Mushroom Caves / Annie’s Canyon Trail
Mushroom caves is a true hidden gem in San Diego. It used to be off limits to the public but now it’s open, so set your GPS to N Rio Ave, Solana Beach and park at the end of the street where you’ll see the trail head. (see below for another longer route) From here you’ll be heading inland for a short walk to the caves. Soon you’ll get a choice of doing the ‘Moderate’ or the ‘Strenuous’ route. We did the strenuous route twice in less than an hour. It’s short and fairly easy. If you’re any kind of claustrophobic, then choose moderate. If you choose the strenuous path you’ll be coming down the moderate path so you wont miss anything there.
The start of the strenuous path is wide and easy to navigate. The beauty and magic of this place is impossible to portray in photos. You will find small caves like the one on the left side in the photos above. You can climb up into them, but just keep in mind that this is all sandstone and it will get slippery. Getting back down might be more of a challenge.
The canyon gets really tight and there are a few steep spots where you have to step up pretty high. Bringing large dogs is not a good idea and smaller dogs will need help. (There are signs that dogs are not allowed) There is a straight up ladder that they will not be able to climb, so if you can’t carry your dog, don’t bring it. Kids of all ages should be able to do this but might need a boost up a few times.
This Wow experience will leave you mesmerized… The patterns are not only very beautiful but also so delicate in their shapes and wavy designs.
The delicate sandstone canyon walls unfortunately invite easy carvings, and everywhere you look you’ll see words and drawings. This obviously takes away from the beauty. But the area is easily accessible and it seems that places like that get targeted a lot. Mushroom caves were once one of those best kept secrets and used as a party spot for locals and people who liked to do graffiti. The whole area became run down and was off limits to the public, but thanks to a large donation by a woman known as Annie, and groups of volunteers, the canyon was cleaned up, restored and opened to the public. You can still see a bit of paint if you look closely. The carvings are still there though and it seems new ones appear constantly.
Bunnies… but also snakes. It’s very tempting to look up all the time but watch your step too.
At the end you’ll find this ladder that will take you to the very top.
And from here you’ll get a great view of the San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve and the Pacific Ocean. When you’re done you can follow one of many side trails to the reserve and look at ducks and other wildlife there.
If you’re up for a longer walk/ hike and want to see more of the lagoon then walk in from Cardiff by the Sea where there’s a tunnel that goes under the train tracks. Small trails inland from there will lead right to N Rios where you’ll join the path from there the rest of the way.
A Few Things…
– Dress in layers. It can be chilly inside the canyon and very hot at the top.
– Wear shoes with a good grip. Sand stone is slippery.
– No parking lot. Street parking only. It fills up quickly so arrive early and please be respectful of the homeowners there.
– Don’t bring a lot of gear. It simply wont fit!
– Bring patience and lots of it. Especially if you’re arriving later in the day and there are more people. The tight path can be a challenge to some. There’s no passing and no turning around once you enter.