Ladder Canyon Trail

MODERATE 291 reviews
#1 of 12 trails in

Ladder Canyon Trail is a 4.5 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near Desert Center, 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. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

4.5 miles
990 feet

dogs on leash



nature trips

trail running




wild flowers


old growth



washed out

no dogs

Grapefruit Blvd (also Hwy 111), left on 66th Ave, which will transition to Box Canyon Rd., left on Painted Canyon Rd.

3 days ago

New Year's Day hike! Access road had bumpy ripples but OK for low clearance vehicles. Trail entrance marked by "arrowed" stones; walked clockwise loop in 3 hours (large group, easy pace). Slot canyons make for high interest environs & 7 ladders are a necessary novelty for limited parts of the trail not easily walked. A few moderately steep slopes and rocky passages underfoot push an "easy" rating toward "moderate". January mid-morning temperature was in the low 70's & sunlight was pleasantly warm, great conditions. Crowded trail by noon! (it was a holiday). Great desert hike experience!

6 days ago

The dirt road to the trail head was in perfect condition. Recently graded, no need for 4x4, I drove my mini suv 40 mphs down the road, it was a piece of cake. The ladder canyon trail was so fun! I had printed maps and written directions, it was still difficult to know where to go. The mentioned trail markers, the large pile of rocks and rock arrows, were not there. after sumiting to the top ridge we went left and then left again and followed the ridge line for a short distance. We went left back down into the canyon and found 2 additional ladders. This trail eventually led us back to the main trail. Today was quite warm, we would of explored more and possibly hiked the bigger loop has it not been so hot. Picked up some trash left behind by others. I was quite surprised to see so many people unprepared for a desert hike. SMH. All in all I loved the hike, ladders were fun, loved climbing and walking through the dark slot canyons. I can't wait to go back!

6 days ago

Camped out against the cliffs in the valley. Got up early to start the Ladders with my 11 year old. We did the full clockwise loop while others later turned around up top.

Amazing views around every corner. Very “do-able” for medium hikers. Feel accomplished at finish line. Took us 2 1/2 hours and we stopped several times.

13 days ago

One of the best hikes I have ever been on!

14 days ago

Next time I will bring a trash bag for cigarette butts and water bottles, other than that it was a fun hike.

18 days ago

The Trail was busy today but worth every minute of it. This was my 1st slot canyon hike and I loved it!

20 days ago

It's a crowded hike, made slower by the necessary use of ladders to follow the trail, so wake up early for this one! We got there before 8 AM and had no company the entire way, until we looped back to the beginning and saw dozens and dozens of hikers on their way up. Ladders = traffic jams.

20 days ago

Very fun hike! It isn't well marked, so pay attention. Also, the ladders are not secure, they are just leaned up against the rock so be careful!

21 days ago

Fun hike, a couple of missing ladders in one spot, but not a hard trail to follow. Weather was perfect, afternoon in the sun about 70, as it got later dropped into low 60’s but perfect hiking weather.

23 days ago

Awesome trail and views.
not for faint of heart.

23 days ago

Great hike! The only negative is trails not well marked, and confusing. I had the Alltrails GPS app going, and we were still not clear on where to go.

24 days ago

After arriving the top, you can go back to the parking lot via Rope canyon. Note that Rope is more challenging than Ladder.

1 month ago

This was a great hike! Very doable as long as you can go up and down ladders. The tallest ladder was about 12 feet.

1 month ago

Don’t be intimidated by the unpaved road leading to this trail. My Civic did it, no problem! As others have said, beware repeated car break-ins during the week :(

Watch for rocks forming arrows to the path and other clever helpful rock messages! Ladders are mostly safe and all very secure. I saw many families with children, but some struggled on the ladder parts.

Overall, lovely hike with somewhat tricky trail but beautiful and unique views!

1 month ago

It is a fun and easy hike. If you hike up the narrow canyon where the ladders are on your way back there is nothing but sand and gravel to walk back to the parking area.
There is a lot of shade in early morning or late afternoon.

1 month ago

Fun and challenging hike. Several latter's and small rock faces to ascend and descend on the loop. Make sure to go left at the trail post (wooden post on the right side of the trail maybe 10 minutes from the trail head, there will also be rock arrows on the ground pointing you into the rocks. It is much easier to ascend the latter that direction than descend.

1 month ago

Even though the park was packed because of thanksgiving, most people only hike to and from the ladders leaving the rest of the loop desolate and peaceful. Just follow the arrows and stacked rocks. Will definitely hike this one again

2 months ago

Start going left and get the hard part out of the way. The trail is amazing

2 months ago

Cool experience. I enjoyed myself

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