Travel & Tours

Mecca Hills

Slot canyons are also called as ladder canyon. These are amazing canyons located at Kochilla valley near salton sea, california, USA
Ladder Canyon and Painted Canyon Trail is a 4.5 mile lightly 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.

The Ladder Canyon hike is in actuality, a loop hike through two canyons in the Mecca Hills Wilderness, both the aforementioned, Ladder Canyon, and Big Painted Canyon. The Mecca Hills Wilderness is an area of protected Bureau of Land Management (“BL M”) land encompassing some 26,243 acres just north of the Salton Sea. In addition to Ladder and Big Painted Canyons, the area contains many unique features due to the convergence of the North American Plate and the Pacific Plate. This convergence has led one of California’s most notable – and active geologic features, the San Andreas Fault, whose southern end is directly underneath the Mecca Hills. The Ladder Canyon loop allows a hiker to explore both the slot canyons of the wilderness region, and the larger washes and badlands features of the area. If all of these features weren’t enough of an incentive, sections of the hike involve traversing ladders installed into the canyon walls.

Directions: The most difficult part of the Ladder Canyon hike is getting to the trailhead, which is located near the town of Mecca, California. While Mecca has a great name, it is a small town in the Coachella Valley. Visitors coming from the West (Palm Springs/Palm Desert) can follow Highway 111 directly to Mecca via the 66th Avenue exit, which takes one through Mecca. From the East, visitors will need to exit Interstate 10 in Indio, and then follow Highway 111 or Highway 86 to Mecca. From Mecca, 66th Avenue turns into Box Canyon Road, which visitors should follow for four and a half miles to the East. At the four and a half mile mark, there is a turnout on the left (North) side of the road for Painted Canyon Road, which is the road to the trailhead.

From Box Canyon Road, Painted Canyon Road is an unpaved, and mostly ungraded road. On occasion, it may require a 4WD vehicle, because it is not maintained. However, when Josh and I went in early 2016, the road was passable in a standard drive car. From Box Canyon Road, it is another four and a half (4.5) miles on Painted Canyon Road to the trailhead. While Painted Canyon Road may be passable in a standard drive vehicle, drivers should exercise caution when driving it, as there may be hidden obstacles both natural and unnatural (trash/rebar) in and along the road. After four and a half miles, Painted Canyon Road ends at the parking area and trailhead for both Ladder Canyon and Big Painted Canyon.

The Route: While the Ladder Canyon Loop and or Big Painted Canyon is a relatively easy route to follow, hikers should always have either a map, or GPS unit, as this is a remote desert area. From the trailhead, hikers will want to follow the canyon for a quarter mile (.25). At the quarter mile mark, there is a small BLM sign pointing left (North/Northwest) and a large rock arrow pointing the same direction. This is the turn for Ladder Canyon. Hikers wishing to solely explore Big Painted Canyon can continue on up the main, larger canyon for a short, relatively flat hike. Similarly, hikers wishing to solely explore Ladder Canyon can head left, and exit at the same junction for a short hike with a little more elevation gain. When Josh and I went, we elected to follow the loop, which connects Ladder Canyon with Big Painted Canyon. This route goes through Ladder Canyon, and returns down Big Painted Canyon to this trail junction, and is six miles roundtrip with 450 feet of elevation gain.

From the junction, the trail heads up into Ladder Canyon on a short foot trail that requires a moderate amount of scrambling. After ascending for a tenth of mile, (.10), hikers will find themselves in a slot canyon, and in front of the first of four ladders. These ladders are not provided by the BLM; nor are they maintained by the BLM, but are donated by local hiking groups. As such, hikers should check the ladders before using them to ensure they are in working order. From the first ladder, the trail heads through a number of tight slot canyons and smaller ladders, before opening out into a larger canyon. While there are a number of slots that hikers can ascend, the route stays in the main canyon, and is delineated by a number of rocks cairns and arrows. Again, while not maintained by the BLM, the route is fairly clear to follow.