Copper Creek Serenity

Hike to Copper Creek Falls in Rancho La Costa Preserve

The journey to Copper Creek Falls in Carlsbad’s Rancho La Costa Preserve is a serene 3.25-mile hike following a peaceful creek with a bit of local history and beautiful canyon scenery. The actual “falls”? Well, it’s more of a small oasis, so you’ve just got to go with the flow on this hike, best visited after recent rains.

Find street parking along San Elijo Road just past Fallsview Park next to a rather hidden trailhead beside a fenced-off area (on your left). Take the preserve’s trail that parallels the asphalt road (and accompanying fence) below power lines. To your right is a towering hill; this is neighboring Denk Mountain, which can also be accessed from this trail. At just under half a mile, you start to enter the canyon, as the trail features change dramatically.

Pass by a gate and sign for the Copper Creek Falls trails and feel free to grab a complimentary walking stick (just make sure to drop it off on the return trip), provided by the Center for Natural Lands Management, which maintains this area. You’ll soon pass by a trail junction (leading to Rancho Summit Road), cross over some rocks, under some riparian flora, and across two quaint footbridges over the stream. Soon the trail opens up and offers beautiful views of the canyon.

Here you'll find an interpretive sign detailing the area’s mining history - the Encinitas Copper Mining and Smelting Co. operated here in the early 1900s, and today some ruins still exist. The trail continues, hugging the hillside and flanking a steep canyon drop-off. Look down below to see the paralleling stream, but be sure to keep an eye out for a viewpoint that overlooks the small but scenic falls. You should refrain from climbing down; the view from above is just fine!

Soon ,you'll reach a T-junction with a fire road. This is your turnaround point, but there’s room to continue exploring the network of trails (you can take the nearby Whiptail Trail to get up to Denk Mountain from this route too). Return the way you came.

To get to the Copper Creek Falls trailhead and street parking, take the I-5 to the Leucadia Blvd. exit and head east. After 1.9 miles, Leucadia Blvd. turns into Olivenhain Rd. and after another mile continues straight onto Rancho Santa Fe Rd. After 2.8 miles, turn right onto San Elijo Rd. Parking and the trailhead will be on your right in just over 1 mile. No dogs!

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