Thanks to the restless San Andreas Fault, the geologic formations of Mecca Hills Wilderness are among the most unusual sites of their kind in the world. Entire regions are exposed layers of eroded rock, some over 600 million years old, and are a source of valuable information to scientists about the effects of tremors on the earth's crust. The area is a badlands labyrinth, a natural maze of small, narrow, steep canyons. Colorful Painted Canyon runs in a general north-south path through the middle of the Wilderness. Sandy washes sprinkled with ironwood, smoke trees, and paloverde divide the area, while ocotillo squat on gentler slopes and the tops of mesas. Bighorn sheep occasionally cross over from the Orocopia Mountains on the east, where they find more water. You may see spotted bats, desert tortoises, and prairie falcons. The non-Wilderness corridor of Box Canyon Road splits off a small southern section of the area in which you'll find Sheep Hole Oasis and Hidden Springs Canyon (reliable sources for water). If you look closely, you'll discover caves, known locally as grottoes.
Absolutely loved this trail. Took the wrong way at the beginning but it ended up being so much better. When you start, you should KEEP RIGHT to take ladder canyon trail (the wider trail). I took a smaller trail that forked off to the left right at the start. That took me up Rope Canyon. Very narrow and a few places you have to use ropes to get up some walls and walk sideways to fit through narrow slots. Super cool if you like a little adventure and if you can pull yourself up a few ropes and fit in tight spaces. I Came back ladder canyon. Took me a while to figure out how to connect with that trail at the end. Had to crawl up a wash wall but made it. Not well marked. Super beautiful. There are so many side trails to take and explore, it's way fun. I recommend having a paper map with you when you go. Doing this again before it gets hot. Don't suggest this in the summer. Not much shade unless you're in one of the narrows and no breeze in the washes. 5 stars!
Oh and the road said 4 wheel drive only but any car can make it. It's just a dirt road.
STAY RIGHT AT THE ENTRANCE! We went left into the rope canyon, which is technical but lots of fun (if you're in very good shape). When you get to the top be very aware of the rock arrows on the ground... we missed it and went a mile in the wrong direction. It's a fabulous experience but not well marked, so be very aware.
I took my small car and was just fine. it feel like driving on a washboard getting there though. At the very very beginning of the trail there is a small tree on the left with a little path going between it and the canyon wall I followed this and it lead me to a canyon opening behind the tree. This I learned does not go the ladders. It goes to climbing the ropes. when I finally made it out of the canyon after 3 ropes you immediately go up the ridge on the right and at the top you're greeted by an arrow pointing towards you and from there the only way to go is left. i was told to go right at the second arrow but never found it. the trail on the ridge looked like it scrambled up a rock before continuing. at this point there's a trail that connects to the ridge that goes down into another canyon. i decided to go down into the canyon. once at the bottom I turned right which took me to the ladders and back to the parking lot.