Ladder Canyon and Painted Canyon Trail

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Mecca Hills Wilderness

Ladder Canyon and Painted Canyon Trail is a 4.4 mile heavily trafficked loop trail located near Indio, California that features a waterfall and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from October until April.

Length4.4 miElevation gain820 ftRoute typeLoop
HikingNature tripsRock climbingBird watchingRunningViewsWaterfallWildflowersWildlifeBugsRockyScrambleWashed outNo dogs
Description
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Facilities
Getting There

SEASONAL CLOSURE: This area is subject to seasonal closure due to weather conditions. For more information, please visit https://rctlma.org/trans/road_main_road_closures.aspx. Hiking the Ladder Canyon Trail and Painted Canyon Trail near Palm Springs in Southern California is a unique experience, featuring rock formations, slot canyons, ladders to climb, and art on the canyon walls. There are painted arrows on the ground and rock arrows to signal the way. The best direction to complete this loop is clockwise, so that you climb up ladders instead of down, and because you must climb ladders to complete it, this route is not suitable for everyone. Bring water with you, as coming out of the slot canyon up to the junction with ridge trail there no shade and steep grades. After the junction, another mile of ridge trail is also sun exposed and it can get very hot. There are no good shortcuts back to the beginning so be extra prepared on hot days. It is recommended to have four wheel drive (4WD) to make it up the dirt road and access this trail. This area has a history of flash floods, so check the status of Painted Canyon Road, which leads to the Painted Canyon Trailhead.

As of March 2018, Painted Canyon Road is OPEN, but may require 4WD to access. Box Canyon Road is closed due to flooding/storm. Grapefruit Blvd (also Hwy 111), left on 66th Ave, which will transition to Box Canyon Rd., left on Painted Canyon Rd.

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Reviews (1,540)
Photos (1,633)
Activities (1,303)
Completed (2,876)
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Marnie Silbergeld
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Rock climbing

Counter clockwise! Avoid first red arrows to left. Tiny slot canyon. Main loop fun though.

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Richard Treichler
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Hiking

Without the Alltrails app I would’ve been lost. There are no markers other than rocks in the shape of arrows on the ground.Awesome hike

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Heather Maves
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totally okay for a 2wd to make the road to the trailhead. however, if you plan to camp and pull off the road, I would strongly encourage a 4wd. We did the hike the counterclockwise direction and recommended by some (Thank you all who mentioned that) and I agree that was a great way to go. We started at 8am, I would not want to start much later than that. you are walking in a lot of sand so although 5 miles may not seem like a lot, it feels longer.

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Julissa Villalobos
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HikingRocky

SUPER beautiful hike. Truly never seen anything like it. The incline is very gradual, but it is a long hike. Took us 4 hours. Wish there was more ladders! That’s the most fun :)

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Rak Din
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HikingGreat!
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Sarah Grace Borgen
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Hiking

Great hike! Easy to get a little of track so be sure to follow the rock arrows! There are two arrows pointing to the left a quarter mile in, that direction would take you clockwise either a majority of the ladders up. Either direction around the trail would be great, but I prefer to climb up ladders more than down. ENJOY!

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justin ball
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Trail is awesome, but the surrounding area is filled with human feces everywhere... bury your crap in a 2ft deep hole away from trails and obvious camp spots. also, stop leaving and burning your trash. no wonder they want to shut this place down and build houses everywhere.

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Charles Warren
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Hiking

It’s a wonderful scenic trail with some amazing rock formations, tight slot canyons, clearly visible geological exposures. Very worth doing. Just a couple of precautions: 1) traffic jams back up at the ladders, as there are no one-way trail designations. A price of visiting on a weekend. 2) coming out of the slot canyon up to the junction with ridge trail, no shade, steep grades. After the junction, a further mile of ridge trail is sun exposed, still uphill, some steep drop offs. Even the experienced were getting very hot up there as temp hit 102. There are no good shortcuts back so be extra prepared on hot days. 3) The drop into painted canyon is steep and doesn’t necessarily look like trail. Keep your eyes peeled until you get onto the gravel floor of the wash. Even after you get back into canyon, another half mile to shade. We were very happy we did it, but an extra liter or two of water would’ve been good to have.

