Annie’s Canyon Trail is a popular trail in Solana Beach and until today it is one we had not visited. I have wanted to hike this trail for quite some time, but didn’t think Karlie could handle the steep inclines. Since Sunny does not have any problem with inclines we finally explored the trail today. It was well worth the trip.
Annie’s Canyon, located in the San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve, was once off-limits and prone to drug use and vandalism. Local residents with a generous donation cleaned it up and now it’s open for hiking. The highlight is the slot canyon which provides a narrow passage through the canyon, but this path is not for everyone since it is extremely narrow and requires you to climb a metal ladder to the peak. As an alternative there is a moderate switchback climb that requires scaling steep steps up to the peak.
There are several areas to access the trail to Annie’s Canyon and we opted for the one off N. Rios Ave. The trail starts with a steep descent down some stairs and then levels out to a relatively flat trail with some rolling hills. It’s fairly shaded, at least in the morning, and gives views of the lagoon on the left. There are some side trails, but if you follow the Annie’s Canyon Trail signs you will come to an information kiosk with a trail map. Behind that is the trail that leads to Annie’s Canyon. A short distance down the trail and you come to a sign indicating two options – hiking through the slot canyon or up the switchback trail above the canyon. Both options lead to an overlook with views of the canyon, lagoon, and ocean and both present challenges.
Annie’s Canyon Trail – Slot Canyon Route
The trail that leads through the slot canyon is considered difficult and is not for those who are prone to claustrophobia. It starts with a narrow trail through the sandstone. The walls of the sandstone are immense and amazing. After a short distance the trail narrows considerably and requires scrambling and climbing through the sandstone. This is the point where we turned around. Although I was carrying Sunny on my back I did not know how narrow the path would become nor how long it was. The trail was extremely busy making it quite slow to try to get through this section. After going a short distance in this very narrow section we decided it would be best to turn around. I would recommend viewing the virtual tour before deciding to take this route as unless you decide to turn around before anyone else is behind you, you can’t turn around.
Annie’s Canyon Trail – Switchback Route
After realizing the concerns with progressing on the slot route we decided to take the switchback route. This route is a steep incline the whole way. Some sections are fairly narrow, but it does have steps. They were a little tall for Sunny and my short legs, but we still managed to scramble up them. The trip to the peak is about a quarter mile so although not a long hike, it is challenging, but fun. Once at the top you can see where the slot canyon route comes up. There are also views of the canyon, sandstone cliffs, and the lagoon. It’s well worth the hike to see these views.
The return trip is as challenging since you now have to climb down those steep inclines you climbed up. Once we returned to the area with the kiosk we ventured on the trail to the right for a short time. Eventually we turned around and returned to the entrance at N. Rios Ave. Then we turned right onto the Solana Point Circle and Pole Road Trails. We followed these trails to highway 101 and then returned to N. Rios Ave. Our total hike was 3.52M, but if you hike to the Annie’s Canyon overlook and back the hike is about 1.5M.
Sunny and I rate Annie’s Canyon Trail 3.5 out of 4 paws up. This is truly a unique hiking experience whether you go through the canyon or not. And the trail is challenging with either narrow passages and climbing or steep steps and a winding trail. The views through the sandstone and at the top are beautiful. The only downsides are parking is on the street, dogs are not allowed to walk through the slot canyon, and the trail can be crowded.
How Do I Get There?
We entered Annie’s Canyon Trail from the Gemma Parks Interpretive Trail off N. Rios Ave. From I-5 take exit #37 – Lomas Santa Fe Drive and turn left onto Lomas Santa Fe Drive. Continue for 1M and turn right onto N. Rios Ave. Entrance to the trail is .8M at the end of N. Rios Ave. There is no designated parking area; parking is on the the side of the street. During weekends and holidays this is a popular trail, so it may be challenging to find a parking spot.
The trail can also be accessed from the Solana Hills Trail off Solana Hills Drive or Canyon Drive.
For additional information about Annie’s Canyon Trail check out the link below.