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Annie's Canyon Trail Guide

  • 1.8 miles - Easy Effort
  • Or: 2.5 With Lagoon Loop
  • 1 Hour (Total)
  • 470 Total Feet of Climbing
  • Max Elevation of 270 feet
  • Leashed Dogs Allowed

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.

In this Guide:
  • Video and Turn-by-Turn Directions for Annie's Canyon Trail
  • Parking for Annie's Canyon Trail
  • Insider Tips and Recommendations for the Hike

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

Annies Canyon Trail Directions 1
When you get to the destination, you'll see a dead end. The trail starts at the end of the street. Just make a u-turn and...
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Park along the side of the street. It's mainly open parking, but double check for no-parking areas and driveways.

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.

Gear That I Love Right Now

Nothing is sponsored or promoted, just the actual gear that I use.

Gear Inreach Mini 2
Garmin InReach Mini 2Hit SOS or just tell loved ones that you're running late where your cell phone has no service.  Review here.
Gear Topo Pursuit
Topo Pursuit 2The best hiking footwear I've ever owned. No blisters. Get them wet, they dry quickly. Lots of cushion and comfort.
Gear Epix Pro Up Ahead
Garmin Epix ProHiking maps, route info, and fitness stats on my wrist. Review here.
Hikelite 26 Gear
Osprey Hikelite 26Lightweight, carries all your gear, and your back doesn't get sweaty. Oh yea, it's also one of the most inexpensive packs you can get.

Check out the complete list here. ( Updated July 2024)

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.

Click Here To View

Use This Map:
View in CalTopo | PDF Map | GPX File

3D Map

Annies Canyon Trail 3d Map
The hike starts at the parking area next to I-5, then winds into the lagoon before reaching the short Annie's Canyon loop. The optional blue line is a nice extension around the shores of the lagoon, which rejoins the trail you came in on after 0.7  miles.

Trail Notes

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It's crucial that you stay on the trail and don't venture off into sensitive habitats or deadly parts of the slot canyon.
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I wish I could say this is common sense, but I need to say it. Don't scratch or scrawl onto the soft cave walls like these knuckleheads did.
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There are green signs located along the trail to point you in the right direction.
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There are also a liberal amount of benches located along the trail if you want to take a break and soak up the views.

The Annies Canyon Trail Story

Annies Canyon Graifti
Today Annie's Canyon Trail is a well-marked, clean and beautiful trail. However, it used by covered in graffiti and a hangout for those looking "to party." Photo Jerome Lucido

Annie's Canyon Trail Hike Directions

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Go through the gate at the end of the street.
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You'll see some trail signs when you go through, confirming that you are in the right place.
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Follow the wide trail as it climbs.
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At the top of the hill you'll pass the Canyon Trailhead on the left. Go straight and downihill.
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Follow the trail downhill along I-5. Avoid any unofficial side trails and stay on this main, wide trail along the highway.
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The trail will come close to the highway. Our turnoff comes shortly, once the trail dips below the level of the highway.
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Look for a small side trail on the left, about 0.5 miles into the hike.
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Enjoy the shade of the small trail as you hike away from the highway.
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You'll start to get some views of San Elijo Lagoon.

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.

Annies Canyon Trail Directions 16
Stay straight on the main trail as a side trail joins from the right.
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And a second after that, another trail joins from the right. Hike straight.
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When you get to the big junction with the trail board, make the hard left to enter Annie's Canyon.
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Go past the big Annie's Canyon Trail sign.
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Make the right at the split to enter the slot canyon.
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Here's the sign at the junction. If you don't want to do the slot canyon, you can hike up the switchbacks to the left. And remember that if you do the slot canyon, it's one-way (going up).
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Go straight along the wall on the right.
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And then you're in the beginning of the slot canyon!
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Stay out of the side canyons.
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Make the left to enter the narrower part of the canyon.
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In the beginning you can walk head-on.
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But then it narrows even more; you may have to walk sideways.
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When you get to the split, make the short detour to the grotto of the mushroom cave.
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Here's the mushroom cave. You can still see remnants of the old graffiti on the ceiling.
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After the cave, head back to the trail and continue up the ladders.
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At the top of the ladders you have a little more canyon left.
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And then you arrive at the top and end of the canyon.
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Enjoy the nice views to the Pacific Ocean from the bluff, and then head downhill.
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The steep trail has some small switchbacks to make the descent (and climb) more manageable.
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At the junction at the bottom, make the right to head back to the junction with the big trail board.
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If you want to head back to the start, just make the right and retrace your steps. If you want to do the optional 0.7 mile extension around the lagoon loop, make the left.

Lagoon Loop Extension

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Keep straight on the main trail, avoiding any small side trails to the left or right.
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Enjoy the nice lagoon views from the higher ground.
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When you get to the big junction with the patch of grass in the middle, make the right.
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Enjoy the lookout shortly after the turn.
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And then continue straight along the side of the lagoon. The tide comes in and out twice a day. When it's high, look fr marine creatures in the shallows. When it's out, look for birds searching for food in the mudflats.
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The trail turns inland when it approaches the highway. As you gently climb, look up and to the right to see the top of Annie's Canyon.
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Stay on the trail as it widens.
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And soon you'll be climbing up along the interstate on the trail you came down. Follow it straight along the highway back to the parking area.
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And here you are, back at the Solana Hills Trailhead. That's the hike!!

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This Guide Was Written by Cris Hazzard

Cris Hazzard 4 Mile Trail Yosemite
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!). You can stay up to date with my new guides by following me on YouTube, Instagram, or by subscribing to my monthly newsletter.