Mecca City, Mecca Hills, Riverside County, California
Chef Emile's Painted Canyon and the Ladders Trail Hike Log
December 30, 2006
This was my last hike during my California vacation, and we saved the best for last. That was, THE Painted Canyon and the Ladders Trail Hike!
Even if you don't consider car travel as part of the hike, this car ride is just worth the trip to get there. We stopped in Thermal, CA at The Oasis Date Gardens, 59111 State Highway 111, Thermal, CA 92274. It is sometimes called Grapefruit Road, between the intersections of roads 60 and 62, and is northwest of Box Canyon Road (sometimes identified as 66). You have to do this!! They have about 10 different types of dates for tasting, and of course, for sale between $3 and $4.50 a pound. They are fantastic!!! We purchased a couple of pounds for our hike, but forgot them in the car! Damn! They also have a "Date" malted milk that they prepare, cookies, and 100s of different styles of packages for dates. Really nice!
If you are driving in from the west on Highway 111, you take a left onto Box Canyon Road (Route 66) and travel about 4 miles. Right after you pass up the canal, you take a left at the "Painted Canyon" sign. Then travel an additional 4 or so miles on a dirt road to a parking area. This 4 mile ride is one of the prettiest you will ever take!! The first two miles follows the San Andreas fault, then turns into the canyon and leads you up to the parking area which is the Trailhead!! BTW, we saw several people camping there. That looked like fun, gotta remember to do that if I am ever back this way.
The hike starts off at a very slow grade up the canyon, the ground is very soft sand and gravel, which makes it somewhat difficult to walk in. The path up the canyon is twisted and there is something new to see at every turn. Large boulders have fallen down and now litter the canyon floor! The sides of the canyon rise maybe 200 feet and are a drab mauve in color. The canyon walls are so narrow, that I couldn't frame the top and bottom of them in one pic. The walls are covered with the "paint" (my term, for lack of a better one) that has formed during a rain, mixed with the loose sand and dirt, then dripped down the sides of the canyon. I guess that this is how the canyon gets it's name, because it does somewhat looked painted on.
The hike up the canyon is about 3/4s of a mile to a small trail marker post. It would be on your right, and points left as to where you enter the "Ladders Trail". In the sand there was an arrow made of stones, I added several. The arrow points towards the narrow opening in the slotted canyon walls.
The trail through the "Slot Canyon" is a gradual slope upwards at times, and other times, large "steps" with footings over boulders. Nothing that even a big guy like me couldn't handle. AND I had the encouragement of my brother Marc and his wife Sharon. I would suggest doing this hike with friends. Take turns with the lead, climb a big "step" then hand help the others up. Once we started to do this, the hike went easier.
There are 3 Ladders, one down, and two up. Of course, this is in which direction you are going!! This is Sharon climbing the tallest ladder. She has got to be part Mountain Goat!! I know, that is a BAAAAAADDDDD comment about my sister-in-law. Just kiddin, Sharon!
Actually, the trail is somewhat easy. The tallest ladder is about 12' and is made of aluminum. It is reinforced and quite strong. However, it is narrow, and I took my time going up and down!!
The Ladders Trail meanders through this slot canyon for about a half mile, a long distance! It is as wide as 30 feet at some places, and as narrow as only 3'. The walls are between about a 150' to only 40' or so high. As you climb the slot, you think that in just a couple of steps you are going to emerge on the top. But as you climb, the walls just keep on maintaining their height!!. This goes on for HALF a MILE!! SOOO, with you climbing all the time, you are really going UP the inside of the mountain!
"The Hole", or at least that is what we called it, is where you come out of the "Slot Canyon" hiking the Ladders Trail. But as you climb up and get to the top, you have a fantastic view of where you have been! About 15 feet deep!
After "The Hole" the path starts to widen and you come upon a "Y" in the road. We split up briefly here, I went left and M&S went right. They doubled back, caught up with me, we chatted and then decided to take the right fork. OK so this in not the best pic of the "Y" but this is where we went RIGHT.
The climb here is more like what I am used to..... SEEING the sky!!! You emerge from the Ladders Trail about here, I looked back an saw this beautiful sight of the Ladders Trail from above. You can clearly see "The Slot" or gorge that we had been hiking. You are looking Southwest towards the mouth of Painted Canyon and can just catch a glimpse of the Salton Sea and the city of Mecca.
Just up The Mountain, More to Come Page 2!!!!!!!
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