Annie's Canyon Trail is about as unique as they come. On this short hike, you'll be able to experience a sandstone slot canyon, complete with narrow walls and ladders. And on the way to the canyon, you'll get beautiful views of San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve, a critical migrating waterfowl habitat. Another bonus on this hike is that it's only minutes off of Interstate 5, making it an excellent leg-stretcher hike stop if you're driving past.
- Video and Turn-by-Turn Directions for Annie's Canyon Trail
- Parking for Annie's Canyon Trail
- Insider Tips and Recommendations for the Hike
When planning, always check the park website and social media to make sure the trails are open. Similarly, check the weather and road conditions.
Locals also know Annie's Canyon Trail as the "ACT" or "mushroom caves."
Where is Annies Canyon Trail?
There are a half-dozen trailheads and ways to get to Annie's Canyon Trail; in this guide I'll show you how to get there from free and abundant street parking, just off of the I-5. Use this trailhead address:
Solana Hills Trailhead, 498-450 Solana Hills Dr, Solana Beach, CA 92075
There are no restrooms at the trailhead or on the hike.
Gear For the Hike
This is a short and easy hike, and you don't need anything special to do it. Expect to get sandy, and if you have a backpack, it will be hard to get through the slot canyon. If you simply carry a small water bottle and wear casual fitness clothes and sneakers, you'll be great.
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Annies Canyon Trail Maps
The hike from the trailhead through Annies Canyon is 1.8 miles. I've added an optional and short loop extension that lets you take in more of the shores of San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve, which adds another 0.7 miles to the total.
- If you bring a dog or toddler, you'll probably have to carry them up some of the ladders in the slot canyons.
- The canyon gets narrow and you may have to walk sideways. If you are claustrophobic, you could have problems in the narrow section.
- The canyon trail is one-way (up), so you don't have to worry about passing people in the other direction.
- This is a popular hike. Arrive early or visit on a weekday to beat the crowds.
The Annies Canyon Trail Story
- Millions of years ago, this whole area was underwater.
- When the area here became land, runoff from the surrounding area eroded the sandstone, which deepened them over the years into the canyons that you see today.
- Up until 2015, this area was all private property, but often trespassed on. Vandals would spray paint the walls. People used the area to get high and party.
- In 2014 a popular website, Hidden San Diego, published a story about the canyon, and visitation to the closed area skyrocketed. The local conservation community knew they had to address the issue.
- A long-time San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy supporter named Annie made a generous donation to acquire the land. Several volunteer groups removed the graffiti and built the trail, which officially opened in 2016 as "Annie's Canyon."
Annie's Canyon Trail Hike Directions
The Spanish expedition that visited the area in 1769 originally named the area San Alejo Lagoon. Over the years, before there was a strong written record, people mistakenly called it San Eligio (the patron saint of goldsmiths). The bastardization of the word continued into its current form, San Elijo, which is not actually a saint.
Lagoon Loop Extension
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This Guide Was Written by Cris Hazzard
Hi, I'm Cris Hazzard, aka Hiking Guy, a professional outdoors guide, hiking expert, and author based in Southern California. I created this website to share all the great hikes I do with everyone else out there. This site is different because it gives detailed directions that even the beginning hiker can follow. I also share what hiking gear works and doesn't so you don't waste money. I don't do sponsored or promoted content; I share only the gear recommendations, hikes, and tips that I would with my family and friends. If you like the website and YouTube channel, please support these free guides (I couldn't do it without folks like you!).
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