Palm desert hiking
Coachella Valley is famous for its music festival, but did you know there is some world-class hiking in the area? If you are in Palm Desert and are looking for something cool to do outside the typical Palm Desert activities of golf, tennis, pool-side lounging, restaurants and shops, I have just the thing.
The Ladders hike is one of those unexpected experiences that you marvel at for days after the hike. It is located in Mecca, California about 45 minutes outside of Palm Desert.
The trail starts and ends with a hike through slot canyons, meaning narrow crevices of rock.
Parts of the slot canyon are accessible on foot and parts require that you climb a series of aluminum ladders, thus the name Ladders hike. The ladders have been placed and are maintained by volunteers. For me, this fact makes this hike even more special, knowing that strangers worked so hard to make this spectacular canyon accessible to the public.
Once you ascend the canyon there is a moderate hike up to a vista that looks out over a spectacular view of the desert floor and the Salton Sea.
The hike is well marked by large arrows made of stone that are set in the ground. The hike is 4 to 5 miles long and not too difficult.
There are a couple challenging spots getting up the ladders and there are occasional rungs in the ladders that are missing. We ran into several groups with small children who were able to complete the hike.
It is best to go with a group so you can help each other.
The hike is through Painted Canyon, which aptly describes the multitude of colors on the canyon walls.
The closest thing I have come to the Ladder's experience is hiking through slot canyons at Lake Powell.
Finding the trail
Park your car here
To get the trailhead a short trip down an unpaved road is required. This road can be accessed without four-wheel drive, although reading through some of the internet postings on the hike, sedans have been stuck in the sand. So take care where you park and avoid sandy areas of the road. This website posts a map of the hike.
Finish with a picnic
I recommend bringing some snacks for a post-hike refreshment. A little cheese, sausage and something cold to drink is just the thing to cap off the hike and will make for happy hikers. Thank you Jeff and Lockie for leading us on this wonderful expedition.
A word of caution
This hike is best attempted in the cool season from October to April. In the heat of the summer temperatures can be grueling and during the rainy season there can be flash floods. The internet reviews mention cars in the parking area have been vandalized, so you are best not leaving anything of value visible in your car. We had no problems and in February there were a fair amount of people on the trail.
Side trip to Don Carlos Meat Market
About 10 minutes from Ladders hike, while you are still on a paved road, is the Don Carlos Meat Market, an authentic Mexican market in the middle of the desert. It is a worthy a stop. We purchased fresh chorizo, corn tortillas, eggs, store-made salsa, fresh cheese and some Tajin fruit seasoning for our breakfast the next day. Delicious!
Tajin fruit seasoning is used by street vendors in Southern California and Mexico to garnish fresh fruit, cucumbers and jicama. Tajin is made with dried chiles, dehydrated limes and salt. It also makes a fabulous Bloody Mary rim and I use it to garnish my Slow cooker shredded beef tacos with mango and burrata cheese. If you can't make it out to Don Carlos or another Mexican market, you can purchase Tajin online here.