Ladder Canyon and Painted Canyon Trail

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Mecca Hills Wilderness

Ladder Canyon and Painted Canyon Trail is a 4.9 mile heavily trafficked loop trail located near Mecca, 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: 4.9 miles Elevation Gain: 908 feet Route Type: Loop

hiking

nature trips

rock climbing

bird watching

running

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

bugs

rocky

scramble

washed out

no dogs

Note: The trail closes periodically due to flood conditions. For current conditions, please check here: https://rctlma.org/trans/road_main_road_closures.aspx This trail has ladders which may be tricky to maneuver. Also follow the path to the left - there are painted arrows on the ground to signal the way.

hiking
no shade
rocky
12 days ago

One of my new favorite hikes! I was a little concerned about the off roading in my VW Jetta, but I drove slowly 10-15mph and luckily had no problems with the soft sand. We did park about 1 mile before the actual trail, because the sand was getting softer and we saw a truck ahead of us get stuck. So regardless of a car, of course a 4WD is better but you still run a risk of getting stuck. Just drive slower than usual and go around the dips. As for the hike, it was awesome! A spontaneous and true adventure, the ladders were sturdy, plenty of shade between the canyons but once you get to the loop there is no shade. Take plenty of water for hydration. FYI as of 5/23/20 there is a wasp hive - so we were not able to truly finish the whole hike. Once you get to the top rock formation, this is about the middle of the hike, I suggest you turn back or else you will stumble upon the wasp hive. Happy Hiking!

hiking
no shade
rocky
scramble
19 days ago

We arrived right before noon, so we got the heat!! Make sure to bring alot of water. We missed the trail and ended up doing it backwards. There is a small trail sign on the right and on the left a rock formation of an arrow that we missed. We also parked 2 miles away from the start of the trail with my toyota hatchback, didn’t want to get stuck in the sand.

hiking
washed out
27 days ago

Recent rains washed out the roads up to the canyon, but the wash outs are more than passable. The slot canyons are beautiful and the ladders are a unique experience. Recommend starting early in the summer.

bugs
rocky
scramble
1 month ago

Great hike. Do it clockwise, especially if you are looking to beat the heat (in summer, best to leave the trailhead by 7am or so) and get the sun-lit ridge done first. Watch for rattlesnakes. Varied scenery makes for a very enjoyable hike, and the ladder components add an element of fun.

When you park about a 1/3rd of a mile up is the big arrow in the ground pointing to the left where you start the trail. Look for it so you don’t end up doing the trail backwards. Beautiful scenery at the top of the canyon. Lots of blooming wild flowers and butterflies out. We got here early to beat the heat & enjoyed this trail very much. Lots to do & explore. Our two girls also enjoyed it.

hiking
rocky
scramble
2 months ago

hiking
2 months ago

Need 4 wheel drive to get to the trail, or park a mile or 2 from the trailhead and hike there. Many cars get stuck in the soft sand. Once you get to the entrance, look out for arrows in the rock to follow the trail. They often get destroyed though so it’s easy to take a wrong turn. Keep All Trails open to make sure you don’t take a wrong turn! Wouldn’t bring dogs or young kids because you have to climb ladders and ropes. Best time when it’s cooler because a lot of sun. The slot canyons are cooler and beautiful.

hiking
2 months ago

No issues with road closures today 3.29.20. Tons of cars and SUV’s without AWD or 4 wheel drive getting stuck along Painted Canyon Rd. No issues for our 4Runner 4x4. Fun trail, small streams were flowing throughout. Not nearly as many slot canyons as I imagined there were would be but the wild flowers were blooming and butterflies were everywhere so that was nice. Overall solid way to spend a few hours.

hiking
2 months ago

We had a regular 2wd car and it was pretty doable if you take your time. A lot of raised eyebrows from the trucks and jeeps. we stopped once the sand started getting dangerously deep about a mile before the trailhead cause we didn’t want to chance it. The trail itself is in prime shape except for the first ladder which is shredded. I uploaded a pic. One of us climbed it successfully anyway. I have been here 2 other times and it was dry as a damn bone, so It was very cool too see it now with the tricking stream winding along the path in the painted canyon. Water is also flowing down the walls of the last two drops on the back half with the rope and ladder, but it wasn’t dangerous, just wet. The recent rains also made for some healthy & beautiful plant life. The green and red radiating arms of the ocotillos were dancing in the wind. flowers of all kinds were popping. The desert willows that were sprinkled along the drive up to the trailhead smelled glamorous, aquatic yet breezy, like an aliens fresh laundry. Please keep this place nice, it’s such a cool zone

hiking
2 months ago

Love this trail but the road is closed due to flooding. Check the link below for road closures before heading out :) Painted Canyon Rd to Box Canyon Rd Box Canyon Rd to Coachella Canal https://rctlma.org/trans/road_main_road_closures.aspx for

hiking
closed
2 months ago

I love this hike, I typically take guests annually and they all love it... but yes, as of today, 3/23/20 there is no way I can find to get there. We went through Mecca first, the road is closed at the aqueduct. So we tried to drive off of I-10 near the south entrance to Joshua Tree and that road is closed as well. If this opens anytime soon please update, or if anyone knows another way to get there. Thanks!!

