Palm Springs Aerial Tramway: Ride from the Cactus to the Clouds

The Palm Springs desert can be a hot place to be in the summer, so being able to take a 15-minute tram ride up over 6,000 feet is a welcome escape. The Palm Springs Ariel Tram, located 10 minutes outside of town, is just that. This engineering marvel has been here for over 50 years, ushering people up into the San Jacinto Wilderness, where the weather can easily be 25 degrees cooler. The tram also provides access to some great hiking trails, two restaurants, and multiple viewpoints. Here is all the information so you can check it out.

Details

  • Cost: $25 a person, $36 for the dine and ride package after 4 PM
  • Parking is $5
  • Hours: Generally 10 AM – 8 PM but double check before you go.

Getting There

From the 10 Freeway out of Los Angeles, you will head towards Palm Springs and get on the 111 Freeway. From here you will turn left on Tram Way and then proceed up to the base of the mountain. They used to not charge for parking, but three years ago they changed it to a $5 fee. There are many lots, and the further away ones have a shuttle you can use if it’s busy (like on the weekend) and you need to park there.

After parking, you will head into the main building to get your tickets and to get in line to board the tram. Don’t forget to check out the old tram that is still sitting outside from before they remodeled it.

The tram itself takes 11 minutes to make its way to the top. Don’t worry about where you are standing; the floor makes two full rotations on the way up so as long as you are by a window, you will have a good spot.

The tram can get pretty packed on the weekends so be prepared to wait and to squish in but the ride is short, so it’s not a big deal.

When the tram goes over one of the three main towers, it will sway a little bit which can be creepy for some people, but I thought it was fun.

When you get to the top, you will be in a four story building with a small visitor center, multiple small theaters, and two restaurants.

We headed down to the visitors center first and saw all the taxidermy animals they had from the area as well as the short movie on how they built the tram.

Hikes

From there we went out on a few hikes. The easiest are the Desert View Trail and the Nature Trail. If you have a full day and have been training for it, you can climb to the top of San Jacinto as well. Read about all of them below.

Food

After hiking, we grabbed a meal at the cafeteria style restaurant called The Pines. We had done the “ride and dine” ticket, so it was included. If not the price was pretty crazy at like $21 a person, but with the ride and dine it was only $12 extra. I would say that the food was decent. Nothing I was super excited about but slightly better than average. It’s worth it just to be able to sit on the deck and eat looking over the view though.

After dinner, walk around the upper deck and go up to Grubbs View. This view point is accessed by walking up 20-30 stairs and it provides great vistas of both the desert below you and the mountains behind you.

It’s a great area to watch the sunset from as well; the sun goes down over Mt. San Jacinto.

After taking it all in, grab a tram back down the mountain. Usually, they come every 15 minutes but it starts being ever 30 minutes as it gets later.

Even though the tram is a little pricey for a whole family, it really is a great adventure to have in Southern California, especially if you want to get out of the desert heat.

Let me know what you think and what your favorite hikes are in the comments.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway: Ride from the Cactus to the Clouds

The Palm Springs desert can be a hot place to be in the summer, so being able to take a 15-minute tram ride up over 6,000 feet is a welcome escape. The Palm Springs Ariel Tram, located 10 minutes outside of town, is just that. This engineering marvel has been here for over 50 years, ushering people up into the San Jacinto Wilderness, where the weather can easily be 25 degrees cooler. The tram also provides access to some great hiking trails, two restaurants, and multiple viewpoints. Here is all the information so you can check it out.

Details

  • Cost: $25 a person, $36 for the dine and ride package after 4 PM
  • Parking is $5
  • Hours: Generally 10 AM – 8 PM but double check before you go.

Getting There

From the 10 Freeway out of Los Angeles, you will head towards Palm Springs and get on the 111 Freeway. From here you will turn left on Tram Way and then proceed up to the base of the mountain. They used to not charge for parking, but three years ago they changed it to a $5 fee. There are many lots, and the further away ones have a shuttle you can use if it’s busy (like on the weekend) and you need to park there.

After parking, you will head into the main building to get your tickets and to get in line to board the tram. Don’t forget to check out the old tram that is still sitting outside from before they remodeled it.

The tram itself takes 11 minutes to make its way to the top. Don’t worry about where you are standing; the floor makes two full rotations on the way up so as long as you are by a window, you will have a good spot.

