Ladder Canyon Trail

MODERATE 328 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.

4.5 miles
990 feet



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.

13 minutes 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!

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.

1 day 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.

2 days ago

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

3 days 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.

3 days 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!

4 days 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.

4 days 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.

9 days 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.

14 days 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!

25 days 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.

27 days ago

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

30 days ago

A really great hike. two ladders were especially challenging, 1 because it was so high, the other was the placement. I am 5 foot, it was helpful to be to have several men who would grab my hand to give me the lift up I needed and tell me where the ladder rung was. I would do this again and again. Lots to explore.

1 month 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!

1 month 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!

1 month 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.

1 month ago

One of the best hikes I have ever been on!

1 month ago

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

1 month ago

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

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