Ladder and Painted Canyons in Mecca Hills
The Mecca Hills are a low mountain range located in Southern California. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages the range as the Mecca Hills Wilderness. The designated Wilderness Area includes narrow steep-walled canyons that create a natural maze within the badlands and also includes one of the best trails in Southern California – The Ladder Canyon Trail. This jaw-dropping hike takes you on a loop into the heart of Messa Hills through Ladder Canyon and Big Painted Canyon. On this moderately difficult loop, you come across a bit of everything: slot canyons, wide canyons, badlands, ladders, incredible views and general desert landscape.
The trail can be taken in any direction but doing it clockwise, as most hikers do, has you climbing up the ladders, rather than down. From the parking area head towards the canyon, following a wide sandy path before turning left into the Ladder Canyon. The trail into the slot canyon is difficult to see because of rockslides. If you are lucky, rock arrow (arrows on the ground, put together with rocks by hikers, however, nature does tend to destroy these markings on a fairly regular basis.) will point you in the right direction. To get to the top of this slot canyon, you have to, you guessed it, climb up several ladders. The ladders are maintained by local hikers so you never know in what condition they are. If the ladders are broken or if you feel unsafe, turn around and explore the Painted Canyon from the bottom up. After you reach the top and exit the slot canyon, you find random paths going in several different directions. Rock arrows should point you in the right direction. Take the trail to the right up the slope to the edge of Big Painted Canyon. Follow the trail along the edge until it drops into the canyon to the right. Walk down into Big Painted Canyon, and follow it back to the trailhead, staying right at junctions and descending on several more ladders.
Trailhead: 33.619077, -115.999379