The tram can get pretty packed on the weekends so be prepared to wait and to squish in but the ride is short, so it’s not a big deal.

When the tram goes over one of the three main towers, it will sway a little bit which can be creepy for some people, but I thought it was fun.

When you get to the top, you will be in a four story building with a small visitor center, multiple small theaters, and two restaurants.

We headed down to the visitors center first and saw all the taxidermy animals they had from the area as well as the short movie on how they built the tram.

Hikes

From there we went out on a few hikes. The easiest are the Desert View Trail and the Nature Trail. If you have a full day and have been training for it, you can climb to the top of San Jacinto as well. Read about all of them below.

Food

After hiking, we grabbed a meal at the cafeteria style restaurant called The Pines. We had done the “ride and dine” ticket, so it was included. If not the price was pretty crazy at like $21 a person, but with the ride and dine it was only $12 extra. I would say that the food was decent. Nothing I was super excited about but slightly better than average. It’s worth it just to be able to sit on the deck and eat looking over the view though.

After dinner, walk around the upper deck and go up to Grubbs View. This view point is accessed by walking up 20-30 stairs and it provides great vistas of both the desert below you and the mountains behind you.

It’s a great area to watch the sunset from as well; the sun goes down over Mt. San Jacinto.

After taking it all in, grab a tram back down the mountain. Usually, they come every 15 minutes but it starts being ever 30 minutes as it gets later.

Even though the tram is a little pricey for a whole family, it really is a great adventure to have in Southern California, especially if you want to get out of the desert heat.

Let me know what you think and what your favorite hikes are in the comments.

Desert X Art Show in the Coachella Valley: Finding the Mirror House and 11 Other Exhibits

Desert X is one of those expansive art events that is worthy of the journey it takes to visit all of its unique pieces. This show, if you can call it that, is spaced out all over the Coachella Valley and it features art that you can both see and interact with in new and unique ways. Put on by a non-profit of the same name, the idea for Desert X is to have one of these massive shows every two years, leading to a very rare and rewarding experience finding all of the pieces. I set out with a friend to see the 12 pieces that were still on display (formerly 15), and it was a full 8 hour day of what I would only compare to a scavenger hunt to find and experience the different art on display. Here is all the information and be sure to visit before April 30th as that is when the exhibit ends.

Details

  • Free
  • Check their site for hours as they can change
  • Location: All over Palm Springs, Palm Desert and Coachella
  • It takes about 6-8 hours to see all of it

Getting There

I highly recommend that you take some time to look over the map on their site. This will show you where all of the exhibits are and you can plan your drive based on which ones you want to see. Also, if you go to the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs (check the hours on Desert X site), they have an installation there with maps, shirts, and information on visiting the pieces. They also have docent lead tours on some of the weekends.

The Art

I am not an art aficionado, so I won’t write about what the artist wants you to take from each of the pieces, but here are the different exhibits I visited in the order that I visited them in. I came out from Los Angeles, so if you are coming from there as well, then this can serve as a recommendation for how to most efficiently see the exhibits. Also, each piece is marked with a small sign near it that has the Desert X logo and the artist name.

One I Call – Artist Sherin Guiguis

This is the first exhibit we saw, and it was located in the Whitewater Preserve. This area itself is fantastic to visit right now as the hills you drive past on the way are covered in wildflowers. After parking, you will make your way down a short trail before you see the exhibit.

  • Location: Whitewater Preserve

Donation Box – Artist Gabriel Kuri

On the way to this exhibit, we passed the mirror house but it was not open, and I wanted to see it at the end of the day, so we didn’t stop. This exhibit is located in a small shopping mall, and you can only look at it through a window, which makes it difficult to see. It is one of the shorter stops as you basically look through the window and move on.

  • Location – 2500 N Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs

Alive – Artist Jeffrey Gibson 

This exhibit is located inside of the Palm Springs Art Museum, but you don’t have to go in to see it. The piece is made from a wind turbine blade, and it sticks out massively from the museum’s sculpture garden. The museum is a good one if you like art, but if you want just a quick stop, then you can look down on the piece from the parking area.

