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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.

hiking
22 hours ago

We drove in with a jeep after reading reviews but even saw a prius at the trailhead. It took us 3.5 hours to complete the full loop but we did make a wrong turn once and had to back track. The top has views of the Salton Sea and we definitely had to follow fellow hiker stacked rocks and arrows to navigate the otherwise unmarked trail. Some ladders are steep and tricky. I would not recommend hiking this alone and similar to other comments, bring a backpack with plenty of water. Phone signal is poor until you reach the top. We took some fun photos, the painted canyons were neat and well worth it. We hit 6 ladders up. looped around so only the first 2 ladders near the start on the way back down.

this was a great half-day trip for us.

the road getting in was washed out by a recent rain but we totally did it in 2 wheel drive or just recommend something with more ground clearance cuz there's some larger rocks but I definitely saw some smaller cars like Honda Accords and a Mercedes E-Class that made it in there and a Ford Mustang came in behind us.

if you're doing the ladders portion of the hike when you get to the top go right and follow the rock piles we made the mistake of going left and it brings you to the end of the Rope portion of the hike which is not so bad going up but it's a little scary going down

we went on 9/23/17

hiking
8 days ago

hiking
9 days ago

hiking
16 days ago

hiking
20 days ago

Such a beautiful place to hike through. The canyon was narrower than expect, but it gives it a little more excitement. You do walk on sand most of the way. I just went a few days ago and made it fine driving at 10mph in a Ford Focus. Follow the tire paths slowly, watch for rocks and holes and it's fine, I never felt the car even come close to getting stuck .

Awsome place you can make it with 2wd just drive slow my Corrella made it no problems.

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
2 months 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
2 months ago

hiking
2 months 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