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|
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.
Altra Lone Peak 5
For most people, the Altra Lone Peak is a solid choice that will leave your feet feeling great at the end of any hike. The feel is cushy and light, and if it had a car equivalent, this would be a Cadillac or Mercedes Sedan. The grip is great and they’re reasonably durable for this type of trail runner, which I think is better in most conditions than a hiking boot, and here’s why. The downside of this shoe is that it won’t last as long as something like the Moab 2 (see alternate footwear choices at the bottom of my gear page). I’ve been using mine for many miles and my feet always feel great. Watch my video explaining why they are a great shoe here.
Latest Price on Women’s Shoe – REI | Amazon
Latest Price on Men’s Shoe – REI | Amazon
Stay Safe Out of Cell Phone Range
If you’re not familiar with the Garmin InReach technology, it allows you to send and receive text messages where you don’t have cell phone signals. You can also get weather reports and trigger an SOS to emergency responders. Even if you don’t have an emergency, sending a quick message telling a loved one that you’re okay or are running late is well worth the cost. The Garmin InReach Mini (REI | Amazon | My Review) fits in your palm and weighs next to nothing.
Gaia GPS Mapping App
Smartphones are not backcountry instruments, but almost everyone has one today. And they all have GPS onboard. So I recommend getting a good GPS hiking app like Gaia GPS that supports offline maps. Just make sure to put your phone in airplane mode so the battery doesn’t drain. GaiaGPS not only has smartphone and tablet apps, but also an online planning tool. You can drag the GPX hike tracks from my (or any) guides into the online map and they will sync to your phone. You can also check for wildfires, weather, snow, and choose from dozens of map types with a premium membership (HikingGuy readers get up a big discount here). Note that I also carry a paper map with me in case the phone dies or gets smashed.
Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated September 2021.
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?
To start, you should always have a paper map and compass. And it helps to print this guide out or save it on your phone. I highly recommend a GPS as well. I use the Garmin Fenix 6 Smart GPS watch ( REI | Amazon | My Review) with maps (or the more affordable Garmin Instinct). The GPS smartwatch is nice because it’s rugged, works if your phone dies, and also has a billion other features like sleep tracking, workout recording, etc.
- 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.
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