  • Location: 101 N Museum Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92262

Ace Hotel

From here we headed over to the Ace Hotel since it is the official headquarters of Desert X. The small building, located right next to the pool, houses all the information on the exhibits (be sure to check the hours). We grabbed a map and talked with the two volunteers who were excited to explain more about the history and what they were trying to do. It is a quick stop, but it is helpful to pick up a map as it has the hours on it for the different pieces as well.

  • Location: 701 E Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92264

hEarth – Artist Lita Albuquerque

hEarth was one of the main exhibits that had a time window you needed to see it in. When we went it was only Thurs – Sun from 8:30 AM to 4 PM, so we made it the next stop. It was located in the Sunnylands Gardens, and I was blown away by how beautiful that area was as well. There were flowering plants, lots of communal areas for people to relax at and even a small restaurant. The art was along the back path, and it was one of those that looked much more unique in person than on the pictures online. It was in the top five of my favorite pieces in the show.

  • Location: 37977 Bob Hope Dr, Rancho Mirage, CA 92270

Curves and Zig Zags – Artist Claudia Comte

Curves and Zig Zags was another exhibit that I enjoyed a lot. It was a large curved wall situated in the middle of a desert area with mountains behind it. I liked the juxtaposition that it created between the art and landscape. It was a popular one for professional photographers as there were two shoots happening while I was there.

  • Location: 72500 Thrush Rd, Palm Desert, CA 92260

La Fiesta En El Desierto – Artist Armando Lerma

This exhibit is the furthest away of any in the show, and it took about 30 minutes to drive to from Curves and Zig Zags. It was a beautiful painting from Armando Lerma that was done on the back of a store wall. It was hard to experience as there were many cars parked in front of it but it was a nice display.

  • Location: 85963 Grapefruit Blvd, Coachella

Hollow Earth – Artist Glenn Kaino

Hollow Earth is the first of two exhibits that require you to do some additional work to see them. For Hollow Earth, it is texting a number provided on the Desert X site in order to get the code to go into the house in the middle of the desert. Unfortunately, this one was charging when we went, and after waiting for 30 minutes it didn’t turn back on, so we were not able to see it in all its glory. You can mimic it by placing your phones with the flashlight directly onto the circle you walk onto though, so you can see what it would look like.

  • Location: Ave 42 & Golf Center Parkway, Indio

The Circle of Land and Sky – Artist Phillip K Smith

The Circle of Land and Sky is the second most popular exhibit in the show, and it is was to see why. It is a series of 300 different mirrors placed at 10-degree angles in a circle. I found it to be a lot of fun to just walk around and see what types of tricks the reflections played on your eyes. It is another exhibit that is popular at sunset and with professional photographers.

  • Location: Frank Sinatra Dr & Portola Ave, Palm Desert

I Am – Artist Tavares Strachan

“I Am” was the only one I really didn’t get to experience. We went during the day, and it is only open from 7 PM to 10 PM. It features a series of neon lights situated in holes around a property, and from above it spells out I Am. The photos from above look cool on their website, but there isn’t anything to see during the day.

  • Location: 35050 Via Florencia, Rancho Mirage, Ca 92270

Monument – Artist Will Boone

Monument is one of those exhibits I wished I would have experienced in the early days of this show. It requires you to email for a key to get into a roof hatch that leads to an underground bunker. When I got there over 20 people were waiting to walk down into the bunker, so I didn’t need any of the information provided via email. If you go during the week, be sure to follow the instructions on the Desert X site to email for entry.

  • Location: Ramon Rd & Bob Hope Dr, Rancho Mirage

Visible Distance / Second Sight – Artist Jennifer Bolande

Visible Distance is an art piece that you would easily drive by if you didn’t know it was there. The artist Jennifer Bolande turned normal billboards into what you would see if the billboard was not there. As you drive down the road, there are three billboards each with a photo showing what is behind it. The exhibit is meant to be experienced driving by, and I thought it was very creative.

  • Location: Driving along Gene Autry Trail from Vista Chino or the Freeway

Mirage – Artist Doug Aitken

This is the most popular exhibit, and I am sure the one you have seen multiple times on social media. It is just as impressive in real life as it is in the photos. I spent a good hour here and went through the house probably seven times. It’s just that impressive. It will be really busy when you go though as it has become a destination in the city.

Check out a 360-degree walkthrough I did of the house here.

  • Location: 1101 W Racquet Club Rd, Palm Springs, CA 92262

Video

Here is a video I made of the whole trip so you can get a feel for it.

