As Solana Beach’s worst kept secret, it seems that almost every local San Diegan has at least heard of the Shroom Caves. The tall, sandstone caves that are visible from the 5 freeway are a favorite hangout spot among local teenagers, and a canvas for graffiti artists.
I first heard of this place as a subject of folklore when I was about 9 years old: my best friend Juli told me stories she had heard from her brother about the notorious “mushroom caves.” It all seemed very spooky, but even from that young age, Juli and I were determined to find it one day.
It wasn’t until one fateful fall day in my freshman year that Juli, my brother Firas, and I hopped on a train to Solana Beach, feeling like badasses for not paying the 8$ train ticket (for a 5 minute ride). We wandered around Rios avenue aimlessly, our directions based from a girl in Firas’ grade with some not so helpful intentions.
After a few hours of trial and error, we literally stumbled upon the caves, following no trespassing signs strewn around a somewhat wooded area. Our tiny freshman minds were blown by what we found: an amazing slot canyon full of graffiti covered limestone caverns.
When we found the biggest, main cave of the spot, our hearts and minds were stricken with a sense of excitement. We felt like we had just discovered the Grand Canyon. It was the most amazing sense of adventuring for adventures sake, and finding just what we had been looking for.
When we reached the very top of the caves, that feeling was even more amplified. From the top of the caves, you have an amazing view of the San Elijo Lagoon, and although it’s very close to the freeway, you can’t help but get the feeling that you’re on top of the world, above everyone and everything that you’ve ever known. It’s not even that high up! But for a couple of awkward kids, it was like being God.
Ever since freshman year, I’ve gone to the shroom caves often just to hang out, explore, and feel absolutely on top of the world.
I’ve had a couple of strange interactions there, from being confronted by a mysterious park ranger to wearily helping elderly do-folders scrape graffiti off the cliff sides (which only contributes to erosion, might I add). But I’ve been to the caves enough to know that this place isn’t gonna last forever. The cliffs have severely eroded even since 3 years ago. It’s getting harder and harder to get to the top, and in my opinion, more and more dangerous.
While it is very illegal to visit the shroom caves, most likely due to the difficulty law enforcement or emergency personnel would have accessing this spot, for me, it was worth the risk of being ticketed. The shroom caves represents to me so much more than just a canvas for graffiti artists. They represent the good old days, back before I knew what it meant to miss the good old days. The shroom caves resemble my first taste of adolescent adventuring, the adrenaline that hits you like a splash of cold water to the face on a particularly hot day. I still get so nostalgic for those times, even from 3000 miles away.