Last weekends day trip to Ladder Canyon in the Mecca Hills Wilderness just outside of Mecca California which for us SoCal types is basically between Borrego Springs and Palm Springs depending on if you are coming from LA or San Diego. I had seen some pictures a while back and was intrigued about the 4.9 mile day hike through slot canyons and the local desert, of course this being a desert timing is everything when it comes to exploring so March seemed like an appropriate time to head out on our first adventure here.
Joining the team was our good friends David and Brice from Brice Weaver Photography. Definitely a great example of the SoCal climates, picking up David in Julian the whole mountain was covered in snow from a recent storm and it was fun getting my truck stuck in his front yard. We decided to cross that bridge when we got back and some of the snow had melted so we loaded up and headed to our next stop Brice’s in Borrego Springs. Since I had dressed for a day in the desert getting down the mountain and out of the snow was quite welcome.
We then drove out to the canyon and while the sign at the front says four-wheel drive is recommended there where a lot of regular cars doing fine although if the weather was bad, I would probably not risk it especially if there was a risk of flooding. It was a leisurely trip down a washboard road as we got to the Painted Canyon Trail Head and noticed a lot of people camping, this area is managed by the Bureau of Land Management and dispersed camping was in effect, although one nice comfort was the vault toilets. Other than that, there is no water, and you need to pack in and out your trash.
At about eight thirty in the morning it was still pretty busy between campers and hikers although it would get much more busy as the morning went on. The trail head was well marked with a kiosk and we parked and headed up the canyon. Fortunately, the entrance for Ladder Canyon is well marked with some giant arrows made out of stone or we would have missed the beginning. We still missed the first ladder though but got a really fun little climb in and started our adventure. I highly suggest following the arrows for a couple reasons, one the flow of traffic, if everyone was going both ways it would make a jam and some of the slots are kind of tight so it helps alleviate that headache, two I personally think it was easier to climb up than climb down especially since you can see a were you are going.
There are only four spots where the ladders are really used although like I said we missed the first one and climbed into the canyon.
Then you head down a ladder and this is where I think it starts to get real fun with the slot canyon.
The third ladder has you climbing up again and this one might be a little tricky especially if you have issues climbing since the ladder doesn’t go all the way to the top you have to climb yourself on top of the ledge. The ledge area is a little small and has just about enough room to get yourself up and maybe have someone help you.
The slot canyon here is amazing and is only a few feet across in some areas. Looking up to the sky from here is really cool it’s like a blue cut in the earth.
As we continued the canyon walls begin to get shorter and the canyon begins to widen out as you hike up to the top where you have a commanding view of the area to include the Salton Sea, Mt San Jacinto and Mt San Gorgonio, the mountains were neat with the snow on them. We continued to follow the trail upward and I will tell you it was quite windy, hold onto your hat.
There is a network of trails up there so pay attention but for the most part it the main trail is well marked, and you can follow the herd into the adjacent canyon for your hike out.
The This canyon feeds into the original canyon we took from the trail head before hanging left into Ladder Canyon. The geology of this area is really neat, I’m no expert but I loved the different rocks and diversity it really is a cool hike. The walls tighten and raise for one more ladder down then it is pretty much smooth sailing from here.
I have to say I had an absolute blast and for a day trip this hike is perfect. I actually think though we spent more time driving out here than we spent hiking so next trip I’m probably going to make it an overnight trip and explore some of the other areas around here. As always thanks for checking out our story and we hope to see you on the trail soon.