If you have just one day of the year to take a hike, Ladder Canyon is an absolute MUST! It’s the perfect gem for an adventurer at heart, a trek certain to make your ticker race with anticipation, excitement and good ol’ fashioned cardiovascular activity!
The geologic formations of the Mecca Hills are some of the most unusual in the world. This thanks to the San Andreas Fault which runs right underneath Painted Canyon, which you will trek through during the loop. This landscape is truly other worldly. My boys say it looks like Tatioone (Star Wars) and we always talk about pod racing through the canyons. Star Wars aside, I can’t look up at the towering cliff-tops without expecting to see Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner whizz by.
The hike begins in a canyon similar to those seen in Utah with high plateaus that disappear into the blue skies. You will catch the trailhead between several huge boulders marked with a GIANT arrow and quickly find yourself at the base of the first ladder. There are 5 ladders which help hikers scale natural waterfalls. These are dry waterfalls. : )
You will explore huge winding slot canyons which only span an arms width, traverse towering sandstone cliffs until you finally find yourself on what feels like the top of the world. From above you see for miles in every direction. From the Salton Sea to Mount San Gorgonio, the vistas are jaw dropping.
The last part of the hike takes you through a wash area called Painted Canyon. There you will see amazing mineral deposits which have turned the cliff sides rose, pink, red, purple and green. I’ve actually seen a couple cute, furry tarantulas on this hike before and always spy some ravens riding the thermals.
There are many desert plants Smoke Trees, Palo Verde, Desert Mistletoe, Desert Willow, small Beavertail Cactus and towering Ocotillo. All the flora look so lush in contrast to the neutral tone wash. I HEART this hike!
of note ~ 6 miles, moderate loop, 450 foot elevation gain, takes approx 4 hours