Mecca Hills Wilderness Area
An artist's palette of soft pastels covers the earth's surface where rock outcroppings and mud stone have been displaced hundreds of years ago by the San Andreas Fault. Pink, red, gray, brown and green colors wash the hills and canyon walls creating a spectacular sight. This colorful canvas is called Painted Canyon, a high-walled, narrow gorge tucked within the 41,300 acres of the Mecca Hills Recreation Area of California.
The colorful walls of Painted Canyon enhance many of the unique geological formations, which reveal their historic past with exposed rock layers. Scientists have studied Painted Canyon and the surrounding regions to learn more about the impact of earthquakes on the earth's crust.
Palo verde and smoke trees are abundant throughout the canyon, and bighorn sheep, the desert tortoise and the spotted bat have been seen in the Mecca Hills area. Painted Canyon is a scenic location for a short auto- tour, hiking or walking. It is also an excellent subject area for photography enthusiasts.
A well-maintained graded road (approx. 4 miles) leads into the sandy wash which runs the length of the canyon (1.7 miles). There are a few narrow side canyons which can be further explored on foot. Motor vehicles are not allowed past the wilderness boundary markers. The Mecca Hills Wilderness now contains a total of 26,242 acres and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management.
Maps: BLM Desert Access Guides #17 (Palm Springs) and #18 (Chuckwalla)
Location: Approximately 15 miles southeast of Indio in the Mecca Hills, located between Interstate 10 and Highway 111.
Access: From Interstate 10, take State Highway 195 (Box Canyon Road) to Painted Canyon Road. Follow the graded dirt road for approximately 3 miles until you enter the canyon.
From Highway 111, when you reach Mecca veer right on 66th Ave., which is also State Highway 195. The road will curve toward the left and become Box Canyon Road. Take Painted Canyon Road from Box Canyon Road and follow the graded dirt road for approximately 3 miles until you enter the canyon.
Photos by Dusty Rhoades
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