Old Banner Toll Road/Warlock Mine
- Location: East of Julian at the end of Woodland Road. On highway 78, one mile east of central Julian, 21 miles east of Ramona and 38 miles east of Escondido, turn right on Whispering Pines Drive and make an immediate hard right onto Banner Road. Take the first left onto Woodland Road and follow it 0.3 miles to its end at a cul-de-sac. A sign indicates that the road becomes private beyond this point but hikers are allowed access. If you are coming from the east, Whispering Pines Drive will be on the left, 10.6 miles from Scissors Crossing and 49 miles from highway 86.
- Agency: Bureau of Land Management/El Centro Field Office
- Distance: 3.2 miles
- Elevation gain: 750 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG
- Suggested time: 1.5 hours
- Best season: October – June
- USGS topo map: Julian
- Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield San Diego County
- More information: Trip descriptions here and here; Yelp page here; Map My Hike report here
- Rating: 7
Not many hikes provide dramatic desert and mountain views and a chance to visit an abandoned mine, but this one does. The only catch: it’s a bit of a drive, even from San Diego. However, Julian is an enjoyable place to spend time and there are several other good hiking opportunities nearby.
As history buffs may know, Julian was founded as a mining town. The Warlock Mine, which operated from 1870 to 1957, was one of the longest-lived operations in the area and its ruins are probably the most easily accessible to the casual explorer. The trail follows Old Banner Road, a wagon route built in 1871 that was replaced in the 1930s by Highway 78, which can be seen snaking below.
From the end of Woodland Road, walk past the “Private road” sign (though the property around it is private, hikers are allowed to use the road). As you follow it southeast, between the pines, you may get a glimpse of the Salton Sea in the distance. About one sixth of a mile in, you reach a junction. Turn left and follow the Old Banner Toll Road trail as it skirts the southern rim of long, narrow Banner Canyon. You pass through oaks burned by the Pines Fire of 2002, with Granite Mountain dominating the landscape to the east. Across the canyon to the north loom the Volcan Mountains.
As you descend, the oaks and pines give way to desert vegetation, such as mesquite and manzanita. You also may notice the metal tower of the abandoned mill at Warlock Mine. At 1.4 miles, make a hairpin left turn and begin switchbacking down toward the mine, passing the ruins of the superintendent’s cabin. At 1.6 miles, the trail ends by the metal mill. A short scramble up the hill leads to the opening of the mine and it’s possible to get a good look inside. If you’re tempted to actually go inside the mine, consider its proximity to the Elsinore Fault, a branch of the San Andreas Fault. The mine experienced a partial collapse in 1965, ending its short life as a fall out shelter.
Text and photography copyright 2016 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.