Annie’s Canyon Trail Guide
|In This Guide|
|Total Distance (?)||1.8 miles (2.9 km)|
|Other Options||2.5 With Lagoon Loop|
|Hike Time||1 Hour (Total)|
|Total Ascent (?)||470 feet (143m)|
|Highest Elevation||270 feet (82m)|
|Fees & Permits||Free|
|Alerts & Closures (?)||San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve|
|Weather & Forecast||Latest Conditions|
|Stay Safe||Copy this webpage link to the clipobard and share with a friend before you hike. Let them know when to expect you back.|
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.
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.
Joby GripTight Smartphone Flexible Tripod
Take your selfie stick game to the next level. Part of the fun of a hike is taking pictures, and a flexible JOBY smartphone tripod takes it to the next level. You can use it as a selfie stick, as a regular tripod, but more importantly, as a flexible tripod that can attach to tree branches and other objects. It’s not expensive, and it’s something you can use when not hiking too.
Latest Price – Amazon
Black Diamond Cosmo 300 Headlamp
If something goes wrong and you get lost, sprain your ankle, or get delayed, you might be caught out after dark. And one of the top items that search and rescue departments recommend you carry is a light. Smartphones can work as flashlights, but that drains the battery quickly. It’s better to invest in a reasonably priced and high-quality headlamp like this Black Diamond. It takes AAA batteries, can last 200 hours, and has an emergency strobe. Carry it with you off the trail to use in emergencies as well.
Latest Price – REI | Amazon
REI Membership Saves You Money Forever
Have you shopped at REI before? They have all kinds of active clothes and gear, from fitness, to hiking, to snow sports, to casual wear. It’s an overall great place to shop (here’s why) and they offer a $30 membership that gets you 10% back on everything for life, along with frequent coupons, free shipping, discounts, and member-only sales. It’s a no-brainer.
REI Membership – REI
Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated May 2022.
No company pays me to promote or push a product, all the gear you see here is gear I use and recommend. If you click an a link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps keep the website ad and promotion free. There is no cost to you.
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.
Explore Map on CalTopoView a Printable PDF Hike MapDownload the Hike GPX File
If you try to download the GPX file and your browser adds a “.txt” or “.xml” extension to it, simply rename it as a “.gpx” file.
How Are You Going to Navigate This Hike?
Here’s what I use. If you are a hardcore hiker and/or hike in extreme conditions, I recommend getting a dedicated GPS like a GPSMAP 66sr or 66i, or a wrist-based GPS with maps like the Garmin Fenix 7 or Epix. If you only hike in fair weather and a touchscreen is fine, or just want a solid tool, I highly recommend downloading the smartphone app, Gaia GPS. It’s a piece of cake to use and very powerful, just make sure your phone is in airplane mode so the battery doesn’t drain. You can also check for wildfires, weather, snow, and choose from dozens of map types with a premium membership (HikingGuy readers get a big discount here). Note that I also carry a paper map with me in case the phone dies or gets smashed.
- 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
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360 Through the Canyon
Turn by Turn 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
This guide last updated on September 12, 2021. Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.