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Ladder Slot Canyon Hike and Indio, CA

Sunday, March 28, 2021 - 12:15pm by Lolo
100 miles and 2.5 hours from our last stop - 1 night stay


Ladder Slot Canyon HikeLadder Slot Canyon HikeOur drive today took us past the stark and mostly abandoned Salton Sea, a very different reality from the vision that developers had of creating a California Riviera, a place where Hollywood movie stars would vacation. To attract tourists, the lake was stocked with fish, which in turn attracted birds, making it a bird watcher's paradise as well.

However, irrigation runoff from the surrounding agricultural lands brought high quantities of fertilizer, pesticides, and salt into the lake, polluting the lake and killing off most of its fish. Needless to say, the dream of the area becoming a California Riviera never happened, and the area is quite economically depressed today, and pretty much abandoned. The lake is actually beautiful, and if you squint, you can almost imagine what it could have been.

There are some very interesting attractions to see in the area, especially if you are interested in desert art, such as Salvation Mountain and East Jesus. We visited both of them during our trip here in 2017.

Herb coming out of Ladder SlotHerb coming out of Ladder SlotHowever, today we were just passing through on our way to the Ladder Slot Canyon hike in the Mecca Wilderness outside the small desert city of Mecca, just north of the Salton Sea.

This is an extremely popular hike with Palm Beach area residents, so it was not great that we would be hitting it on a Sunday. Sure enough, the trailhead parking at the end of the dirt Painted Canyon Road was almost full. However, since it was early afternoon, most people were returning to their cars and leaving.

From the trailhead we walked about a quarter of a mile before we came to a small trail sign pointing left to the entrance of Ladder Canyon.

After making our way around a rockfall, we came to our first ladder, where we unfortunately had to wait about 20 minutes while a family of 5, including grandma, two children, and a small dog made their way down the ladder before we could go up. Grandma had to be cajoled a bit before taking that first step. In all fairness, it actually is harder going down than up these ladders. When they were finished, we asked another large family coming down to let us scamper on up before they began their god-knows-how-long descent.

The trail then bends into the canyon itself and we climbed a few more ladders, with less waiting this time. The entire narrow section of the slot canyon continues for about ¾ of a mile, where it then continues up the wash to a ridgeline and an awesome view of the Salton Sea.

I was a bit concerned about warnings from people about getting lost once you got out of the slot because there were so many trails to choose from. My concerns were relieved when Herb pointed to a large 12-foot arrow on the trail built out of rocks, which pointed us in the direction we wanted to take to go down Painted Canyon. He also had the trail loaded onto his Garmin watch.

Hiking down Painted CanyonHiking down Painted CanyonThe trail went along the ridge for awhile with views down into Painted Canyon on our right, where we would be headed next to complete our loop hike. We passed several more huge rock arrows along the way.

Painted Canyon was lovely, with its multi-colored rock walls. It reminded me a bit of our hike out of Golden Canyon in Death Valley. After two more small ladders to deal with, we were back to the part of the trail where we first turned left into the Ladder Slot. Before we knew it, we were back at the car.

What an Excellent hike!

We drove on to the larger town of Indio where we stayed in a Days Inn in walking distance to a great Mexican restaurant called El Mexicali

There was so much variety in texture and experiences today - just the way we like it.

Ladder Slot Canyon Hike and Indio location map in "high definition"

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