MECCA HILLS WILDERNESS
Activity: Day Hike
4.5 miles, 820′ elevation gain, 2.5 hour duration, rated Moderate
I did this hike with fellow outdoorsman Loren, whom I refer to as the “Trail Boss”, because of his Off-Roading expertise. Not long ago we had an Off-Roading trip in Anza-Borrego, not too far from where this hike is, with a group of friends and he planned it all out and kept everyone on the straight and narrow. Well, none of the canyons we drove were straight but they were narrow, lol.
Ladders Canyon and Painted Canyon Loop Hike is not unique in the beauty found in some of our South West Canyons, but it is certainly at least on par with some of the best. What is unique, I have discovered, is the Ladders Canyon portion. It is literally a canyon full of ladders. Without the ladders you would need to be a rock climber to do this hike as it is well passed scrambling, although there is still a bit of that as well.
The adventure begins with 5 miles of driving on dirt- ending up in a wash. When you exit the asphalt there is a sign saying “4 Wheel Vehicles Only”. It was nothing at all for my 4Runner TRD Pro, but we did see a few regular cars bouncing along slowly on the bumpy road taking a beating on the washboard track.
We arrived at the trailhead mid morning and I guess we were not the only ones that heard that this was one of the Best Hikes in Southern California. Of course I will say that I am spoiled as I try to do my hiking during the week, but in this case that was not an option for my workaday friend.
As soon as we reached the first ladder there was a bottle neck of people. We were informed that was nothing compared to the 50 or more stopped-up a little further ahead. So we regrouped and decided to take the loop counter clockwise. This meant that we would do the ladder portion last going down the ladders instead of up. Seemed like a fine trade off.
During the counter clockwise route we first walked in a wash, a mixture of packed sand, and pea gravel. The Painted Canyon walls were stunningly beautiful and throughly rugged. The trail led up top to a view of the desolate surrounding desert hills, far off snow capped mountains and we could peer over the side down onto the canyon trek we had completed earlier.
We scampered up to a high spot on a hill overlooking the trail for a break. Not so much because we needed one, but it was nice to stop and take in the surroundings. Our reason for the pitstop was over the far hill hikers appeared like army ants swarming the trail. Apparently that bottle neck of outdoor enthusiasts had made their way to the mid point of the outing, so it was a good time to take a few steps off the trail.
In this area there seemed to be more than one route, we even got off course for a bit before rechecking our GPS trek and then doing a little cross country traverse down a rather steep, stoney hillside to get back on track. Between the start, where we turned back away from the crowd, and getting off course we added about a mile to our day, no biggy.
Most of the trail is pretty easy. Going down into the slot canyon portion was a bit more rugged, heed caution in this area. Watch your step as it is steep with some loose footing. After this point we got into the slot, wow was that cool. Love slot canyons and this was a good one to be sure! Narrow, winding and the rock changed in it’s texture and color. It was pretty amazing.
We were now in the last quarter of the hike and it was ladder time. A series of ladders are maintained by the Coachella Valley Hiking Club, I understand. That is very nice of them. The ladders are in okay shape, perhaps a bit rickety, so certainly look them over including the placement. I saw a couple of people that needed to take a breath before tackling them, but they really aren’t that bad. It was pretty fun as the only ladder I remember being on during a hike was at Arizona Hot Springs where it was quite rickety and slippery down a waterfall of hot water. Most of the ladders are just like you placed them against your house. One leads down into a tight hole, and another required a rope to assist you with a bit of a scramble as a means to reach the next level. All very doable, so not to worry.
Ladders Canyon and Painted Canyon Loop Hike was tremendous. We throughly enjoyed it. Keep in mind that it is pretty popular so if you can adjust your time to that different then most folks that would probably be preferable.
Thanks for joining Trail Boss Loren and myself as we found ourselves ‘Pursuing Balance Through Adventure’ on ladders in a painted canyon. There are more adventures to be had. Stay with us by doing some or all of the following: LIKE, COMMENT, FOLLOW and SHARE. The menu above is chock filled with ideas and inspiration for your own adventure into Nature, something that we all need to balance out our busy lives. Each location or activity is a separate website and thus needs to be FOLLOWED independently. If you like the hat and shirt that I am wearing I have a full line of top quality Adventure Wear with the PBTA Logo and Mantra at SHOP APPAREL for your purchasing pleasure.
Pursuing Balance Through Adventure