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Name: Grey Horse Mine Author's Rating:
Author: Matt Marine Avg. User Rating: Not rated yet
Type: 4WD Difficulty: (Easy 4WD - Grey Horse portion to parking area)
Time: 3 - 6 hours depending on how much time you explore and route taken Region: Central Arizona
Length: ~6 miles total (roundtrip), depending on route taken Elevation gain/loss/change: ~ +906 ft / -51 ft / +955 ft (one way)
Type: Out and back, or loop Avg Elevation: 2600 ft
Best time to go: fall, spring, winter Fees: NA
Fitness rating: Low Educational Merit: Medium
Danger/fear rating: Low Scenic Beauty: Medium
Hours of Operation: NA Last updated: January, 2015
Short Description: A short 4WD trail leading to some nice mining ruins including stone building walls, stone bridge abutments, concrete equipment pads and stone roadway
Geocaches: A few geocaches in the area:Kearny Vantage Point ;Kearny's Treasure #1 ;Kearny's Treasure #4
References / Contact Information: Minedat;
Points of interest: Grey Horse Mine, stone bridge and building ruins and some beautiful saguaro forests
Special Considerations: Please be respectful of the ruins and mine. This is our history. Let's preserve it! Lots of old mines in this area, stay away from open mine shafts and be careful of mine tailings.
How to get there: From Tucson, take Hwy 77 north out of Tucson, past Oracle, Mammoth and turn left on Hwy 177 at Winkleman. Drive 11.4 miles on 177 past Hayden and Kearny until you reach Waypoint WPT001. Turn right onto Old Ray Road. Click here for directions.

Trail Description

This is a wonderful trip on an easy 4WD road to an old mine with lots of ruins and interesting things to see: stone building walls, stone bridge abutments and piers, stone roadways, concrete ruins and equipment foundations and a cool mine.

The trail is easy 4WD, though rocky in some places. The trail can get narrow in some spots with a decent drop off on one side. If you're not a fan of heights, it may make you a little nervous, but it's not too bad. You will get some Arizona pin stripping on this trail, especially if you do some of the trails not directly leading to the Grey Horse Mine. The trail to Grey Horse Mine can accommodate large groups, but they will have to park in separate areas. The other spur trails can be difficult to turn around on.

On the alternate route out, there's an interesting geological feature that you'll pass by, but this trail can be a little more difficult than the way in. You will also pass through some of the most densely populated saguaro forests that I've ever seen.

General Information and History

I don't have much info on the mine and ruins. The mine and surrounding area is well known by rock hounds for finding Vanadinite and Wulfenite.

There are at least five foundations and rock wall building ruins at the site. Some of these were constructed in a unique way with round stone columns at the foundation. I have never seen this before and it looks purely decorative in design to me. I thought it was also interesting to see how they constructed the rock wall wainscot. This extends a few feet above the floor with a concrete "channel" to hold the wooden bottom plate for the wood walls. Using partial rock (or concrete) with wood walls on top was a fairly common construction practice. Some of the buildings appear to have only rock foundation walls and dirt floors, but this could be that over time the area filled in with dirt and if you dug down a couple of feet, you would find the concrete floor.

I really enjoyed the rock bridge abutments and piers. It looks like small gauge tracks went from the lower mine to the parking area. The top of the stone work at the parking area is about level with the ground, the two in the wash are much lower. I believe they constructed a wooden [name] to support the rails here. The stone is to help ensure durability and the columns don't get washed down stream. They probably built them as high as what they thought the wash would run during a flash flood. My guess is that the wood was removed when the rails were taken down.

In the area near the mine there's the usual concrete equipment foundations, tanks, slabs, etc. that you typically find at these places. However, there is one aspect of this mine that makes it unique to me - the stone roadway. You may have to hunt a little to find it, but there's a slightly curved roadway build out of stone near the concrete foundations. It looks similar to those built by the Romans. I have never seen one like it at a mine before. Looking at the surrounding area and their choice of construction materials, it makes sense.

