Phone: (760) 436-3944
Hike: 1.6 miles Level: Moderate
Dog-Friendly: Yes (but there is one area of climbing where small dogs must be carried up and large dogs cannot make it up)
Known forever by the locals as the Mushroom Caves, this once no-trespassing hike has been cleaned up and opened to the public as Annie's Canyon Trail. Millions of years ago this canyon was underwater, which is how the unique slot formations were created. We have similar slot canyons in the Anza Borrego Desert known as the Mud Caves.
I had known about the Mushroom Caves for years before I finally visited it. I had even seen photos and for whatever reason, always put this place on the back burner. I now realize that photos cannot quite capture the enormity or true magic of this place.
This is a must-visit spot for the true adventurers. There are secret caves and footsteps carved out of the delicate sandstone everywhere. It is super-slippery so I really don't recommend too much climbing. I didn't even begin to scrape the surface of this spot. Since opening this area to the public, most of the more dangerous parts have been closed off. You could have gotten seriously injured, fall, slide to your death, hit a soft-spot on the edge and have it collapse, etc.
Overall, I am happy that this spot is now public. People were destroying these ancient slot canyons with graffiti, which then goes directly to the water sources nearby after a good rain. I wish we could all be more sensitive to nature. On the flip side of this spot being public, there are now a lot more people doing the trail.
Although this trail is technically dog-friendly, there is a ladder you have to climb at the very end to finish the loop. If you have a large dog, it is definitely safest to go back the same way you came in. If your dog is small enough, you can most likely carry it up and possibly hand it to someone waiting at the top of the ladder. That is what I have always done with my pup. She loves it here by the way!
The hike takes you directly alongside the lagoon:There are now clear signs letting you know that you've arrived at the Mushroom Caves, as well as a noticeable change in scenery:Sage really enjoyed herself out here! Some areas we had to lift her in order for her to get up. Not sure I would recommend bringing larger dogs.