Have you ever tried to squeeze into a crowded subway to find room to rest after an exhausting day of work? Well, this is exactly how I felt while walking through the amazing, yet rugged wilderness area permeated with colorful sandstone walls called Annie’s Canyon in Solana Beach California.
Annie’s Canyon Trail, also known as the Mushroom Cave Trail, was something we wanted to hike for a long time but just never found the time. One beautiful morning, the opportunity presented, and we hopped on the adventure. We Started at the Solana Hill Trail which winds down towards the Annie’s Canyon Trail through a beautiful dirt path mostly covered in trees. Nature was in full force, the presence of blue jays, snowy egrets, Ospreys, finches, butterflies, caterpillars, and hummingbirds was palpable. A variety of cactus such as Prickly Pear and barrel cactus also paint the landscape beautifully. This is definitively a bird watchers’ paradise.
That morning, the trail was almost empty of hikers, and we had the trail to ourselves for most of our walk. The feeling that we were entering into unfamiliar, rugged sandstone cliffs out of nowhere was strange considering we were in the middle of the city. The canyon walk starts as a smooth, wide, and easy sandy path that gets narrower until it becomes a thin space with sandstone crowding you in. The twists and turns of the slot canyons stopped us to see the path in front of us. The hesitation to turn back crossed our minds several times. The unusually shaped rock surrounded us, making us feel claustrophobe.
I admit horrible thoughts came to mind like what if those sandstones fall on us, what if I was too big or too weak to go climb the ladders? Our kids went first up the ladders, telling us how easy they were. Then they started making comments about us being too big and too old to make it. I could not let them win; I practically ran up the ladders just to show them who’s not too old. I think they were impressed. Once you get to the top you realize how short and easy the hike really is, plus there is a second trail that can take you to the top that is not through the canyon.
Tips on the hike
The evidence of weathering over thousands of years of precipitation and severe wind created these canyons and carved the sandstone was palpable. Sand particles are omnipresent and can be tough to walk through, each step in the sand feels like you’re sinking. This demanding and narrow path in the canyon portion is one-way and if a hiker decides to go back it’s a game of hug and squeezes to let them pass, so do everyone a favor and only head into the canyon portion if you’re going to finish. Fortunately, the canyon part is short and is clearly marked, plus there are loads of pictures on the internet if you want to visualize it before going. The sandstone hills at the top offer amazing views of the canyon, worth the time and energy to get there. I recommend going on a weekday, if possible, we were told by locals that the weekends are packed
Remember once you have conquered the ladders; you are at the scenic lookout point which gives you the most spectacular views of the San Elijio Lagoon area and the Pacific Ocean. You can also see the sandstone hills that you squeezed through.
Kids love the ladders, our kids wanted to do the ladders over and over like an amusement ride. I agreed to go one more time with them, which was surprising anticlimactic the second time. Be warned though we heard from other parents that kids love the ladders and will plead to do them a second and third time. I am glad I did it, twice and now that I am familiar with the canyon. I have no fear of the canyon now. It’s a wondrous area one can get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. If you want to avoid crowds and the parking situation. Get there early and try a weekday, you would enjoy it better without any pressure from people trying to go through it.