Ladder Canyon Trail

MODERATE 409 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.

hiking
7 days ago

Really fun hike and hot! Went on Saturday and temps reached 104° I froze my water bottles the night before and had cold water the entire hike as the ice was melting. theres an arrow at the beginning of the trail that veers you left. avoid that trail unless you want to climb ropes so I headed back and started over this time going straight until I saw the second arrow pointing sharp left that's where the ladders are at after you climb some boulders. Thank you Jennifer Murphy your review was really helpful. I ignored the white arrow with the (?)
and ignored the ladder to my right. went straight ahead and stayed on track.

hiking
14 days ago

Overall this was a beautiful hike, and extra fun with the ladder element. Amazing views of the mountains, sky, and you can also see the Salton Sea. We started around 9 am which was later than planned, but made it out around 12:15 so wasn’t too bad. I would definitely recommend a hat and long sleeves for when you’re exposed on the upper ridge in the summer. On the first half mile and intermittently throughout the last two miles there is shade. There are white painted arrows on the canyon walls and rock-shaped arrows on the ground to help guide you. There’s one difficult part where you see “Up (?)” in white paint. We took the path first, but it looked like we were off of the trail so we walked back and went up the ladder disregarding the question mark. The gravel was quite loose, but we made it to the top. However, then it said we were on the ridge and also not on the trail. Once we were up there was no going back down that way. We took a left based on the map’s guidance and eventually it converged back into the correct trail so we were fine, just in the open sun much longer. Bring plenty of water!

1 month ago

Such a unique place. Challenging but fun hike, we went late morning. It was about 101 when we set out and before we hit the half way point we turned around because of the temps. Back at the car it was 107 and even though we had plenty of water, there were parts of the trail without any shade and we were starting to overheat. Aside from that we really enjoyed this spot and will make a return trip very soon and head out early for sunrise. The mountains and rock formations are amazing here and you’ll have plenty of photo ops in the canyons. Pack out what you pack in... dirt road is a bear coming down Painted Canyon Rd. Be ready for some major vibrations for about 5 miles of unpaved road. Best done in a truck, your pretty luxury car will cry coming here.

hiking
2 months ago

Was a great hike yesterday here. Definitely a hidden treasure to admire close to the Imperial Valley. Take plenty of water, gloves, hiking light shoes with good traction, sun block, snacks and a beer or two to enjoy up on the canyon. I guess i learned yesterday that the north trail is called The Ropes, and the east trail is ladder Canyon trail. I recommend to go east trail and follow rock arrow into hidden canyon. You can go the other way also, half way there is a hill that will be safer to go down than up for some. I'm going back for sure; Enjoy and stay safe!!

2 months ago

This is a great hike, but as others have said, it isn't marked at all. We relied on information from other hikers and Alltrails to figure out where to go. The ladder and ropes are fun and the hike is mostly pretty. The upper loop to the top of the big canyon is completely exposed. We got an incredibly late start, so this part baked me, but the canyon was worth it. As a bonus, we saw a little gray fox. The road in was rough, but ok for a regular car.

2 months ago

Definitely coming back to this hike, lots of trails to explore.

I would recommend coming early to avoid high temperatures (it reached 112 when we went last week) and bring plenty of water.

3 months ago

Love this app

3 months ago

Beautiful hike! Can’t wait to bring my kids on this one!

hiking
3 months ago

Loved this hike! I did it twice it was so much fun and full of little trails to explore. A must do when you visit the area!

hiking
4 months ago

Great hike took my 3 boys 7yr old 10yr old and 11 yr old and they all loved it we went at about 6pm when it was not as hot and it was great

hiking
4 months ago

Amazing area! My only complaint: this is the most poorly marked trail that I have ever been on. Do your research so you know where to go. There are several trails at the top and a lot of them are dead ends. Otherwise, great day of hiking and exploring with my husband and 7 year old. Bring more water than you think you need!!!

hiking
5 months ago

In answer to Charlie Nunez’s question: yes you can get to the trailhead in a regular car. It is a bumpy five miles and you could drive faster in a truck or 4x4, but my Honda sedan made it and there were several similar cars on the road or in the lot, including a Mini. Take it slow and it is fine.

hiking
5 months ago

I have a question for anyone who has been here. Can I make it down the dirt road to the trailhead in a car? I've camped in Mecca before in the slots but parked close to the road behind a bush. Just curious if I could make it to the trailhead in a normal car.

5 months ago

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

hiking
5 months ago

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

hiking
5 months 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.

5 months 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
5 months 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.

5 months ago

Amazing trail!

hiking
5 months ago

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

5 months 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.

6 months 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!

6 months ago

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

hiking
6 months 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.

6 months 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
6 months 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

6 months ago

Amazing!!! So worth it!!

hiking
6 months 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
6 months 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
6 months 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.

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