Sunday, December 21, 2008

Ladder Canyon, Near Mecca, California

If you want a great moderate loop day hike through narrow desert canyon passageways and a view from inside the San Andreas Fault, then Ladder Canyon is the place for you!

Nestled in the Indio Hills northeast of the town of Mecca, Ladder Canyon is actually an offshoot canyon from Painted Canyon. From Box Canyon Road, take 66th Ave about 3.5 miles until you see the Painted Canyon sign. Turn left onto a dirt road for 5 miles until the end to Painted Canyon. (There is literally a sign that says "End".) As you face the canyon, to your right there is an information sign - this sign doesn't mention Ladder Canyon, but you are in the right place. To get to Ladder Canyon, you hike up this smaller canyon (the one on the right) a mile or so to the trail head. Watch for a brown wooden post on the right side labeled Ladder Canyon which has an arrow pointing left to the beginning of the hike. The trail was a little difficult to find, but once get on the path, it's well traveled and obvious. The first third of the hike takes you up a narrow wash area where you have to scramble over several rocky areas and up four ladders. The narrow passages give you a very unique perspective on how water has cut these deep cracks into the hills. At times the passageways are as narrow as two people and extend straight up for more than sixty feet. As you continue to climb uphill the hike begins to open more and more until you reach the summit. From here you have nice views of the Salton Sea and a 360 degree view of all the surrounding mountain. The hike continues towards the television towers to the north. Watch for cairns and arrows to help you find your way. You'll continue past a field of ocotillo and eventually on your right you will see the trail down. The very end of this downward hill is a bit of a scramble, so be careful. Now you will be back in the canyon is which you started, but the fun is not over yet! As you continue walking (you should be going to the right - there are arrows and cairns to help) in about a mile or so there are two more ladders to descend, and alas, you are just about half a mile from the start. This was a fun, different kind of hike; about 5 -6 miles in length, and except for the scrambling and ladders, an easy hike.

If you are just in the mood for an easy walk/hike, you can go to the canyon on the left by the "End" sign and walk for miles. We actually looked for the trail head in this canyon first, walked about one mile before turning around, and it was open and nice. Remember, you are walking in the San Andreas Fault, so cross your fingers for no earthquakes!
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