Make sure to see at least a few of these for yourself before they are over at the end of April; it is one of the most fun days of exploration I have had in a while. Let me know what you think in the comments.

Desert X Art Show in the Coachella Valley: Finding the Mirror House and 11 Other Exhibits

Desert X is one of those expansive art events that is worthy of the journey it takes to visit all of its unique pieces. This show, if you can call it that, is spaced out all over the Coachella Valley and it features art that you can both see and interact with in new and unique ways. Put on by a non-profit of the same name, the idea for Desert X is to have one of these massive shows every two years, leading to a very rare and rewarding experience finding all of the pieces. I set out with a friend to see the 12 pieces that were still on display (formerly 15), and it was a full 8 hour day of what I would only compare to a scavenger hunt to find and experience the different art on display. Here is all the information and be sure to visit before April 30th as that is when the exhibit ends.

Details

  • Free
  • Check their site for hours as they can change
  • Location: All over Palm Springs, Palm Desert and Coachella
  • It takes about 6-8 hours to see all of it

Getting There

I highly recommend that you take some time to look over the map on their site. This will show you where all of the exhibits are and you can plan your drive based on which ones you want to see. Also, if you go to the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs (check the hours on Desert X site), they have an installation there with maps, shirts, and information on visiting the pieces. They also have docent lead tours on some of the weekends.

The Art

I am not an art aficionado, so I won’t write about what the artist wants you to take from each of the pieces, but here are the different exhibits I visited in the order that I visited them in. I came out from Los Angeles, so if you are coming from there as well, then this can serve as a recommendation for how to most efficiently see the exhibits. Also, each piece is marked with a small sign near it that has the Desert X logo and the artist name.

One I Call – Artist Sherin Guiguis

This is the first exhibit we saw, and it was located in the Whitewater Preserve. This area itself is fantastic to visit right now as the hills you drive past on the way are covered in wildflowers. After parking, you will make your way down a short trail before you see the exhibit.

  • Location: Whitewater Preserve

Donation Box – Artist Gabriel Kuri

On the way to this exhibit, we passed the mirror house but it was not open, and I wanted to see it at the end of the day, so we didn’t stop. This exhibit is located in a small shopping mall, and you can only look at it through a window, which makes it difficult to see. It is one of the shorter stops as you basically look through the window and move on.

  • Location – 2500 N Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs

Alive – Artist Jeffrey Gibson 

This exhibit is located inside of the Palm Springs Art Museum, but you don’t have to go in to see it. The piece is made from a wind turbine blade, and it sticks out massively from the museum’s sculpture garden. The museum is a good one if you like art, but if you want just a quick stop, then you can look down on the piece from the parking area.

  • Location: 101 N Museum Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92262

Ace Hotel

From here we headed over to the Ace Hotel since it is the official headquarters of Desert X. The small building, located right next to the pool, houses all the information on the exhibits (be sure to check the hours). We grabbed a map and talked with the two volunteers who were excited to explain more about the history and what they were trying to do. It is a quick stop, but it is helpful to pick up a map as it has the hours on it for the different pieces as well.

  • Location: 701 E Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92264

hEarth – Artist Lita Albuquerque

hEarth was one of the main exhibits that had a time window you needed to see it in. When we went it was only Thurs – Sun from 8:30 AM to 4 PM, so we made it the next stop. It was located in the Sunnylands Gardens, and I was blown away by how beautiful that area was as well. There were flowering plants, lots of communal areas for people to relax at and even a small restaurant. The art was along the back path, and it was one of those that looked much more unique in person than on the pictures online. It was in the top five of my favorite pieces in the show.

  • Location: 37977 Bob Hope Dr, Rancho Mirage, CA 92270

Curves and Zig Zags – Artist Claudia Comte

Curves and Zig Zags was another exhibit that I enjoyed a lot. It was a large curved wall situated in the middle of a desert area with mountains behind it. I liked the juxtaposition that it created between the art and landscape. It was a popular one for professional photographers as there were two shoots happening while I was there.

  • Location: 72500 Thrush Rd, Palm Desert, CA 92260

La Fiesta En El Desierto – Artist Armando Lerma

This exhibit is the furthest away of any in the show, and it took about 30 minutes to drive to from Curves and Zig Zags. It was a beautiful painting from Armando Lerma that was done on the back of a store wall. It was hard to experience as there were many cars parked in front of it but it was a nice display.

