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Ladder Canyon and Painted Canyon Trail

moderate(924)
Mecca Hills Wilderness

Ladder Canyon and Painted Canyon Trail is a 7.9 kilometer 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: 7.9 km Elevation Gain: 277 m 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
2 days 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
3 days 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
4 days 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
4 days ago

Road closed today :-(

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
9 days 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
9 days 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
10 days ago

Is the road open to the trailhead parking yet?

closed
12 days ago

2020 03 15. Roads in are closed.

12 days 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
15 days 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
18 days 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
19 days 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
20 days 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
22 days 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
23 days 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!!

A beautiful trail with lots of out and back add on options if you want to extend it. A good balance of sun and shade keeps it comfortable. My only ever so slightly negative comment would be the condition of some of the ladders; whilst most are solidly grounded and feel safe, some are quite loosely resting on the rocks/ground and have damaged or broken rungs. Someone is obviously checking on them and making repairs but DO check the ladder over before you ascend/descend, don’t assume because it’s provided that the ladders are all safe.

hiking
30 days ago

We did this hike today and had such a great time. We were glad we got a fairly early start (just before 9:00 am), because it was plenty warm on the ridge. The variety of landscape and geology are really interesting and the route finding was lots of fun. I will definitely do this again. (And, like others, was glad I had the Pro version of the app - we used it.)

hiking
1 month ago

Like most recent review/post the road leading to the trailhead was in good condition & 4WD not needed. Despite having read the reviews to go clockwise, we also missed the arrows of rocks and went counterclockwise. I think we were just too excited talking. I get like counter clockwise was a little more adventurous (read a little more unnerving) in that there were 2 pretty y’all ladders we had to go down which seems to feel a little more scary to me than going up. However, we did the entire loop, but going that way seems a little tough in terms of route finding. Definitely needed & glad I had the Pro version downloaded on my phone. Saw one snake (first one I’ve seen as winter is ending in this area) so be alert. Going to try to go back soon to try this going clockwise since I have a better feel for the route and difficulty level.

hiking
1 month ago

the 4 mile access rd was is great condition. no 4 wheel drive needed! its east to get confused! many 'Y's that are not marked. I suggest paying for the downloadable map service.

First one out this morning. Did the loop counter clockwise. Saw the sign but missed the 10’ wide rock arrow pointing to the opening. It looked caved in so I bypassed it. Not disappointed!! Followed the trail map. Didn’t come across the ropes that I remember from last time. Ladders at the beginning and at the end. Views in the canyon are awesome!! What a beautiful day! Bringing a group out next week my first lead hike!!

hiking
1 month ago

what a great hike!! keep an eye for the arrows on the ground. go clockwise for the best ladder experience. not a lot of shade at the top, but nice breeze back down the wash. we went early and saw almost no one until the last .5 miles, then there were over thirty cars in the lot. top hike for sure

Super challenging and fun! Stay observant and watch for the rocky arrows on the ground and they will steer you in the right direction. Go clockwise and immediately left to the ladders for best route in my opinion. Takes about 3 hours.

hiking
1 month ago

We really enjoyed this trail. It takes 5-10ish minutes of walking down the wide canyon trail before a large rock arrow points you to the left of the trail where the ladder part of the loop begins. There is a trail on the left that starts much sooner in the canyon but it is marked with “Danger!” Spray paint- this is not the right trail. Stay on the wide canyon until you see the large arrow made of rocks pointing to the left. I was well prepared for the ladder section and how to get started based on reviews- but we were surprised at how confusing the trail system on the ridge is. We also followed the “Up?” Spray paint marker as advised in these comments- and that actually took us to the wrong spot on the ridge (which added to our confusion.) I recommend not following the “up?” marker and continuing to the right on the path instead (we ran into an official guide leading a hike in this area and that’s what he said as well). This brings you up to the ridge and you can follow the rock arrows more clearly from that spot. Follow the trail up to the very high point of the ridge (towards the cell phone towers). This continues for a bit before you descend into the canyon on the right and follow it back to the parking area. We ran into a local who had done this hike 20+ times and she advised us that there are multiple paths down (one of which has the ropes). She said she’s never gone back down the same way twice. I’d suggest staying to the main route to be safe. Download the all trails app and track along- we wish we had! The road was very washboard-y and rattled us good in the first 2 miles, but we found 20mph to be a good balance between speed and rattling, haha. Totally doable in a car, four wheel drive is not needed. Lots of cool camping areas along the road too! We saw a lot of people camping as we drove in. We started our hike at 8am and didn’t see another person until 9:30!

hiking
1 month ago

Access road is very washboardy right now. Jangled our bones on the way. Awesome hike at the beginning. Hike 3 is NOT WELL LABELLED at all. We got lost. Easy thing to do out there. Super beautiful in the narrow canyon sections. Ladders in mediocre condition.

The slot canyon section was fantastic. I liked going clockwise. Glad we had plenty of water. There is no shade once you reach the top

hiking
1 month ago

the road to the trail says impassable to non 4x4. We were able to complete it well with a Prius but due to the road conditions wouldn't recommend it if you had access to 4x4 primarily for improved shocks to improve speed of travel. If we came back for another trail I would take my truck. if you didn't have access to 4x4 I would still do the trail for the sites and fun. the trail was amazingly fun with multiple ladders which my wife was slightly concerned with at times but overall I'd rate the trail as moderate to mild with the last 2 miles being a nice leisurely stroll through the valley if you do the trail clockwise. intermittent areas of shade and full sun so it's recommended to bring a hat and moisture wicking cover shirt. there was 2 ladders on the right side to come down and several on the left to go up. overall a hike I'll never forget.

hiking
1 month ago

This is our favorite hike to take visitors on. The slot canyon with magnificent 60 foot towering walls is breathtaking. Doing the ladders adds an element of fun. Follow the arrows made of stones. And we prefer doing the hike clockwise. Bring water, snacks and wear good gripping shoes. Prepare for wind and full exposure once you reach the vista at the half way point. Beautiful flowers outside of the slot canyon. The road in was well graded. Highly recommended!

hiking
off trail
rocky
1 month ago

Wow! This was a wonderful hike... The four miles of washboard gravel roads leading in are no big deal for most vehicles, but well worth it for this trail. We missed the 15’+ arrow marking the rocks to the entrance to the ladders portion of the canyon; but quickly realized it and back tracked. Be on the look out for the square metal post on the right hand side of the trail opposite of the entrance, the LARGE arrow is between the post and the entrance. Any words that I put cannot describe the hike, it is truly an experience. We did not have any issues with the ladders, nor did the 60+ year old couple we met on the hike. There are a couple that had broken rungs, but they are visible and able to be managed. The one area that created an issue was a loose downward slope about mid-way through the hike. The angle of the slope is steep and there is quite a bit of loose gravel with very few large rocks to plant on... With that said, it is definitely not a distractor for the hike... More something to be aware of... Overall a wonderful trail with low/ moderate traffic on the weekday we went. Conditions were perfect when we were there... Could honestly hike this trail daily and never get enough.

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