California is a place that offers endless adventure and beauty. In particular, this one is located in the southern part of the state. Another one of San Diego’s hidden gems; a unique geological playground infused with the hiking trail that takes you to incredibly small spaces and views! A heavily trafficked, 1.6 mile trail, accessible throughout most of the year recently. Once ridden with tons of graffiti and trash, it is now a place for outdoor lovers of all levels. So I wanted to go check this place out! Here’s my adventure in Annie’s Canyon Trail.
Years ago, the slot and small caves in this area seems to have been the hot spot for vandalism and basically the slot maintained its secrecy because of the how extremely hidden it is.
And they are not kidding when you hear ‘hidden’ and small spaces! But I am always up for adventure especially when it comes to slithering through a slot canyon!
Additionally, Annie’s Canyon Trail was formerly called ‘Mushroom Caves’. The former name resembles the natural environment with all the canyon and rock shapes on the trail.
As the San Elijo Ecological Reserve mentions, “San Elijo Lagoon was once a fully tidal system. When the lower Escondido Creek area was settled in the 1880s, the area began to undergo vegetational modifications, mainly due to farming and grazing influences.
Between 1934 and 1973, sewage from various sources was discharged into the lagoon. And between 1937 and 1971, numerous dikes and levees were installed to construct duck ponds for hunting.”
They continue to explain that many of these can still be found within the lagoon. The primary purpose of acquiring this property is to preserve, protect and maintain the coastal wetland habitat and those species associated with this habitat type. The area was designated as an ecological reserve by the Fish and Game Commission in 1983. (San Elijo Ecological Reserve).
The slot trail name was given in honor of a 30 year resident of Solana Beach named Annie. Annie was a strong supporter of conservation. It was reopened in 2016 after a major clean up project coordinated by volunteers and other local organizations.
The San Elijo Lagoon is a huge 721 acre ecological reserve that surrounds carefully eroded sandstone canyons. You enter the Annie’s trail at the Rios Avenue Trailhead. Hikers will enjoy mostly flat clean paths that will eventually lead you to narrow canyon walls. The trail is also made up of several types of habitats such as a riparian forest, coastal sage scrub, chaparral, and salt water marsh.
There are two choices of paths here: 1) Going through the canyon which requires some strength and flexibility. Or 2) Taking the switchback trail option where there is about a 300 feet incline. Please note that the canyon option is a one way, so if you choose this path you will be utilizing a metal ladder and some vertical footholds to aid in climbing and no turning around.
The slot canyon’s vertical, narrow areas may cause a little bit of claustrophobia. As you slither your way through the skinny canyon walls, you will approach a metal ladder-style stairs, and on the switchback approach, you encounter wooden-plank stairs.
There is the one area where you will need to use your hands and feet, and lift yourself up using the sides of the canyon walls. So be prepared for using a little strength! The hard work will most definitely pay off when you climb out and up to the top! Annie’s Canyon is probably one of the coolest easy hikes in San Diego.
More Info and Directions
San Elijo Lagoon, Annie’s Canyon Directions
889 N. Rios Ave.
Solana Beach, CA 92075
Slot canyons similar to Annie’s Canyon trail are quite rare in these parts of California. It is not likely that you will find a slot or cave within or around a coastal area. However, there are caves in La Jolla that are quite intriguing as well. Of course, Pirates made full use of these caves years ago. Interesting how useful these hidden gems were in historic times.
NOTE: Covid Alert: Currently this trail is closed. The trail is closed due to freeway construction and soil erosion from heavy rains previously. (Jan 13, 2021.)