It’s no secret we love urban exploration at Pretty Driven. The art of finding old and abandoned buildings and exploring them is exciting, potentially dangerous, legally ambiguous, and a lot of fun. In search of adventures and armed with Google Maps, we stumbled across Gold King Mansion, located just a few miles southeast of Kingman.
Travis shared his love for off-road exploration came from his ownership of a 2006 Subaru WRX and its off-road abilities. The more he was exposed to the roads lesser travelled, he began to take an interest in rock crawling and wanted to test his skills on some of the more technical trails Arizona had to offer. As a result, he traded his beloved rally machine for the Jeep TJ because it offered the off-road capability he longed for and came with a heritage he could fall in love with.
“My TJ is a great platform for off-roading and rock crawling,” Travis said, adding “its very capable and I love that it is a body-on-frame rather than a unibody.” A car guy at heart with a need to crawl over boulders, Travis shared when he started building the Jeep his goal was to build one capable of running any trail that would also perform decently on the streets.
To get to the Mansion, take Blake Ranch Road off the I-40 and continue South for approximately six miles on a paved road that transitions into a well-maintained dirt road. You will turn right at the unmarked Moss Wash Road (N 35 01.33/W 113 48.47), and follow the trail to the mansion (N 35 01.59/W113 50.22). When its time to leave, you can then turn around and return to Blake Ranch Road to head back out.
While the Jeep performed well on the highway and tame dirt-roads, our adventure revealed Travis accomplished his goal and that the Jeep drives like a Cadillac off-road. The steller off-road performance is accomplished with a Poison Spider stretch complete with matching set of stretch armour, front and rear bumpers, tire carrier, and tailgate, complimented by its utilization of a Rock Krawler TJ 5.5 Factory long arm 10-inch stretch. Other suspension components include a set of Fox Factory 2.0 remote shocks that come with 12-inches of travel on all four corners and custom brackets to further assist the rear wheels with additional travel and drop.
The rear of the Jeep also features a G2 Dana 44 rear ARB air locker with ARB onboard air system, complete with 456 gears, Dana 35 spline Chromoly axle shafts, and a Dana 30 front axle complimented by a low pinion super 30 kit, ARB air locker, and the front axle has been gusseted and trust.
Travis joked his least favourite mod is the Jeep itself and its ongoing maintenance but pinpointed the Smitty Built fenders as a particularly difficult install. “They could have been produced better, the design and installation requires a lot of the inner fender to be cut, measured, and cut again.”
After his eight years of ownership and hundreds of hours put into the Wrangler, Travis says he’s not done building it. “I have a big list of future modifications, I don’t know if I will ever get to them all, but I’ll try to.” On his list is a General Motors V8 conversion and transmission in addition to a hardtop and full doors – the hardtop and full doors certainly would have been useful given the swarm of wasps we encountered along the trail.
Due to the stretch, Travis’ Jeep features a custom 14-gallon fuel cell had been mounted behind the rear seat and utilizes the factory fuel pump. With the current gearing and tire set up, extra gas was necessary to bring along. We also recommend bringing a basic tool kit in case of emergencies and extra water.
According to Travis, the trail to get to the mansion is fairly difficult – for those who want to attempt it there are some technical spots and some sharp rocks that look like tire shredders. Travis also recommends 33-inch tires, and lockers for the beginning of the trail if your off-road machine doesn’t have advanced long arm suspension to help keep all the wheels on the ground.
Additionally, the closer you get to the mansion, the rougher the trail gets, however, the journey is worth it. Moss Wash Trail – and the Manion – are part of BLM’s Adopt-a-Trail program. The Mansion itself has been adopted by the Walapai 4 Wheelers, who attempt to keep it graffiti- and trash-free in an effort to preserve it.
The building was constructed by the Gold King Corporation in the 1920s and was originally designed to be one of a series of two-story concrete miner accommodations. These buildings were supposed to be fireproof and promised some incredible modern amenities, like electricity and insulation. However, this was the only modern bunkhouse created and the original goal to house miners was quickly dropped in favour of using the structure to entertain wealthy investors and to house the mine foreman.
The nearby Gold King Mine amounted to a 180-foot tunnel and a shaft of 50 feet and was said to have produced gold, silver, copper, and lead, but production never reached the level investors had hoped for.
The stock market crash in October 1929 brought an end to the mine and to the mansion.
Today all that remains is the hollow structure with small reminders of what it was.