Monday, November 27, 2023

North County Hikes (Denk Mountain, Copper Creek Falls and San Elijo Lagoon)

The day after Thanksgiving, Tori and I hiked to the summit of Denk Mountain in the Rancho La Costa Reserve. We have driven past it countless times throughout our lives but never climbed it. It is the highest point in Carlsbad and named after the Denk family that owned most of the surrounding land during the 1900s. We started counter-clockwise on the Copper Creek Trail Loop which immediately began ascending the northern side of the 1,000 foot hill. It was a beautiful day with fluffy white clouds and we could see across the valley to the summit of Double Peak in the San Elijo Hills that we hiked last month. We could also see the San Marcos Landfill that closed in 1997. It now looks like just another green hill but I remember visiting it dozens of times with my father in the 80s. 

Only slightly out of breath after reaching the top, we had panoramic views of Carlsbad, Encinitas and San Marcos that join borders on the mountain. It was hazy along the coastline but it was easy to spot the Batiquitos Lagoon. After a short break, we descended the southern slope along the Whiptail Trail, stepping to the side several times to let mountain bikers pass.

At the bottom of the long winding trail, we joined the Copper Creek Trail that circles the eastern base of the mountain. We could hear the Copper Creek Falls before we saw them. It was small but still bigger than I was expecting. I was surprised to learn that copper was discovered here in 1864 and 4 mines collected low-grade ore for over 30 years. You can still see the old stone walls from the Encinitas Mining District that remained after the shafts were blasted shut in 1917. The exposed rock around the falls have a greenish hue from the remaining traces of copper in the ground. Small wooden bridges crossed the flowing creek several times before we reached the trailhead at the end of the loop. With our two extra detours to the summit and the falls, the hike ended up being 4.15 miles.

On Saturday, we went over to the San Elijo Lagoon after an early dinner at Best Pizza & Brew. (Awesome Greek Salad!) Parking at the Via Poco Trailhead, we crossed the new pedestrian suspension bridge under the 5 Freeway that opened in the fall of 2020. The setting sun gave a warm glow to the normally shady underpass.

Crossing the lagoon is so much easier on the North Coast Bike Trail that runs alongside the freeway. We walked all the way to the Solana Beach side of the lagoon on the Solana Hills Trail before returning on the bike path. The sun finished setting over the ocean right at the end of our short 2 mile walk.

Tori skipping along the San Elijo Lagoon at Sunset.

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