Annie’s Canyon, formerly known as the “Mushroom Caves,” in San Elijo Lagoon has quickly become one of San Diego’s “must-do” hikes. For years, the narrow sandstone slot canyon was officially closed to the public, but served as an illicit party spot. Thanks to a generous donation by someone known only as “Annie,” as well as tremendous effort by volunteers, the area has been cleaned up and a new trail known as “Annie’s Canyon Trail” has been established. The hope is that by opening the area to the public it will no longer be a desirable hangout for illegal activities.
We had previously hiked Annie’s Canyon by starting at the Solana Hills trailhead east of the canyon. Unfortunately, that trailhead has been temporarily closed due construction work. So we decided to do a shorter, easier route to Annie’s Canyon starting from the N Rios Avenue trailhead to the west.
We arrived early in the morning, hoping to beat the crowds, and parked along the street at the end of N Rios Avenue. The trail began at the end of the cul de sac, and we took the right fork leading east.
At .22 miles we came to a “Y” junction where the Gemma Parks interpretive loop split off on the left. This reconnects to the main trail further up, and we intended to return by that route. For now we stayed to the right for a more direct route to Annie’s Canyon.
There were plenty of benches along the trail, offering some quiet spots to sit and enjoy the views. At .44 miles, across from one of these benches, we noticed a side trail leading off to the left. This led to the Gemma Parks Interpretive trail we had noticed earlier, and we made a note of this junction so we could take it on our way back.
We followed the path to the start of the loop that traveled through the canyon. If you don’t want to squeeze through the slot (which I do not recommend if you have a dog with you), you can head left to just visit the view point. We were going all the way though, so we turned right to head into the canyon.
The trail bent east, narrowing down to the point where we had to squeeze through.
As we made our way through the narrowing canyon, we found the “mushroom cave” on the left. Despite all the restoration work that had been done in the canyon, the cave ceiling remained charred and the walls still showed deep carvings and paint, leading me to imagine how horribly defaced the entire area must have been before the restoration work had been done.
We turned left, retracing our route back towards the start, but around .9 mile we took a side trail on our right. This led to a section of the Gemma Parks Interpretive Loop, where we could enjoy some better views of the wetlands on our return journey.
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From I-5, take the Lomas Santa Fe Dr exit, and head west on Lomas Santa Fe Drive. Turn right onto N Rios Avenue and continue to the end of the road and park along the street. The trailhead will be at the end of the cul-de-sac. map
|Total Distance:||1.4 miles|
|Total Ascent:||180 feet|
|Dog Friendly?:||Leashed dogs are allowed, but not recommended through the canyon|
|Bike Friendly?:||Bikes not allowed|
|Date Hiked:||July 16, 2017|
For more information, visit:
San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy – Annie’s Canyon Trail
San Diego County Parks and Recreation – San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve
Virtual Tour of Annie’s Canyon
View route or download GPX from CalTopo