Annie’s Canyon Trail is a fun short hike in Solano Beach, California. The popular loop trail features two optional routes that include a small sandstone canyon and beautiful scenery. It is one of a handful of easy hikes in San Diego.
Annie’s Canyon Trail is a popular hike in Solana Beach that stretches for 2.2 miles or 1.5 miles, depending on whether you hike the loop trail via Solana Hills Trail or North Rios Trailhead. Before exploring Annie’s sandstone canyon, you are treated to panoramic views of the San Elijo Lagoon and the Pacific Ocean.
Annie’s Canyon Trail is a very popular hike; you will find the trail bustling with people most of the time. Kids love this hike, especially the canyon part. Dogs on a leash are allowed, and it’s the perfect family hike – not too long or strenuous. You may huff and puff a little on the hills, but the panoramic view makes up for it.
Annie’s Canyon Trail Via Solana Hills Trail
The Solana Hills trail is found right off the I-5 and offers plenty of parking for hikers. The Solana hills trail starts just past the chain-link gate at the top of the parking. Follow the trail to the top of the hill, where you will find a trailhead coming in – just continue straight with the trail.
You will see the I-5 approaching as you make your way down the path, and this part of the trail will follow the highway in a parallel fashion. When the trail starts to dip beneath the highway, look for a left turn into a small trail. The entrance to the trail should be marked with three horizontal whiteboards.
The trail will then lead you away from the highway again (your back will be facing the direction of the highway) and take you through some coastal shrubs before opening up nicely. You will now be able to start seeing parts of the San Elijo Lagoon.
As you continue along the trail, you will find some strategically placed rest chairs, where you can just take in the view or rest a bit before hitting the trail again. You will start to notice some green “Annie’s Canyon Trail’ signage along the way.
When you come up to a big trail board where a few trails come together, take the left trail that goes up to the actual Annie’s Canyon Trail hike. As you move on up, you will see a sign indicating that you are now on Annie’s Canyon Trail (a small loop up through the slot canyon and back.)
As you move on further up the trail, you will find a big Annie’s Canyon Trail board, indicating that the slot canyon is to the right. To the left is some switchback trails. Follow the slot canyon trail until you walk into the slot canyon itself.
Follow the signs displayed, and be prepared to squeeze through some tight bits found inside the canyon slot. When you reach a step-like structure, there is a quick route to the left, which shows you the “Mushroom” cave.
You should find the iron ladder system embedded in the canyon walls after returning to the trail and squeezing your way through one final aperture. The ladder is easy to climb and should present no navigational problems.
When you reach the top of the steps, there is a small section of canyon left to climb before you exit the slot canyon. From here, you will be able to see the Pacific Ocean and San Elijo Lagoon and take in the area’s beauty.
Follow the switchback trail to complete the loop to the mainboard, and follow the path down on the trail you were on before. When you get to the main trailhead, you can head off right where you came from or turn left for another 0.6-mile hike along the lagoon.
As you walk along the trail, you will find a bench where you can take a rest or a drinks break before continuing. The trail will split into two sections – look on your right-hand side for a cement pillar with a small white sign on – and take the right fork in the road.
As you walk down the trail, look for a small opening in the bushes on the left side. This hidden little trail will lead you down to a wooden lookout point, where you can enjoy the lagoon coming past. Low tide will bring along a couple of bird species looking for some clams.
You will eventually find that the trail emerges into the trail you used when making your way to Annie’s Canyon. If you see the highway in the distance, you know you’re on the right route back to your parked car just over the hill.
- Length Of Hike: 2.2 Miles
- Average Time To Complete: 1 Hour
- Elevation Gain: 423-Feet
- Trail Type: Loop
- Difficulty: Easy
- Dog Friendly: Yes (Leash)
Annie’s Canyon Trail Via North Rios Trailhead Loop
Should you plan to hike Annie’s Canyon Trail from the North Rios trailhead, you should know that parking can be limited on North Rios Avenue. When you have found a parking space make your way down Rios Avenue to the boards that indicate the way to the trailhead.
Take a couple of sandy steps down to the trailhead signage board, and keep left on the trail. You will notice rest benches along the way as you make your way to a big green sign indicating that Annie’s Canyon Trail is 0.2-miles ahead.
You will notice the San Elijo Lagoon on your left-hand side as you approach the main trailhead. Here you take the trail up to Annie’s canyon on your right-hand side (a big wooden sign will show you the way) and make your way up the hill to the big green board indicating “Annie’s Canyon Trail.”
Take a right to explore the canyons and left if you want to skip the hike through the narrow canyon but still want to make your way to the viewpoint. If you decide to give the more adventurous canyon slot route a go, then follow the switchback route when done and make your way down the hill.
You can head the way back from which you came, but seeing that you are here, make the most of it and take a right to the main trailhead. When you see that the trail makes a left take it, and you should now be on the trail path that runs parallel to the San Elijo Lagoon – moving in the opposite direction as when doing the Solana Beach Trail.
When you get to the trail split (Y-form), take a trail splitting to the right (the cement pillar with white signboard should now be on your left-hand side.) Continue on the trail until it becomes the trail that connects to North Rio Avenue.
- Length Of Hike: 1.5-Miles
- Average Time To Complete: 40-Min
- Elevation Gain: 197-Feet
- Trail Type: Loop
- Difficulty: Easy
What Is The Mushroom Cave In Annie’s Canyon?
Before its re-opening in 2016, Annie’s Canyon was covered in graffiti, especially the caves found in the sandstone canyon. Locals still refer to Annie’s Canyon as the Mushroom Caves.
Annie’s Canyon Trail was a no-trespassing zone for many years before locals decided to clean up the mess and re-open it to the public.
Annie’s Canyon Trail is an awesome little hike. If you have children, it’s the ideal spot to introduce them to the wonders of nature. It’s also a busy hiking spot, be sure to expect some foot traffic.