  • Location: 85963 Grapefruit Blvd, Coachella

Hollow Earth – Artist Glenn Kaino

Hollow Earth is the first of two exhibits that require you to do some additional work to see them. For Hollow Earth, it is texting a number provided on the Desert X site in order to get the code to go into the house in the middle of the desert. Unfortunately, this one was charging when we went, and after waiting for 30 minutes it didn’t turn back on, so we were not able to see it in all its glory. You can mimic it by placing your phones with the flashlight directly onto the circle you walk onto though, so you can see what it would look like.

  • Location: Ave 42 & Golf Center Parkway, Indio

The Circle of Land and Sky – Artist Phillip K Smith

The Circle of Land and Sky is the second most popular exhibit in the show, and it is was to see why. It is a series of 300 different mirrors placed at 10-degree angles in a circle. I found it to be a lot of fun to just walk around and see what types of tricks the reflections played on your eyes. It is another exhibit that is popular at sunset and with professional photographers.

  • Location: Frank Sinatra Dr & Portola Ave, Palm Desert

I Am – Artist Tavares Strachan

“I Am” was the only one I really didn’t get to experience. We went during the day, and it is only open from 7 PM to 10 PM. It features a series of neon lights situated in holes around a property, and from above it spells out I Am. The photos from above look cool on their website, but there isn’t anything to see during the day.

  • Location: 35050 Via Florencia, Rancho Mirage, Ca 92270

Monument – Artist Will Boone

Monument is one of those exhibits I wished I would have experienced in the early days of this show. It requires you to email for a key to get into a roof hatch that leads to an underground bunker. When I got there over 20 people were waiting to walk down into the bunker, so I didn’t need any of the information provided via email. If you go during the week, be sure to follow the instructions on the Desert X site to email for entry.

  • Location: Ramon Rd & Bob Hope Dr, Rancho Mirage

Visible Distance / Second Sight – Artist Jennifer Bolande

Visible Distance is an art piece that you would easily drive by if you didn’t know it was there. The artist Jennifer Bolande turned normal billboards into what you would see if the billboard was not there. As you drive down the road, there are three billboards each with a photo showing what is behind it. The exhibit is meant to be experienced driving by, and I thought it was very creative.

  • Location: Driving along Gene Autry Trail from Vista Chino or the Freeway

Mirage – Artist Doug Aitken

This is the most popular exhibit, and I am sure the one you have seen multiple times on social media. It is just as impressive in real life as it is in the photos. I spent a good hour here and went through the house probably seven times. It’s just that impressive. It will be really busy when you go though as it has become a destination in the city.

Check out a 360-degree walkthrough I did of the house here.

  • Location: 1101 W Racquet Club Rd, Palm Springs, CA 92262

Video

Here is a video I made of the whole trip so you can get a feel for it.

Make sure to see at least a few of these for yourself before they are over at the end of April; it is one of the most fun days of exploration I have had in a while. Let me know what you think in the comments.

Ortega Falls: Hiking to a Waterfall Right Off Highway 74

Ortega Falls is a seasonal waterfall off Highway 74 in Lake Elsinore that is only flowing when we get a good rain. During the rest of the year, it is a popular rock climbing area that people from all over Orange County make their way out to explore. The hike is a short less than quarter mile round trip and it is a great spot for the whole family. Here is all the information so you can check it out.

Details

  • .25 miles round trip
  • Not an official trail
  • Park with an adventure pass

Getting There

Ortega Falls is located off Highway 74 in the mountains above Lake Elsinore. Google Maps will actually take you to the turnout if you put “ortega falls” into the search. Parking is in the dirt turnout on the side of the road and it can accommodate about a dozen cars. Be sure to display an adventure pass to not get a ticket.

The Trail

From the turnout you should be able to see the top of the waterfall in the distance so that you know what direction to go. There are a couple different trails that head out from the parking area but as long as they are going along to the right you should be good.

The trail is short but you will be going around/under/through some brush on the way there. You will also need to hop over some boulders.

As you turn the corner you should be able to hear the water and the waterfall will start to come into view. Continue to hop around on the rocks till you get down to the base of the falls.

