Annie’s Canyon Trail

  • TRAIL STATUS: CLOSED UNTIL FUTURE NOTICE updated September 17, 2020. Together with our San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve partners: County of San Diego Parks and Recreation, and California Department of Fish and Wildlife, we are working to protect public health in the face of COVID-19 by taking actions to help slow the spread of the virus. Please check back for updates.
  • DIFFICULTY: Easy (with strenuous portions)
  • DISTANCE (ROUND-TRIP): 1.4 miles

  • TIME: 40 minutes

  • HOURS: Sunrise to sunset


  • PETS/ANIMALS: Leashed dogs welcome, except in the slot canyon portion

  • ENTRANCE: Rios Ave Trailhead   See map

  • CLOSEST PUBLIC TRANSIT: Solana Beach Transit  See map


  • TERRAIN: A mostly even path to reach Annie’s Canyon Trail. However, watch out for tree roots that people could trip on. Note some soil erosion on the descending trail from Annie’s Canyon viewpoint and some stairs.

    The slot canyon’s vertical, narrow areas could aggravate claustrophobia. On the slot canyon path, there are ladder-style stairs, and on the switchback approach, you encounter wooden-plank stairs. At certain points, you need to scramble (aka use your hands + feet to propel yourself up).

Immerse yourself in a wild – and wondrous – stretch of lagoon.

See panoramic views of both the Pacific Ocean and the San Elijo Lagoon, with naturally eroding sandstone walls engulfing you. Because a local resident, Annie, led the restoration efforts on this trail, your adventure is named after her.

Narrow sandstone walls hug hikers, as they make their way through this true slot canyon. Take plenty of photos (Tag your Instagram photos with #anniescanyontrail) – and a deep breath of ocean air – when you’re on this memorable path!

Keep an eye out for…

Woman looks up to the walls from the floor of the slot canyonWoman looks up to the walls from the floor of the slot canyon
No. 1

Maritime terraces

which look like giant staircases and each feature a flat plateau at the top.

Sunlight coming through the slot canyon showing off its natural walls and featuresSunlight coming through the slot canyon showing off its natural walls and features
No. 2

The beauty of natural erosion

on the canyon walls, which thousands of years of rain created.

Man, woman and two children overlook the lagoon from the top of Annie's canyon trailMan, woman and two children overlook the lagoon from the top of Annie's canyon trail
No. 3

Impressive views

of the Pacific Ocean and Central Basin.

Take a Virtual Hike

What to expect

  1. Starting with a slight decline with spaced-out steps, the Rios Trail brings you through the coastal sage scrub.
  2. Green signs will direct you towards Annie’s Canyon Trail as you continue to follow the Rios Trail.
  3. Benches along the trail provide resting places with fantastic views of the estuary channels.
  4. As you approach Annie’s Canyon Trail, there are 2 options: (1) You can go through the canyon, which requires some strenuous activity, or (2) you can hike up the switchback portion. Note the switchback’s moderate incline (rising 300 feet in a quarter-mile).
  1. If you decide to go through the canyon, keep in mind that the path is one-way, so you must take the switchback path down. As you progress through the canyon, the path narrows. However, you can use available footholds – and ladder-like stairs – to maneuver to the top of the canyon.
  2. Whether you go through the canyon or up the switchbacks, the top of Annie’s Canyon Trail offers views of the Pacific Ocean and Central Basin.
  3. Once you’re ready for the return journey, go down to the Rios Trail and back to the trailhead.

Photo Gallery

From Our Visitors

  • @drbrookejune

    Amazing geology. A short hike from the entrance. Amazing short walk and climb through the canyon. It is quite steep, but there is a…
    Read more

    Cheryl McLeod
  • @libberated

    Great place! The slot canyons are fairly steep and very tight. Kids managed it fine though.
    Read more

    Casey Dickinson
  • @nmt_photos

    Fun quick hike and one of the only slot canyons in San Diego. Ensure you do the Canyon from the bottom up or you will run into a bunch…
    Read more

    Michael Harlow
  • @courtneypoole

    One of the few places in North County to get a little peace and quiet and explore the wonders of nature. Depending on the time of the…
    Read more

    Daniel Proctor

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