“One of the best slot canyon runs in California
— Tyrel Duckett
Sometimes closed due to flash flooding.
This longer loop is a great way to combine two unique trails into one exhilarating desert run. With an exciting start and a scenic end, runners young and old will enjoy themselves on a loop they'll not soon forget.
When you are in the narrow slot canyon parts, you can't really pass anyone easily, so you'll be slowed down if there are crowds. There are ladders as well, so you'll need to climb those. Bring plenty of water and sunblock. There is a lot of exposure.
The Painted Canyon/Ladder Canyon Run.
Things to know:
1. While you are in a slot canyon for the first half, there is still a lot of direct exposure to the sun. Bring sun block, hats, etc.
2. If you do this in the summer it will be very hot; It is a desert. Bring plenty of water!
3. You'll have to be able to climb ladders to do this specific run.
4. Don't leave anything valuable in your car, or at least not exposed. You'll be away from your car for a few hours and people know this. Cars have been found broken into, and this will ruin your day :(
To get there:
The closest city is Mecca. You can google map this and it will take you right to the parking lot. Just google "Ladder Canyon Run," and go to maps (Painted Canyon Trailhead Painted Canyon Rd, Mecca, CA 92254) to be exact. The last road you take to the parking lot is a dirt road. It is roughly 3.5 miles long. There is a misleading sign that says 4WD vehicles beyond this point when you turn on to the road, but you'll be fine taking it in a car. I did this in my two-door sports car with absolutely no issues or worries. The road is well maintained and easy to follow.
The trail is actually pretty easy. If ladders make you nervous then you might struggle a little, but kids do this trail, and the last time I went there was a couple in their 70s doing it. There is not much elevation change either. Since the trail is a loop, you can tackle it from either direction, though most do it the way I have it marked on the map (clockwise). The difference is that you would be climbing down ladders instead of up them if you came the other way.
After you leave the slot canyon and it widens out, the trail can be a bit confusing because there are some random paths going in different directions to other places. People who do this trail regularly have been kind enough to set up arrows on the ground made from the stones nearby. They make it obvious and indicate the direction you should take and any fork you might come across.
The start of the trail is kind of hard to find if you have never been here before. Keep an eye out for the trailhead indicator, and again there is a stone arrow on the ground indicating its start.
The slot canyon is beautiful!!! It is awesome weaving through it, climbing the ladders, and taking pictures.
Like I said earlier, if you go anytime around the summer, it will be hot. Make sure you have plenty of water and sun protection or you'll suffer for it. When I went last, I was prepared, but the sun was still draining.