

Happy exploring!

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