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.
Road to get to this hike is gravel and was not in good shape. Couldn't go much faster then 10 miles an hour. It is worth the trip though. To enjoy the ladders follow the rock piles in the shape of arrows that turn you left after a few minutes of hiking. It looks like you are being pointed into a rock face but there is a trail in there. The first half hour or so is where the ladders are. After that you will end up at the top of the canyon looking down. It is neat but a very long hot walk in the sun. If you are doing the full loop when you are up top walk towards the towers to go on the correct path. The last part of the loop, or if you don't turn left and go up the ladders is a wide canyon with amazing different rock colours and textures.
Victoria S. on Ladder Canyon Trail
An incredible hike!! Many different canyons to explore... from the ladders, to the 20ft rope, to the painted canyon... HIGHLY RECOMMEND and will be back!!