hiking
2 months ago

Road closed today :-(

2 months ago

Heads up...Box Canyon Road closed today. Rains made the dirt road in very difficult to get through without 4wd. Also ranger was on site writing tickets for people who ignored the road closure.

hiking
2 months ago

We did this trail March 17. Road difficult to get through but doable with a truck. We found this trail challenging due to washed out ladders. I recommend that you pay very close attention to your All Trails GPS map, it’s very easy to get off trail. Also, bring an extra phone battery.

hiking
washed out
2 months ago

Hiked this 03/15/20. The day itself was beautiful, but rain from earlier in the week had washed out the roads leading to the trail. ((The road was closed when we drove back— but not at the time of entry .)) I’m not sure how the roads look pre-rain, but they were *gnarly* on this trip and difficult to traverse in my Tucson 2WD. Additionally, ladders were missing which made some parts of the trail potentially dangerous. Aside from the awesome slot canyon in the beginning and the water fall at the end (made trickier without a ladder) the hike itself was pretty simple — and even boring along the ridge. I would definitely still recommend this hike, but having a 4WD is encouraged at this time, or wait for dryer weather.

hiking
2 months ago

Is the road open to the trailhead parking yet?

closed
2 months ago

2020 03 15. Roads in are closed.

2 months ago

I love this hike. For the sake of others I'm writing a review and will say that as of 03/12/2020 the road to the hike is closed due to flooding. Its washed out and the dirt road that leads directly to the trailhead is washed out as well making it impassible. I'm writing this on the 15th. I don't know when it'll be safe to drive through it again. I will try to hike it again at the end of April. Hopefully it'll be open by then.

hiking
2 months ago

The slots through the Canyon was tons of fun! You have to climb up a few ladder. But nothing to high. It had rained the day before and the slot area smelled nice and moist. The hike around the ridge line was the warmest part of the hike before dropping back down onto the canyon. I wouldn’t recommend doing it on an extremely hot day. We did it in about 2.5 hours.

hiking
rocky
2 months ago

Fun trail for easy adventure & wonderful views. Driving to the trailhead was fairly straightforward- we were in a 4wd but saw others in non-4wd sedans. The path itself is very sandy and rocky, so although I did it in Keens, would probably bring trail runners or hiking boots next time. We went clockwise and this was perfect for us, with 3 up ladders and 3 down ladders. Ladders are mostly in great condition, except the 2nd ladder looks like it might give way eventually, with a few heavier bodies on it/wear and tear. (see photos) Light to moderate traffic when we started close to 10am. Saw all ages participating. Mostly flat and easy walk, except will need to be able to climb ladders and shimmy a bit. We stopped frequently to take photos and rest, and even for 30 minutes for lunch, still finished by 2pm. Bring a map! (and have good sense of direction) -- There are arrows to mark the way, but some forks may be hard to see if they get washed away.

hiking
2 months ago

Great trail! Good amounts of shade and the ladders were fun. Road in was a bit bumpy, too bad I didn’t have my 2007 Lexus 350!

hiking
2 months ago

Awesome and moderate five-miler takes you through a flat, sandy and wide meandering Big Painted Canyon floor; up-ladder to a relatively flat, canyon-top dirt trail giving you great expansive views of the Big canyon below and the surrounding landscape; then you arrive at the "prize," which drops you into the amazing slot canyon experience known as Ladder Canyon Trail. ...And the dirt road drive to get to the trail head was a bit of a washboard, but with my 2006 LEXUS GX470, it was pretty smoothed over! (In case you read this Rory Diamond -- previous reviewer of this trail!) ;-)

hiking
3 months ago

My wife and I found out about this trail from a friend who had recently done the trek. We are adventurous and never gave it a second thought! It was so beautiful! If you go clockwise, the slotted canyons are witching the first 1.5 miles. That was our favorite part, so after finishing the entire loop, we headed back and did the slotted canyon section again! We never did see a waterfall (assuming all the snow melt was gone) Also, we searched and searched but never found the ropes sections either. The road coming in was indeed bumpy, but just pick up you speed a bit ( like a daring 40-50 mph) and the bumps aren’t really even an issue. But if you don’t feel safe driving that fast through an u known desert road..... take is slow. It’s still absolutely worth every bump when you get there!

hiking
3 months ago

This was such a fun hike & the geologic features were incredible!!! Love the ladders. We went clockwise & didn’t find it difficult at all. Perfect temps, started at 63 & ended at 70 degrees. Beautiful wildflowers & a few Prickly pear blooming!!! Highly recommended!!

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