Posted by: James Wapotich | December 18, 2017

Trail Quest: Hans Christian Andersen Park

Nestled in Solvang is a charming 52-acre park that’s close to the heart of town, but has enough undeveloped open space to offer a sense of being on a pleasant country walk.

The park is shaped by the contours of Adobe Canyon. There are essentially two trails in the park, one on each side of the canyon, that can be used to make a loop hike that’s about a mile roundtrip. The hike can be combined with a visit to Solvang.

To get to the park from Santa Barbara, take State Route 154 over Santa Marcos Pass and continue towards the intersection with State Route 246. Follow State Route 246 to Solvang, turn right onto Atterdag Road, and continue to the park.

Hans Christian Andersen Park hike trail Solvang Santa Ynez Valley

Scenery in Hans Christian Andersen Park

The park entrance is marked with a decorative castle arch. Just inside is a miniature water wheel. Here, the road branches. To the left is the skate park, as well as several group picnic areas under the oaks along the creek.

For the hike, stay to the right as the road continues a short way to the parking lot near the kids play area and more picnic sites. The paved road ends at the parking lot, but an unpaved access road continues past the tennis courts where there is additional parking, which is also suitable for horse trailers. Park hours are from 8 a.m. to sunset.

From the paved parking area, look for a trail on the east side of the canyon, on your left as you enter the park. The trail climbs away from the parking area and offers views towards the backside of the Santa Ynez Mountains. The trail passes through oak woodland as it leads behind the tennis courts.

The trail then arrives at the unpaved parking area past the tennis courts and continues along the gated, unpaved access road. This lower half of the park is less developed and has more of the characteristics of an open space.

The road crosses the creek and here one can find the most variety of native plants in the park. In addition to coast live oak and valley oak, there is elderberry and coyote bush, and in the riparian areas, wild rose, willow, and some poison oak.

decorative water wheel Hans Christian Andersen Park hiking trail solvang santa ynez valley

A decorative water wheel is found near the entrance to Hans Christian Andersen Park

As the road arrives at the drainage detention basin it meets the trail that runs along the western side of the canyon. From here, continue along the access road as it follows the creek downstream to the end of the park.

As I was walking through this section, I started to imagine that it could be the sort of place that deer might visit. Crossing the creek to explore off-trail I did find deer bones and later learned that mountain lions have occasionally been sighted in the park. Mountain lions primarily feed on deer.

The unpaved road ends where it meets State Route 246, which is also the park boundary.

Adobe Creek, which runs through the park is currently dry and even filled with acorns in some places. I imagine during the spring, when it’s flowing over the water-carved sedimentary rocks, it can make for a picturesque setting. The creek joins the Santa Ynez River a quarter of a mile below the park, which is likely the route larger animals would take to reach the park.

Returning back to the trail juncture, the route along the western side of the canyon feels more like a single-track trail. The trail overlooks the tree-lined creek and meets the signed spur trail leading up to the Skytt Mesa residential neighbor.

From here, the main trail continues and arrives at one of the group picnic areas; it’s lush green lawn providing a marked contrast to the drier landscape around it. From the picnic area a paved road leads across the creek and back to the parking lot to complete the loop.

Hans Christian Andersen Park was created in 1970, when the county of Santa Barbara obtained the land from the Skytt and Cornelius families. When the City of Solvang was incorporated in 1985, the park became part of the city, which now manages it.

The park is named after Hans Christian Andersen, the famous Danish author who is best known for his fairy tales, including “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, “The Little Mermaid”, and “The Ugly Duckling”.

Acorns adobe creek Hans Christian Andersen Park hiking trail Solvang Santa ynez valley

Acorns fill Adobe Creek in Hans Christian Andersen Park

Solvang got started in 1911, when a group of Danes envisioned creating a town for Danish immigrants. They purchased close 10,000 acres of land in the Santa Ynez Valley that could be subdivided into plots for farms and homes with the hope of creating a Danish colony in California. They named the town Solvang, which translates as “sunny field” and placed ads in Danish-language newspapers. Most of the people who bought land and settled there were Danish, either from the midwest, Denmark, or elsewhere in California.

Profits from the sale of the land was used to build a Danish-style folk school, which later became Atterdag College, and served as the community’s cultural center.

In 1947, the town was featured in Saturday Evening Post magazine, which brought national attention to Solvang as a destination for visitors with its unique cultural history. In response, the people of Solvang felt that the appearance of their town should more closely reflect their Danish heritage.

While several earlier buildings and homes utilized Danish architectural elements, notably Bethania Lutheran Church, it wasn’t until 1947 and the construction of Copenhagen Square that these elements became more widely embraced. Older buildings were remodeled and new construction continued the trend. Danish windmills were built; there are now four throughout the town. Main Street was renamed Copenhagen Drive and Solvang eventually became known as the Danish Capital of America.

The town still retains much of its old world charm and on several occasions members of the Danish Royal family have visited Solvang.

Hans Christian Andersen Park hike trail Solvang

Coast live oak and valley oak add to the scenery at Hans Christian Andersen Park

A walk in Solvang can be a nice compliment to the hike and no trip to Solvang would be complete with stopping to at least have some aebleskivers.

The word itself means “apple slices” and it’s said that traditionally aebleskivers had apple filling. Today, these spherical wonders are sometimes described as pancake balls as they’re made from batter similar to pancakes and waffles. Served hot, they come topped with raspberry jam and powdered sugar.

The treat can also serve as a fun reward, either before or after the hike, depending on whichever provides the greater motivation.

This article originally appeared in section A the December 18th, 2017 edition of Santa Barbara News-Press.

acorns adobe creek hans christian andersen park solvang

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Lagniappe

This is another hike idea I stumbled across looking at google maps. Earlier in the year I was looking something up and noticed a bunch of open space preserves in San Luis Obispo County that I’d never heard of, but could easily see because they were shown in green. It occurred to me to pan south and “fly over” Santa Barbara County and see if there was anything there I hadn’t seen before or didn’t know about.

In looking at Solvang, I was struck by a good size swath of green right in the heart of the developed landscape labeled Hans Christian Anderson Park. A quick google search revealed that there were even some trails there. It wasn’t until I got to the park entrance that I realized that I’d actually been there before, but had never ventured into the southern, more open part of the park.

Because of Solvang’s unique history, it seemed that even if the hike wasn’t that long I’d have enough to write about for the article. But the real impetus that moved the hike up on my list was the Thomas Fire, which effectively closed many of the trails and because of the smoke made many hikes along the coast less appealing. There was also just something comforting in the idea of offering a simple hike in Solvang in the midst of the uncertainty the fire was creating.


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