In the Mecca Hills, above the town of Mecca, CA, east of the Salton Sea, is a hike sometimes simply referred to as “the ladders”. I recently went on this hike with a couple of friends, who were visiting us, and the hiking club.
Shortly after leaving Mecca you turn off of the paved road onto a sandy (read dusty) road for a drive of about 4 miles to the trailhead.
The first part of the hike is through a wide canyon until you reach a turnoff point that looks like an impassible pile of rocks. The first ladder is missing so the detour route involves a bit of rock scrambling and traversing a narrow ledge by sidestepping along it with your back to the the rock wall. Fortunately this ledge is not very long and after a few side steps you are across it and onto a wider part of the trail. The now first ladder is a short distance beyond and pretty easy to go up.
The next ladder is but a short distance further. I believe this was the ladder with the base partially buried in the sand (with this being my first time doing this hike my memory of the order of the ladders may be a little off). The ladder was twisted a bit and leaning at a bit of an angle so that you actually had to climb it along the edge where the steps meet the rail. With the bottom buried in sand it was actually quite stable and not a very long climb so again was fairly easy.
And so it went, up another 4 – 6 ladders (I didn’t count). After the last ladder it was a fairly easy hike along trails to the summit. The view, which includes a good look at the Salton Sea, is spectacular.
From the summit we started a fairly steep descent where you needed to watch your footing on some fairly loose ground. At the bottom of this descent we stopped for a lunch break. It was a beautiful day and felt great having a bit of a rest on the rocks.
After lunch we continued our hike through the Painted Canyon which, not surprisingly, gets its name from the colors in the walls. The rains often act to wash the dust off of the walls making them quite beautiful. When we went through it, the walls could have used a good washing as the colours were somewhat muted.
The descent through the canyon involved going down two ladders. A final walk out of the canyon brought us back to the parking lot at the trailhead.
The hike is not overly difficult and you are certainly rewarded with beautiful views. On the down side there have been reports of vandalism and break-ins to cars left parked at the trailhead. Fortunately a couple of volunteers from the hiking club had stayed with the cars to keep an eye on them and there were no problems.