Article & Research by Allison Garton:
Roughly a mile down the Old Banner Toll Road (originally the Wilcox Toll Road), hook a sharp left to follow the trail down to what remains of the Warlock Mine, one of San Diego County’s most productive and prolific mines. San Diego’s mining history dates back to 1869, when Fred Coleman spotted gold in a creek bed. The subsequent gold rush boom and bust left a lasting mark and culture in the back country, where the mountains are literally laced with mines. Many have been abandoned, but there are still active claims being mined today.
The Warlock mine was one of the first discovered in the area surrounding Julian. Digging began in 1870 and continued until 1957. After operations ceased, the rail track from inside the mine was repurposed by the Descanso, Alpine & Pacific Railway in Alpine. In 1962, the mine was declared a shelter that could accommodate roughly 220 people. Three years later, the mine experienced a partial collapse and the stored provisions were removed. Perhaps underground shelters aren’t the best idea across a canyon from the Elsinore Fault? A portion of the fault is visible across Banner Canyon along the base of Volcan Mountain.
Prior to the Pines fire of 2002, more structures were intact but today, the processing mill, a house foundation, and the mine shaft itself provide the most opportunities for exploration. Entering any mine is never advised, and Hidden San Diego is not liable if your sweet puppy turns into Cujo. Bats are real and so is rabies.
Personal Experience: Well all be damned, that was a mine indeed! I have not done much mine exploring (yet) because there have been too many other places to explore and mines are obviously dangerous. So mines had been put on the backburner–until now. We took this hike in January, when the weather is cool. I feel this is a great time to do longer hikes without worrying about dying from heat exhaustion! The hike is a little over 5 miles round trip so expect to get a bit of exercise! If you keep your eyes peeled you will come across a few smaller mines along the way too. The other mine we found (Golden Gem Mine) did not look safe to enter AT ALL, so we were smart and stayed out. The exterior looked like it was ready to collapse. I’ve been told that it opens up inside but I didn’t want to take any risks.
The Warlock Mine is up on a small hill across from the old mill. You’ll have to look around a little but that is part of the adventure! Look out for worn ground and that may be your path. This mine had multiple rooms and went pretty far back. It definitely satisfied my adventurous palate for the day!
I felt like we were in an Indiana Jones movie! I was waiting for the large boulder to come rolling towards us. 😛 We had a run in with a bat at the end, flying back in forth in front of our exit, making me freak out a bit. I am not wanting to get attacked by a bat! That’s all part of the game though. Bats like mines and you very likely will run into some. Just stay calm!
The hike is so beautiful!
Doesn’t seem like much from here, but the mine is up there!