Annie’s Canyon Trail: Family Friendly Slot Canyon Hike

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  • Distance: 1.3 miles roundtrip
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Best Season: All Year
  • Elevation Gain: 144 ft
  • Max Elevation: 270 ft
  • Type of Trail: Out & Back
  • Dogs: Allowed on a leash
  • Restrooms: Not available

Take your family on a fun hike featuring a slot canyon and epic sandstone formations. The slot canyon is located in San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve, and is so narrow you sometimes have to turn sideways to get through the whole thing. The last part requires climbing up a steel ladder!

Annie’s Slot Canyon Trail is an easy 1.3 mile roundtrip hike near Solana Beach.  Much of the sunny trail is decorated with vibrant wildflowers, stunning ocean views, and of course, a fun and exciting slot canyon waiting to be explored. Dogs are allowed on the trail, with the exception of the slot canyon. 

What To Expect From This Guide

  • Where to park
  • What to expect while in the slot canyon
  • What to take to be well prepared
  • Weather conditions
  • What section of the trail may be dangerous for small children

Map of Annie’s Canyon Trail

Annie's Canyon Trail Elevation Profile

Download Printable PDF Map

Directions & Parking

This version of Annie’s Canyon Trail begins from Gemma Parks Interpretive Trail. It’s more scenic and cuts deeper through the preserve than other versions. All-terrain stroller friendly.

To be redirected to the trailhead via Google Maps, click the link below.

150 Solana Point Cir, Solana Beach, CA 920754

Annie’s Canyon begins in a residential area. It is a very popular trail, so expect a lot of people on the weekends. Make sure to arrive extra early, otherwise you’ll be forced to park far away from the trailhead.


6:00 am – 6:00 pm

Sundays they stay open until 8:00 pm.

Helpful Links

San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve

Weather Report

Suggested Gear

(Purchasing from these links helps me keep this site going. Thank you for your support). 

Nalgene BPA-Free Water Bottle

Outdoor Moisture Wicking Hat

Osprey Daylite Daypack

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Annie’s Canyon Trail

Once you arrive at the dead-end, the trailhead will be located to your right, leading away from the ocean and further into the San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Preserve.

I love this trail because from the start you’re rewarded with amazing views of wildflowers, a beautiful green marsh, and a flowing creek.

Keep an eye out for a vibrant orange plant-like substance growing on the grass and other plants.

This is a parasite known as Cuscuta California and is harmless to its host but adds to the colorful scenery of the trail.

Read More: Ho Chi Mihn Trail in San Diego: Slot Canyon & Waterfall

As  soon as you enter the slot canyon, you’ll notice sandstone cliffs beginning to rise on both sides and the trail becoming increasingly more narrow.

Almost immediately after venturing into the narrow section of the slot canyon, you’ll see a small cave to your left, which you can explore if you’d like.

This is probably why the locals refer to Annie’s Canyon as the “Mushroom Caves.”

Read More: 80ft Cedar Creek Falls & Huge Swimming Hole in SD County

You’ll be able to see the cliffs on the opposite side of the canyon from inside the little cave. It’s a nice spot for a short break and to take in the beauty of the sandstone formations around you.

As you continue further up the canyon, the trail becomes narrower and the walls more captivating, almost as if someone carefully used brush strokes to mold the walls into their current formation.

Read More: Cowles Mountain: #1 Trail in San Diego County

There is a steel ladder about 15 feet high located at the end of the slot canyon. Unless you turn back, this is the only way out so watch your step as it’s a long way up!

Note! If you visit on a weekend, the slot canyon may be crowded from beginning to end, making it impossible to head back the way you came. Therefore, make sure everyone who enters the slot canyon can either climb the ladder on their own or be carried up.

Here is a view looking down from the top of the ladder.

Read More: 7 Must-Do Waterfalls in SoCal

When you reach the top you’ll be rewarded with a view of the San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Preserve stretching all the way into the Pacific Ocean.

Read More: 7 Best San Diego Hikes You MUST Explore!

Due to its proximity to the ocean, I highly suggest hiking this trail in the summer months as an alternative to the brutally hot mountain hikes!

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How narrow is Annie’s Canyon Trail? 

The slot canyon section of the trail is about 3 feet wide on average but can get as narrow as one foot, making it very difficult for one person to pass the person in front of them.

Where does Annie’s Canyon Trail start? 

Annie’s Canyon Trail actually begins in a neighborhood that is adjacent to San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Preserve.

Is Annie’s Canyon Trail good for kids? 

Annie’s Canyon is a great trail for kids because it is short, easy, not steep, and fun. The only section that may prove difficult for very small children is the last part of the slot canyon, which requires climbing up a roughly 15ft steel ladder. Unless the trail is empty, hikers will not be able to turn around and head back the way they came once inside the slot canyon. All terrain strollers can be used for the entirety of the trail with the exception of the slot canyon.

How long of a hike is Annie’s Canyon Trail? 

The roundtrip distance is 1.3 miles.

How did Annie’s Canyon get its name? 

According to The Coronado Times, Annie’s Canyon is named after a 30 year resident of Solana Beach and active conservationist. Thanks to her more than generous donation, the  San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy was able to acquire the land from private landowners. They quickly cleaned up the trash and graffiti, and opened to the public in 2016.

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Hello, There!

I’m Phillip, and just like you, I feel very passionate about California and the outdoors. After many years of exploring amazing and hidden places, I thought I’d share them with you. Life goes by fast so get out there and enjoy it.  

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