If you are interested in a challenging hike with the reward of some Washington state mining history and some cool geology along the way, look no further than Mazama Queen Mine. Just outside the town of Mazama, this former gold mine is located in an area frequented by the rock-climbing community.
The geology of this hike is quite fascinating due to the colorful rocks up and down the talus-filled slope on the way to the mine entrance. Along the way, you’ll encounter relics of the mine’s past scattered in various locations on the talus slope.
The old mine road twists up the hill through brush and trees before reaching a clearing with the old timbers and the large concrete foundations of the Mazama Queen mine mill site. Large bolts in the concrete blocks of the foundations were used to hold down the machinery used to crush ore and separate the gold from the waste rock.
Further up the hill you’ll find a gigantic andesite talus slope formed by an accumulation of rock debris. Andesite is a type of igneous rock with a mineral composition somewhere in between granite and basalt. Above the talus slope is the entrance to Mazama Queen mine.
The mine hasn’t been active for decades but you can still find old machine parts sitting near the entrance, including an engine/air compressor, an old blower, a bent ore cart rail, and lots of sheet metal pipe going into the mine. Scrawled onto some of the metal there are a few old handwritten names of people who visited this site some over 70 years ago. It’s amazing that writing in pencil on sheet metal is still there after 70 years of exposure to the elements.
At the entrance to the mine there was once a building that housed the engine and workings that pulled ore cars up and down the slope. You can still see wood and glass from that building strewn across the slope. Some of the large trees you on the way up were part of the tramway for the ore cars.
Know Before You Go
If you are not sure about your ability to use GPS locations and find your way to the mine and back without a marked trail, then don't try it. It's not worth your health or life. Don't bring any children with you, wear sturdy hiking boots, and give yourself at least 6 hours of daylight to complete this journey.
If you make it to the mine entrance, please do NOT go inside! Inside a mine there is always the potential of low oxygen, poisonous gases, and unforeseen cave-ins that could trap you forever and end your life. Stay outside of the mine and stay alive.
You can park at the second pull-out area on Lost River Road. Mark the location of the parking area on your phone or GPS unit to use to guide you when you descend.