Painted Canyon

Mecca Hills Wilderness - Ladder Canyon Trail

Painted Canyon in the Mecca Hills Wilderness Area

An artist's palette of soft pastels covers the earth's surface where rock outcroppings and mudstone 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 Painted Canyon, a high-walled, narrow gorge tucked within the 41,300 acres of the Mecca Hills Recreation Area of California.

Geologic formations are enhanced by their colors in  Painted Canyon

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 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, desert tortoises and spotted bats have been seen in the Mecca Hills area. Painted Canyon is a scenic location for a short auto-tour, a hike or a walk. It's also an excellent subject area for photography enthusiasts.

Rugged walls of Painted Canyon

Painted Canyon Mecca Hills Wilderness Area

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 explored further on foot. Motor vehicles are not allowed past the wilderness boundary markers.

Ladder Canyon Hiking Trail

Painted Canyon Mecca Hills Wilderness Area

The Ladder Canyon Hiking Trail is located in the Mecca Hills Wilderness area, which is managed by the BLM. Colorful mineral deposits, narrow slot canyons and views of the Salton Sea make this hike a very special one. Ladders are placed along the slot canyon to enable hikers to climb up dry waterfalls along the trail, earning it the name “Ladder Canyon.”


Maps: BLM Desert Access Guides #17 (Palm Springs) and #18 (Chuckwalla) The Mecca Hills Wilderness now contains a total of 26,242 acres and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

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.


Ladder Canyon Hiking Trail
Minerals & Geology Index

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