There are many different levels and openings to the Grey Horse Mine. The one at the lowest level has the remains of a wooden entrance cover and looks like your typical horizontal mine audit. I did not go in it. Above this, the mine's large front entrance appears. It is maybe 20-30 high and is more like a large crack than a mine opening. A second, smaller hole is just above the larger entrance. These two connect inside the main mine. There is also an opening at the top where they connect that allows light to shine into the mine. Be very careful if you hike to the top of this mine. It may not be fenced off and looks very dangerous. I did not go up there, only viewing it from below.

The main mine goes back maybe 30 feet or so until the mine and hole from above all intersect. This is very cool to see. A smaller mine shaft extends another 20 feet beyond this point before it ends. During the middle of the day, it is not necessary to have a flashlight if you're just going to the end of the large tunnel. Ample light streams in from the opening on the side and above, though I always recommend carrying one just in case.

There is a steel ladder inside. I have heard it is used by rock hounds and mineral collectors as they are trying to excavate some of the crystals and rocks known to be around. There are additional smaller mines above this mine and further down the wash that you parked next to.

If you choose to do the alternate route out, you can see a large concrete tank (not very exciting) and a rock feature (pretty cool).

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The Trail

See Map page for Google Earth images also.

From Highway 177, turn north at Waypoint WPT001 onto Old Ray Road. You will be in a small neighborhood with a closed store/bar on the corner. Head straight along the road until you pass the last house and go through an open gate onto a dirt road after 0.2 miles (Waypoint WPT002). Air down here if you like, then continue to head north on this rocky, but easy trail.

As you begin to head north and up into the mountains make sure you notice the dense saguaro forests on either side of you. Some of the hills have some of the densest populations of saguaros that I have ever seen.

After 1.4 miles, you will come to the intersection of Old Ray Road and the road to Grey Horse Mine (WPT003). There's a couple decent camping spots here. Keep straight (slight bear right) to go to the Grey Horse Mine. Keeping on the Old Ray Road will bring you back out to highway 177 north of where you entered the trail from.

Keep driving north on the trail. After 2.56 miles, turn right at Waypoint WPT004 to go to Grey Horse Mine. A left here is an alternate route out.

The trail here become a shelf road, with a decent drop off on your right. It is just wide enough for one vehicle and there's not many places to pull off if you meet another coming out from the mine. There's one or two tipsy spots that can make someone who doesn't like heights or side hills to become a little nervous, but it's not too bad.

When your odometer reaches 2.79 miles (Waypoint WPT005) from the start of the trail, keep straight (bear slightly right) at the Y-intersection. You are almost to the parking area. A left here will take you to the building ruins and down to the wash. I have not driven on this trail (only walked it). You do not need to drive on it - walking to the building ruins is a short and easy walk. There are a few tough washouts on the trail and down into the wash which may be difficult for stock vehicles and drivers with little experience.

At about 2.84 miles (Waypoint WPT005A), you will come to an intersection. The super sharp turn to the right heads down into the wash. Keeping straight leads you to the parking area at the top of the stone bridge abutment. You can probably fit four vehicles in the parking area. If you need more parking, you can drive down into the wash and park there.

From the parking area you can see the bridge stone abutments on each side of the canyon and the stone supports in the center of the wash. To get across the wash you can either walk down the road that you just passed (see YELLOW trail on GE map) or take a shortcut down the steep embankment if you dare.

Once in the wash, you can head up to the ruins on the other side by climbing straight up the loose tailings or walking a short distance up the wash and walk up the abandoned road (RED track on GE map).

From the lower mine opening and ruins, it's typically bushwhacking to the other levels. Make sure you don't miss the stone road up and to the right (as you look up the hill) of the concrete equipment foundations.

It is a slippery, loose climb from there to the main mine opening and you may want to go around to the road that ends there (BLUE track on GE map).

