Ladder Canyon Trail

MODERATE 382 reviews
#1 of 13 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.

DISTANCE
4.5 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
967 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Loop

birding

hiking

nature trips

trail running

walking

views

waterfall

wild flowers

bugs

old growth

rocky

scramble

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 hours ago

Hit the trail today with some friends. Really good time, beautiful colors.

hiking
3 days ago

Very fun trail up a slot canyon, lots of ladders or optional scrambling.

hiking
3 days ago

Great hike! Part slot canyon, part wide canyon, part open hike with views of the Salton Sea. Felt like I was in Zion. Here's an easy way NOT to get lost... prior to arriving (because you may not get service there) go to google maps and you'll be able to see the actual route. You may even want to download the area to your "offline maps". Follow the trail via google maps on your hike. I didn't lose GPS at all during the hike and you can tell if you missed a turn within about 30 feet.

4 days ago

Super awesome trail! Make sure you follow the arrows. About 1/4 mile from the start is the first arrow pointing you up to the left up some rocks. Take this instead of going straight!

hiking
11 days ago

This was a really fun trail, although it is a bit easy to get lost at times. It lost a star because some of the ladders were missing towards the end of the loop, so we had to turn back around instead of finishing the hike.

13 days ago

Amazing trail!

hiking
14 days ago

This trail is a hiker’s playground. I loved it!

19 days ago

Even with the gps we got "lost"at times. Ended up walking way longer than we planned. It turns out there are ladders that are off the main path. So, when we saw a ladder and went up it we assumed it had to be "the trail", but it was actually a side canyon that we explored for a bit until we saw how far off course we were and turned back. We definitely want to come back here and explore more! The scenery is so unique and beautiful! And the views from out of the canyon of the lake are amazing! Our three young kids loved it too, although the 2yr old mostly road in the carrier.

29 days ago

Amazing and beautiful! The drive in on the dirt road is bumpy but bearable in a sedan. The drive in the hills toward the trailhead is so pretty! The first few hundred feet on the trail is awesome, but looking up you'll miss some of the rock arrows on the ground. There is a giant arrow that points left to a pile of boulders. Without investigating, we assumed it was wrong because we didn't see a path, so we stayed to the right and took the trail counterclockwise. Going clockwise, you'd need to scramble some rocks and climb some ladders off the bat. In hindsight, this is probably the easier way to go because you go up the ladders instead of down, and it seems less likely you'll get lost. Alas, we went right, which I think ended up being the prettier route but we would have gotten lost multiple times if Google Maps hadn't been working on our phones. If you go this way, know that anytime you see a row of rocks clearly man made, it means don't cross that line or you'll go off trail. At the top of the loop, keep an eye for a long row of rocks across the wash. Here, look left and you'll see the trail goes up the hill. Coming back down the loop back towards the trailhead there are a couple of forks where you basically have to guess where to go if you don't have GPS. Our maps were useless because they didn't show these forks. Either way, this hike is AMAZING and is a must see for any able bodied person in the area!

30 days ago

It was a fun and relaxing hike. Thank God for the arrows haha

hiking
1 month ago

Amazing hike! The 5 mile dirt road to get here isn’t too bad. Was pretty easy in our Ford Focus. The hike itself is great, but can be difficult to follow at times due to the lack of signs. Keep an eye out for the rock arrows showing the path. We missed the Ladder Canyon portion on the way up, but took it down on the way back.

The great thing about this hike is the diverse scenery. We spent time in a deep and wide canyon, then came out on a ridge line overlooking the Coachella Valley and Salton Sea, then went through the narrow slot canyon with the ladders. It kept the hike fresh and exciting.

1 month ago

We did this Yesterday. Be sure to check your map and plan. We were almost all the way back down and there was a group up on the top asking how to get down. They were way out on a “finger” high above us!

hiking
1 month ago

Awesome hike! 5.0 miles and change. Somehow I lost the recording but nevertheless completed the loop with my dog.

Not recommended if your dog cant climb ladders or is afraid of going down. I have scratches to prove my point but worth it.

Follow the trail clockwise for the normal route. We did counter clockwise and ended in the sark narrow canyons with high ladders. Totally worth it. Like a grand finale!

A hidden gem for socal non-forest/non-preserve or NP hikes

1 month ago

Amazing!!! So worth it!!

hiking
1 month ago

Really great hike. Mostly dog friendly. Depending on what trail you take you will have to climb ladders. We were took Painted Canyon because it was tagged dog-friendly but the turn off of the main trail started with what looked like 15-20 ft ladder. We continues along Ladder Canyon (counter-clockwise). We climbed down the big ladders towards the end (beginning) of Ladder Canyon and it wasn’t THAT bad, I have a small pug and I climb ladders at work.

