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Hiking a California Canyon at the Beach (The Lagoon)

This is the most perfect time of year to hike the coastal areas of San Diego California. The temperatures are 60’s in the mornings and 80’s in the afternoon. This is the time of year you will see a lot of people out exploring like I did yesterday with my two sons and daughter in law.

The picture below is the start of the trail down to the lagoon.

I like to find the history of the places I hike before I go. Mostly because I like to imagine what it was like before we had a hand in changing the natural countryside.

In the photo below is my son looking north over the lagoon. The ocean is on the left hand side out of frame. Make sure you take plenty of water.

On this tour I visited San Elijo Lagoon in Solana Beach, San Diego County California. The website warns people that if they are claustrophobic do not go. The canyon walls are very narrow as you will see in the photos below. It was a short but super fun hike!

Below is the trail head, and the family is already leaving me behind. I take longer as I like to shoot photos along the way, and twice their age… Also notice the sign reads, “Dogs on leash okay”. Do NOT take your dogs on this hike!!! You will soon see why.

History: The Kumeyaay Indians lived here for 8000 years until the Spanish arrived in the late 1700s. They traveled seasonally to take advantage of the resources along the coast and inland. (proper name is now Native American not Indian) I still say Indian, I feel I am entitled, since I am more than half Native American, from the Nez Perce Tribe.

Okay back to the lagoon…

The lagoon was full of water at that time, not like the photo I shot yesterday, but it is still pretty. Read the Timeline facts below to find out why it is so different.

Another lagoon shot, this one showing the same body of water in the photo above but panned out to see the houses, etc.

Timeline Facts:

1769 – Spanish Portola Expedition names the area San Elijo in honor of Saint Alexius.

In the photo below we came across a cool seating area. This is it’s view.

1848 – California gold rush brings settlers west. Cultivation upstream causes changes in the watershed.

The photo below is different. I kept it because the water was the same color as the sky, and I thought it looked “artsy” lol

1881 – A railroad is built across the lagoon.

Photo: The start of Annies Canyon Trail. All photos are taken by me with a Fujifilm 16 megapixel point and shoot camera, sold for aoune $20 Us dollars. Note to photogs: The sensor is not what it should be, don’t cringe at the blown out photos, just enjoy the walk.

1895 – Lake Wohlford dam was built and reduces water flow into the lagoon.

Another view of the lagoon.

1912 – US 101 also known as Pacific Coast Highway was constructed across the sand dunes.

I always like to turn around and get a shot of where I have just come from like the one below.

1940 – The cities of Encinitas, Escondido, and Solana Beach discharged treated sewage into the lagoon and continued until 1973.

Check out this cute sign!

1965 – The freeway I5 was built across the midsection of the lagoon.

1971 – Lake Dixon dam was built further reducing the flow of fresh water into the lagoon.

Aha! There is the canyon up ahead. Now to find the slot.

1976 – The coastal act of California provides protection of the coastline.

1983 – The San Elijo Reserve is formally dedicated.

A bit closer…looks fun for sure. I guess I should mention that the rock is sandstone…

2000 – Ford Motor Company donates $1.4 million dollars to buy additional land for the reserve.

2007 – The County of San Diego, State of California and San Elijo Lagoon sign a 25 year agreement for the operation and maintenance of the lagoon and trails.

I love our countryside and hiking! Although I am still trying to get in shape after breaking my ankle and foot a little over a year ago. These short hikes are perfect!

Present – An 30 resident of Solana Beach, known only by her first name, “Annie” donated a large amount of money to clean the graffiti in the canyon which had been used as a party place by the local kids. The trial is now open to the public.

Which way would you go? Comment below! Hope you have enjoyed this little excursion. Have a wonderful day and get outside!!!


What do you think?

17 Points

Written by Kim_Johnson


  1. Somehow I missed this, first time around. I found the post by paging through the Virily page on Facebook 😮
    Super shots and great descriptive text, Kim. What a wonderful place 🙂

  2. nice photos. the hikes here in OC are similar. I mostly go to the Irvine and Newport Beach trails. I have one 4-mile hilly sidewalks trail tomorrow evening. and a 2-mile one on Friday. This San Diego hike reminds me of the Newport Beach Back Bay 8-mile trail, which hits PCH. Since it is 8 miles, I have done it by bicycle, in which I crossed PCH and rode to Corona Del Mar beach.
    But I have been on an uphill short hike in San Diego, which leads to a Jesus statue. I forgot where it was.

    • I am not sure I could even do a four mile hike yet. I havent heard of the Jesus statue, but do know about the Mount Soledad Cross hike. I love all the hiking in our state, now to get in shape!

      • or, maybe it was just a big cross. i havent been there in a long time, maybe early 2000. i cant remember exactly where in san diego it was or how it actually looked like. but i do remember it was during august, and my mother took some visiting relatives there to show them the san diego area and tijuana, mexico. it might be in the lajolla area.

  3. I have the feeling that lagoons all over the world are alike. When the temperatures go down and I take pictures. It is located near Torrevieja in Spain. Nature is almost virgin.

    • True, they do look similar all over. I only dream of places like that around here. I love your area, and I feel I know the countryside quite well by looking at your photos.