Ortega Falls

This waterfall was really impressive when I went after the rain. The water was cascading down about 30 feet into the river below.

It was unfortunate that there were some pretty big pieces of graffiti on the side of the rocks, I edited them out in a few photos but it was hard to get around.

There were a lot of people here since it had so much water after the 2017 season.

From here we headed down stream about 3 minutes till we got to the overlook for another waterfall. If you wanted to climb down here, there was a short and steep little trail that took you to the base.

I have been to this area many times and never seen any water so I was blown away by how beautiful it was with all of this water flow.

After taking it all in you simply walk back on the path you came in on to the car.

Video

Here is a short video I made on the hike.

If you are hungry, I recommend heading to The Lookout Roadhouse for a great breakfast in the area. Be sure to let me know what you thought of this waterfall in the comments.

TKB Bakery & Deli: Cochella Valley’s Best Sandwich Spot

It is always funny to me to find a highly rated spot like this out in the middle of the California desert. TKB Bakery & Deli has been on the Yelp top 100 list for two years now, in 2015 it even ranked in the top ten, and that is high praise for a glorified deli sandwich spot. I have wanted to go for a while but only recently made it out there while hiking Ladder Canyon, so I made it a point to stop by and see what all the fuss was about. I am by no means a deli sandwich connoisseur, but I can easily say it is one of the best I can remember having. Here is all the information so you can check it our for yourself.

tkb bakery-9

Details

  • Cost: $8-$12
  • Location: 44911 Golf Center Pkwy, Indio, CA 92201
  • Order: The Trump

Getting There

tkb bakery-1

TKB Bakery is in a small shopping center right off the 10 Freeway. It is pretty much hidden from the road, but you will see it in the back when you turn right on Avenue 45. There is lots of parking around the bakery.

The Bakery

tkb bakery-2

When you enter, the main area where you order has a large wrap around counter, a menu behind it and a queue system for waiting in line (which there always is, but it goes fast).

tkb bakery-3

The menu here is pretty overwhelming, so I just asked for a suggestion and was told that “The Trump” is the most ordered. Before you ask, no the Trump is not based on the current presidential candidate, it is based on a customer that always added to his perfect sandwich saying that the new additions trumped the previous.

tkb bakery-4

When I went to pay, they gave me a few small cookies that they said were free for first-time customers. I don’t know if they always do this, but it was a nice addition.

tkb bakery-8

There is an attached room that serves as the dining area, and it is big with projectors and lots of seating. We waited for about 10 minutes then our sandwiches arrived.

tkb bakery-7

I was impressed with how big the sandwiches are. They do not skimp on the meat or adds ons, and it is appreciated. You practically have to unhinge your jaw to take a bite.

tkb bakery-6

The Trump sandwich was great as it had a spicy jalapeño cheese focaccia bread and a nice chipotle mayo sauce. I found the spice to be just the right amount for the sandwich in my opinion, and the bread was moist and full of flavor.

tkb bakery-5

My friend Chris got the “Dirty Riverside” and he also commented on the bread being the right amount of spice and the sandwich having a good amount of bacon and roast beef.

Both of us left impressed with how good this desert bakery was. I can honestly say that if I were in the area again around lunch time, I wouldn’t even look for another spot, I would just eat here without thinking. Let me know in the comments what your favorite sandwich is here so I can try another one next time I visit.

Ladder Canyon & Big Painted Canyon in Mecca

I am always searching for unique new hikes to do in Southern California, especially those with something different than you would expect. So when I heard about Ladder Canyon (yes, I was very late to the game on this one), I quickly set a time to hike it with Chris from the Last Adventurer. This hike has a little bit of everything, ladders you have to climb to get to the next section, slot canyons, and beautiful desert scenery that reminds you of something you would see in Death Valley. Here is all the info so you can check it out yourself.

Ladder Canyon-13

Details

  • 6.5 miles
  • 100 feet of elevation gain
  • Bring lots of water
  • Do not do it in the summer as it will be incredibly hot
  • People do report break-ins at the trail head sometimes so be sure you remove anything valuable from your car. It is like any remote trailhead, there is always the possibility of break-ins, so it is better not to leave valuables.

Video

Before jumping in, check out this video to see highlights from the trip.