If the dog wasn’t with us it would be a GREAT day in Mecca Hills. Gorgeous scenery. Not too strenuous.

hiking
1 month ago

Great trail, definitely take the route up the hill with the rope climbing, well worth it and fun. Then descend using the ladders.
Narrow canyon walkways and rope climbs allow for Great pictures.

hiking
1 month ago

Awesome trail to go exploring! I had a blast hiking through the narrow slot canyon, climbing the many ladders, and experiencing the gorgeous mountain views above the canyon. There are several trails that break off of this one, so be mindful to follow the correct trail, usually marked by rocks arranged into arrows on the ground.

1 month ago

Best trail. In mecca

1 month ago

Trail has, wait for it - ladders! In order to climb up and down several very difficult sections there are ladders. The trail is marked by placement of stones in arrows leading you the right direction.

The crevasse section is awesome as you walk through narrow passageways with side walls reaching easily 100’ up! The soil is often very mushy and sandy like you’re at a beach - good overall workout for the lower body.

Worth the time to get there, just hold onto your kidneys on the 5 mile dirt access road to the trail head!

1 month ago

Great hike. Super different from other ones. A few things worth noting:
1- the drive in is 5 miles on a dirt road. I did it in a convertible and it was a poor choice (I was not going to be deterred though). If you can, take a four wheel vehicle.
2- there's really no signage on the trail. To start, go past the sign with the map. Your first choice will be to go on a trail to the left or whether to stay straight. The left one apparently is ropes and the one straight has ladders. They both lead to the same place at the top/ summit.
3- pay attention to the rock arrows-- they are literally arrows shaped out of rocks.

Super unique and great experience. Worth it.

hiking
1 month ago

Started the hike around 9:30 AM on Sunday of Presidents day weekend. We did the loop counter clock wise so the first part wasn't too crowded. Once we got to the narrow ladder canyon it got very busy and crowded. Took us about 2.5 hours to do the loop. It is a really fun hike, not too hard and you get to see so many different things.
Bring plenty of water. Be aware that there are no toilets at the parking lots and it is a 5 mile drive on a dirt road to get to the beginning of the trail.

hiking
1 month ago

A must hike for anyone in the area! (also worth the drive for anyone willing to make the drive!)

1 month ago

I enjoyed the hike, for my boys they enjoyed the cave and going up the rocks being a boy. Beautiful day a little windy.

hiking
1 month ago

Fun hike through some amazing canyons! We got there later than we wanted for a Sunday but luckily the crowds were not there yet. We started the hike around 9 am and were done a bit before noon (I am a slow hiker due to weight and a back injury!) When the trail forks we followed the arrow that pointed to the left- directly to the ladders. There were some tight spots and of course the ladders making it an exciting and fun hike in the beginning. Once you get up the ladders and through the canyons the trail gains elevation and brings you up to a few great ‘overlooks’ with some amazing views. Eventually you are hiking on the ridge line for a short time and it was hot in sun even at 10am. The trail heads toward the cell towers but turns right, bringing you back into the canyon if you do the loop. From there you will hike in the canyon surrounded by the beautiful canyon walls, rocks, shrubs and debris from prior flooding from heavy rain. Bring plenty of water (I drank 1 liter and hubby drank a 20 oz bottle) and for the love of god pick up after yourselves. I saw numerous wipes and tissues that people had dropped along the way. Had I brought gloves and a bag I would have picked them up myself!

hiking
1 month ago

Great trail! Easy with climbing ladders and some incline areas. Lots of people on the trail but could be because it was a holiday weekend. Would definitely go back.

hiking
1 month ago

Fun hike with the ladders and the canyon views were beautiful. The only downside is there were a lot of people there but it was a holiday weekend.

2 months ago

very kool little hike. look for the rock arrow in the canyon for the ladders. 1st left in the canyon takes you under some low rocks and very narrow areas to rope climbs. You will be taking off your pack here!! little car campings not a bad idea. get in early and watch sunrise. I'm sure its gorgeous.

hiking
2 months ago

Love this trail! Definitely had to use the gps on this app because I got lost without it. The trail is also marked by rock arrows on the ground. I recommend leaving the ladders to the end.. more rewarding that way!

hiking
2 months ago

Great hike. Little crowded at times. We went clockwise and took the spur route up to the ridge. It was around the 5th ladder. Tough little scramble up to a narrow ridge trail that then hooked back up with the main trail. Such amazing views and interesting geology.

hiking
2 months ago

Awesome experience! Crazy small slot machine like hike at first. Ladders were fun- beautiful views from the top.

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