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Jordyn Cohen
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Hiking

Such a fun unique hike. Loved the slot canyons and walking across the ridge line. Our small car was totally fine making it down the road, but almost got stuck in the sandy parking lot so be careful there if you’re not 4wd. We heard to go counterclockwise, but somehow ended up going the wrong way so we ended up going down the ladders and having to hike up a huge uphill sandy hill for three miles. The entrance to go the correct way is hard to see but there is a big rock arrow pointing you through a rock crack area to find the ladders. Don’t suggest doing it opposite the arrows like we did because the three mile hill on the sandy trail was tough and hot.

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Liz Andrews
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HikingGreat!

Fantastic Hike! At parking lot head to the right of the posted sign. Walk thru canyon till reach a big rocky outcropping on your left! Head to those rocks to first ladder. Best way to go is up the ladders. At the first split that comes stay right. This is a bit confusing. Head up to the top and across the ridge. It’s hot here so bring LOTS of water. Then follow path down to second canyon that loops you back. We did this very early starting at 7am. Temps were expected to be above 95. Perfect timing. Still was hot on the ridge and each of of packed backpacks 2 X Large waters and snacks. The ladders are doable. I would not take a child under the age of 12/13. Wear longer socks as the sand/gravel can get into your shoes, and hiking shoes, or running shoes with thread. Have fun it’s gorgeous.

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Daniel Tobias
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Hiking

Ladders are sketchy but totally doable, ropes were even sketchier but is a very fun hike. Canyon gets pretty narrow. Check weather for rain before hand and bring water!

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Carter Welch
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Hiking

Most spectacular views, lovely loop. Ladders were very doable. Went counter-clockwise, seems to be a lot of confusion about ropes, but we didn’t encounter.

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Naomi Chen
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Hiking
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Melissa Morrissey
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HikingOff trailRockyScramble

This hike was amazing, but difficult to follow the trail in many areas. The loop turned out to be 5.6 miles for us because we made a wrong turn. The terrain was tough in some areas too, but the rocks were so beautiful and the ladders were really cool!

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Lacey Jane
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Hiking

Dirt road for about 4 miles to trailhead. It’s bumpy better in 4x4 but can bring a car. I agree to do hike counterclockwise. The hike clockwise is super exposed and back would be towards views. We missed the ropes but next time. Beautiful hike and might do it next time at sunrise or sunset.

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Matt-Amanda Kessenich
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Hiking
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erica enriquez
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HikingGreat!

trail was great! fun adventure! highly recommend counter clockwise, their the rocks. arrows to help/follow your way

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lisa Ciccocioppi
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Hiking
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Nick Stoke
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Hiking

Amazing hike, requires a little climbing skills. True diamond in the rough.

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Asia Weisgerber
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HikingGreat!Rocky

This was a spectacular hike. We did it backwards (counter clockwise). 10/10 would recommend doing it this way. One of the ladders is difficult to maneuver downwards if you do it this way, but was totally worth it!

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Greg Meyers
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Hiking
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Kristin Peixotto
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HikingGreat!

Quite possibly one of the best hikes I've been on!! Spectacular views. I did it backwards and highly recommend doing it that way.

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Nate Duffus
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HikingGreat!

Awesome trail and was shocked how close it is to the south entrance of Joshua tree. I would do this one again. Road said 4wheel drive is required, but had no issues

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Brian Fry
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Hiking
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Christiane Zweifler
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Hiking

Such a cool adventure!

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John W. Tyler
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Hiking

One of the best near PS. We parked about a mile from the trail head but you could get there all right without four wheel drive.

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Brandt Lovell
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Hiking
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