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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.

I've seen several reviews on this app/site, as well as others, that suggest 2WD can certainly make it out to the trailhead by exercising caution at 5mph. I went ahead and ignored the "4WD Only" sign, trusting my fellow 2WD reviewers. We made it within 1/2 a mile of the trailhead (it's about 5 miles on the gravel/sand road - Painted Canyon Road). At that point I felt my wheel bury into the sand. I threw it in park and turned to my friends: "We're done. We're stuck." There were a few nearly successful attempts at getting out with one friend pushing. Unfortunately, I gassed it too hard and we got REALLY stuck - half the tire under sand/gravel. It took about 30 minutes of the one guy friend we had with us, digging the wheel out and shoving a flat rock/floor mats under the wheel to finally get us out. At that point we decided to just head back. We already had a full morning at Salton Sea and Salvation Mountain so we decided to call it a day. I'm sure the hike is beautiful. The canyon walls around us were certainly breathtaking. Just... bring 4WD with you...

Favorite hike in Southern California

hiking
27 days ago

Family of 4 (hubby, 12yo, 14yo and me). First canyon hike! Need to come back and do entire loop in more moderate temperature. Only got through ladder parts and turned around. Didn't finish because everyone was feeling too hot (97+ in shade at 9:30am) and decided to play it safe since we have several more days of vacation. Climbing ladders and boulders alot of fun for the boys and me. Hubby felt a bit claustrophobic...

hiking
30 days ago

hiking
1 month ago

Gorgeous with moderate grades and ladders

Starts out as a pretty boring walk through the wash, but gets to be a lot of fun once you start caving. Bring friends and plenty of water.

hiking
2 months ago

Just made an account, but I enjoyed this hike on April 11 2017.

Dirt road, kinda bumpy but my car did fine at slower speeds.

Not much shade one out of the slots which is the 1st 1/3 of the hike.

hiking
2 months ago

hiking
2 months ago

Fun hike - enjoyed the ladders and skinny canyon trails

hiking
3 months ago

This was an amazing hike. Loved hiking on the sandy trail The ladders didn't feel very stable but other than that super fun!!!!

hiking
3 months ago

My boyfriend and I found this trail by accident. We were looking for the ladder canyon trail but fell upon this trail instead. Let me just say, we do not regret this trail at all! It easily became one of our favorites because we love a challenge.
Tips: Wear sunscreen! There's a lot of shade because of the slots but once you've climbed to the last rope it is nothing but sun. There are rattlesnakes so be sure to talk loud to get them to warn you when they are near. There a few tight spots but my boyfriend who's 6ft still got through so definitely take your time and be patient with coming up tactics to climb down.