Getting There

Ladder Canyon / Big Painted Canyon is located outside of the desert city of Mecca. The trailhead is at the end of a 4-mile long dirt road called Painted Canyon Road. You will want to take Highway 111 towards the Salton Sea, then head through the city of Mecca on 66th Avenue. 66th Avenue becomes Box Canyon Road, then shortly after the canal you will turn left on the dirt road called Painted Canyon Road.

Ladder Canyon-1

When we went the road was technically passable with a two wheel drive car but make sure to take your time if you do this as there were some big holes, a car with higher clearance would be a lot better to take.

The Hike

Ladder Canyon-2

The dirt road dead ends at the trailhead, and when I was there on a Tuesday there was a couple cars in the parking lot so it was easy to find. The trail begins from the parking lot and heads into the canyon directly in front of you. I found the map from this site to be helpful, I saved it on my phone when I went so I would suggest you do the same. Also, the site has a lot of up to date information about the trail.

Ladder Canyon-3

The path goes for about .25 miles before there is a small trail sign on the right that points to a canyon on the left with a lot of rockfall. This is the entrance to Ladder Canyon.

Ladder Canyon-4

From here you will want to start making your way around the rockfall since this is a popular trail though it should be pretty easy to get around. After this rockfall is when you will meet your first ladder.

Ladder Canyon-5

Most of the ladders felt secure when I was there but of course be careful and test the stability so that you do not get yourself into a bad situation. There are only a few ladders that you actually need to use to progress forward, many of the others you “could” scramble up the rocks but the ladders do make passage easier of course.

Ladder Canyon-6

The trail then bends into the canyon itself and you reach the most picturesque of the ladders. This is also one that you really need the ladder to get up and it is a fun way to start the trail.

Ladder Canyon-7

From here you will climb a few more but most of these are relatively small at only 5-7 feet or so.

Ladder Canyon-11

The trail continues on into a slot canyon which you will be walking through for about a third of a mile. It is an awesome slot canyon and one of the best parts about this hike. I would compare it to the other popular slot canyon in Anza Borrego.

Ladder Canyon-9

Once you exit the slot canyon, you can walk back on a small ledge and get a view of the canyon you just walked through from above.

Ladder Canyon-8

The canyon continues to get wider as you make your way out. This is also where you will really start to feel the heat as you are less shaded and it is the desert.

Ladder Canyon-12

You will be walking through this section for a while before you finally see the trail that brings you out of the canyon and to the big pile of rocks that lets you know you are heading the right way.

Ladder Canyon-14

From the rocks there is a path that heads back towards the Salton Sea and it is great for photos, but you will be heading out on the other path.

Ladder Canyon-17

This trail goes along the ridge of the canyon for another third of a mile, giving you vistas down into Big Painted Canyon, which you will be walking back out on to complete the loop.

Ladder Canyon-16

There were big rock arrows arranged to show the way when we were there but still make sure to download the map I told you about above in case the arrows are not there.

Ladder Canyon-18

The trail eventually heads back into the canyon to your right, which is called Big Painted Canyon and you will be following this all the way back out.

Ladder Canyon-19

This canyon is beautiful and it reminded me of Golden Canyon in Death Valley. There are all sorts of unique rock formations along the path, including some quartz that we saw on the ground.

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This section of the canyon is very wide and not shaded either so be warned of that as it can get hot.

Ladder Canyon-21

About a mile or so into the walk out we saw an offshoot to the left and another ladder. We headed this way and found the tallest ladder we had seen the entire day; it was about 25-30 feet. We decided to climb it and ended up finding two more ladders behind it, including one that was wooden which was cool.

Ladder Canyon-22

After climbing up the third ladder the trail continued to head up, most likely to another viewpoint but since we had spent so much time exploring we headed back down.

Ladder Canyon-23

The way back from here is more of the same, heading through the truly unique Big Painted Canyon. There are two more small ladders that you will have to traverse but these were nothing crazy.

Ladder Canyon-24

Eventually the trail crosses where you made the original left hand turn to go into Ladder Canyon and from here it is only about .3 miles back to your car.

All in all, I expected the ladders to be a little crazier when I went, but overall this hike with the ladders, slot canyon, and Big Painted Canyon is one of the best in Southern California. I really enjoyed myself and highly recommend it, but not during the heat of summer. Let me know if you have been and what you thought in the comments.