HIKE TO: Annie's Canyon and Mushroom Caves TRAILHEAD: Multiple trailheads, see below MILES: 1.5 miles TIME: 2 hrs DATE I WENT: 11/22/21 & 12/18/22 DIFFICULTY: easy ELEVATION: 154 ft ELEVATION GAIN: 69 ft HIKE PERMIT: no PARKING: residential LOCATION: San Diego, Southern California
Annie’s Canyon in Encinitas, CA is a very short slot canyon with mushroom caves along it, one large one in particular. This hike is an amazing local gem as you would not expect to find features of a slot canyon in San Diego! The hike is short and easy which makes it family-friendly, very popular, and one of the best hikes near San Diego.
Annie’s Canyon Trailhead
There are multiple trailheads but the most popular one to the slot canyon and mushroom caves is from Solana Hills Trailhead. I personally enjoyed the hike from Rios Trailhead better because it’s quieter, more scenic, and not along the side of the freeway. It was also less crowded when I hiked from Rios TH but in all fairness, that was on a Monday and I hiked from Solana Hills on a Sunday.
How long is Annie’s Canyon Trail?
Annie’s Canyon is very short (about 528 ft long and 69 ft of elevation gain to the overlook) – it’s about a quarter-mile loop but you could probably walk through the whole slot canyon to the top of the overlook in less than five minutes if there are no crowds and you don’t stop for photos, but it’s a cool experience and definitely makes you feel like you’re not in a SoCal beach city.
Annie’s Canyon starts off wide and you’ll see mushroom caves blocked off with “no trespassing” signs, then it gets very narrow (single-file-line kind of narrow) so it’s hard to pass people, but be patient and just enjoy it. Keep an eye out to your left for a huge mushroom cave you can walk up to right before the first set of steps. If you’re focused on the slot canyons and not looking around too much, you might miss it! The hike then continues up two sets of ladders before topping out on the overlook.
The hike down the trail is 643 ft, slightly longer than the slot canyon itself because of the switchbacks.
The hike to the slot canyon is still short but will take longer and the distance and duration are up to you. The Solana Hills and Rios trails are both 0.6 miles one-way to the entrance of Annie’s Canyon; however, the hike is along the San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Preserve and there’s a system of trails here so you can explore the wetland and surrounding habitats – we saw a lot of mini cacti out here!
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