The main mine has two openings in front and one at the top. The lower opening is large, maybe 25-30 feet tall and 10-15 feet wide. The second horizontal opening is above and left of the main opening. It appears you can climb up there if you're skilled and daring enough. I am neither and have not done it yet. A fall from there would ruin your day.

I don't know if it matters much anyway, they both meet the hole at the top of the mine about 30 feet inside. I really enjoy this section of the mine. The light coming from the small hole above is quite dramatic. At the back of the main tunnel, there's a short, smaller tunnel that leads to a dead end some 20 feet away.

I have never climbed to the top of the mine to look down from the top hole, but it looks a little sketchy to me.

Once you're done exploring the mine and ruins around it, follow either one of the old roads (RED or BLUE) down to the wash, then you can walk up the wash for a while. It's very pretty and there's numerous old mines on either side along the rock walls. When you're through, head back up the BLUE road on the parking side of the canyon to view the building ruins.

I counted at least five different buildings. A few things interesting about these ruins. Only portions of the wall and foundations remain. It looks as though they built a 2-3 foot stone wainscot, they had wood framing above to complete the wall and roof. You can still see the concrete channel for the wooden bottom plate of the wall on some of the stone sections.

Another interesting feature on some is the round stone "column" on the building corners. I don't see any structural need for these and believe they were there only for aesthetic purposes. If so, that's really cool. You don't see that much out in places like this where people usually spent their time trying to survive and make a living, not putting decorative stone work on their buildings. As with many of these mining camps, they rose and fell as the ore was found and lost and the inhabiting these camps were more [temporary].

A few of the buildings have concrete floors, while others appear to have dirt floors. My belief is that the ones with the dirt "floor" are not really floors at all. These were filled in with dirt from the hillside over time and the concrete floor is a couple feet under the dirt.

When you're done exploring, get back in your vehicles and head back the way you came in. Once you get to Waypoint WPT004, you have a decision to make. You can go back on the road you drove in or take the alternate route out. The way you came in is shorter, the road out a little more interesting and a little more difficult (rating for adventure does not include this section of the trail).

Alternate Route Out
Turn right at WPT004. After 0.1 miles, you have another choice to make at Waypoint WPT006. Keeping straight takes you back to the road, while a right turn down what I call Dead End Road (covered later). I would recommend keeping straight.

Follow this road for another 0.8 miles until you reach the interesting rock feature on your right at WPT009. We took 30 minutes to explore the rocks in the area. I found I was wishing I knew more about geology to help explain how this rock was formed.

Keep heading down the trail for another 0.2 miles, passing the road on your right. It looks like this also dead ends in a wash, but it may be an interesting trip (we did not take it). Drive another 0.25 miles, past WPT010, then another 0.2 miles as you go by XXX at Waypoint WPT012.

After an additional 0.36 miles, stay bear right onto Old Ray Road (WPT013). A left here will take you to the trail you came in on. Then it's only about 1/3 of a mile until you reach pavement at highway 177 (WPT014).

Dead End Road
If you decide to take the out and back spur trail, you will head north at WPT006. The road takes you to a concrete tank and a section of the same canyon that Grey Horse Mine is located along. There's also another mine up there if you're interested. Personally, I don't think it's worth the trip. The concrete tank is just a concrete tank, nothing to special about it. Not far from that, there's a nice spot to possibly camp and turn around at, but after that you have to commit to the canyon. It's tight and very, very brushy. There is no good place to turn around after the flat camping spot. If you decide to do it anyway, here's the directions:

0.15 miles from WPT006, you will come to the concrete tank at Waypoint WPT007. Another 0.15 miles up from that is the large open area (relatively) and possible camping spot. You will reach the wash at about 0.6 miles from WPT006 at WPT008. Although you can see from GE that the road continues up the wash for a short distance, then up to the mine on the other side of the canyon, this road has long since been washed out. I didn't walk all of the road, but my impression was that you need a highly modified Jeep or rock crawler to drive it. We did walk up to the mine and there was nothing special that we saw there.

When you're done, turn around and head out the same way you came in.

Have fun and be safe!

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