Hiking Annie’s Canyon Trail (Local’s Guide)

Annie's Slot Canyons

Annie’s Slot Canyon hiking trail is a family friendly 1.5 mile trail located in the San Elijo Lagoon. Annie’s Canyon is known for its unique slot canyons and ocean views. It’s an easy, family friendly hike located in Solana Beach. It’s also great for beginners.

There are multiple routes available when hiking Annie’s Slot Canyon in Solana Beach. This blog post will go over the shortest and most popular trail- “Annie’s Canyon via North Rios Ave.” I’ll be discussing trail stats, what to expect on your hike, dog restrictions, where to park, and more.

Quick Facts

  • Location: Solana Beach
  • Trailhead: Google Maps Link
  • Distance: 1.5 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Dog Friendly: Yes, with limitations (read below)
  • Parking: Free
  • Bathrooms: None
  • Est time: 1 hour
  • No bikes allowed
  • All Trails Link

This short and easy hike is perfect for a Sunday morning stroll or an evening walk after work. It’s quick and takes you to San Diego’s slot canyons. You can expect to see other outdoor enthusiasts on this hike since it does attract a lot of visitors.

What to Expect Hiking Annie’s Canyon

Annie's Canyon Hiking Trail

Annie’s Canyon trail is well marked with signs to guide you to the summit. The trail itself is primarily sand and dirt. It’s not a paved path. After parking, follow the signs for Annie’s Canyon for about ¾ mile. There’s some trees along the way that provide some shade, but a good chunk of this trail is still exposed to the sun. 

After about 3/4 mile, you’ll come to an intersection and you’ll have to decide whether you want to go through the slot canyons or up the switchbacks to the summit. 

The slot canyons get really narrow and make for a fun adventure. You’ll need both hands to help navigate your way through.

Annie's Canyon Ladder
Annie’s Slot Canyon Ladder

At the very end, you will climb a ladder to get to the summit. From the top you’ll get great views of the ocean and surrounding area. 

Keep in mind that Annie’s Slot Canyons are one way. You’ll go up through the canyons and then down the other side with the switch backs. This helps avoid a traffic jam in the canyons. On the weekends, when it’s busy, there still might be a line to go through the canyons. To avoid the crowds come early!

Are dogs allowed in Annie’s Canyon? 

Yes, Annie’s Slot Canyon hiking trail is dog friendly. You can bring your dog but you cannot take your dog through the actual slot canyons. If you bring your dog, you’ll have to take the switchbacks to the summit instead of going up the slot canyons.

Check out this blog post for 10 other Dog Friendly Hikes in San Dego.  

Is Annie’s Canyon Trail kid/ family friendly? 

Annies Canyon with child carrier

Annie’s Canyon trail is great for kids who are comfortable hiking a few miles. Please note the trail is not stroller friendly, especially at the slot canyons. The slot canyons are best for kids who are capable of climbing up a ladder. 

I have hiked Annie’s Canyon with 3 moms using Osprey’s Child Carrier. There were certain sections where the carrier barely fit. I’m talking inches away from the sandstone walls. It’s a tight fit!

If you’re new to hiking with kids here are some tips on How to Help Kids Hike Happier.

Annie’s Canyon Trail Parking

Annie’s Canyon Trail parking is free and easy. If you’re hiking the 1.5 mile trail, parking is located in a residential neighborhood right next to the trailhead off N Rios Ave and Rios Ct. The trailhead is located at the end of a cul-de-sac. Below is a screenshot of the map on Apple Maps.

This hiking trail gets busy so parking may be harder to find on the weekends. 

Please be respectful of the neighbors and their property when visiting Annie’s Slot Canyon. 

What is a slot canyon and how are they formed?

A slot canyon is a narrow passage with steep walls made out of sandstone. Years ago, Annie’s Canyon was entirely covered in water. Over time the rock eroded and eventually turned into the slot canyons we see today. 

High winds or water causes the rock to erode. It begins with a small crack in the rock and as the water flows through it chips away at it and changes the shape. It turns into a creek and as the water picks up momentum erosion occurs at a faster rate. 

The turns and curves in the canyons happen when the water hits a spot in the rock that takes longer to erode. So the water finds another way through which creates the turns in the walls. All of this is something that takes many many years to occur. 

About San Elijo Lagoon

Annie's Canyon Summit
Annie’s Canyon Summit

Annie’s Canyon is located in the San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve. There are 7 miles of hiking trails in the reserve. Trails are open daily from sunrise to sunset. The reserve itself is a total of 979 acres. This is where the Escondido and La Orilla Creeks flow into the Pacific Ocean.

There’s also a Nature Center to check out. The Nature Center is a short drive from the trailhead and has bathrooms, water, and interactive exhibits. The address is 2710 Manchester Avenue, Cardiff-by-the-Sea, CA 92007. 

But the Reserve didn’t always exist. Before the Reserve came about, there were plans to develop the area into housing and a water park. Thanks to volunteers, the area was saved and became what we know today. 

Other Coastal Hikes in San Diego

Torrey Pines hiking trail
Torrey Pines Reserve

What I like about Annie’s Canyon trail besides the slot canyons is the ocean view at the summit. If you like hikes by the beach, here are a few other hikes to check out:

  1. Torrey Pines– Beach Trail is a 2.5 mile loop that ends at the beach! Come at low tide to walk along the beach back to your car.
  2. Mother Miguel– This is a 4 mile moderate hike in Chula Vista that has ocean views at the summit. 
  3. Mushroom House– This 1 mile easy hike in La Jolla goes down a paved road to the beach in La Jolla. This hill on the way back up might have you stopping to catch your breath.

Hiking Newsletter

Sign up for my hiking newsletter below. I’ll send you info about hiking trails, new blog posts, and any group hikes that I host.

Back To Top