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Ladder Canyon Trail in Painted Canyon

Western Sonoran + Colorado Desert, California

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Ladder Canyon Trail in Painted Canyon

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  • View from the parking lot of the entrance of the trailhead. - Ladder Canyon Trail in Painted Canyon
  • The main gorge.- Ladder Canyon Trail in Painted Canyon
  • Arrows mark the entrance of the Ladder Canyon Hike. - Ladder Canyon Trail in Painted Canyon
  • An orange post marks the entrance if arrows have been washed out- Ladder Canyon Trail in Painted Canyon
  • Hiking the Ladder Canyon Trail.- Ladder Canyon Trail in Painted Canyon
  • There is some moderate bouldering at the beginning of the hike.- Ladder Canyon Trail in Painted Canyon
  • Five ladders exist on the trail, and you will notice how damaged they are from boulders coming down in flash floods.- Ladder Canyon Trail in Painted Canyon
  • Watch your step!- Ladder Canyon Trail in Painted Canyon
  • The sedimentary rock of the slot canyon gets torn away by rushing water.- Ladder Canyon Trail in Painted Canyon
  • Don't forget to look up.- Ladder Canyon Trail in Painted Canyon
  • Hiking the Ladder Canyon Trail.- Ladder Canyon Trail in Painted Canyon
  • Noon is the best time of day to hike this canyon; you'll have the most dramatic lighting from the overhead sun.- Ladder Canyon Trail in Painted Canyon
  • Not a place you wanna be if it starts raining. - Ladder Canyon Trail in Painted Canyon
  • Hiking the Ladder Canyon Trail.- Ladder Canyon Trail in Painted Canyon
  • The parking area.- Ladder Canyon Trail in Painted Canyon
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Easy hike (with ladders). Well maintained. Lots of free parking and camping.
Cons: 
Rough road getting there. No amenities. Possibility of flash flooding.
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Region:
Western Sonoran + Colorado Desert, CA
Congestion: 
Low
Pets allowed: 
Yes
Highest point: 
1,320.00 ft (402.34 m)
Net Elevation Gain: 
670.00 ft (204.22 m)
Year round: 
Yes
Parking Pass: 
None
Permit required: 
No
Preferable Season(s):
Fall, Spring, Winter, Summer
Total Distance: 
6.50 mi (10.46 km)
Total elevation gain: 
670.00 ft (204.22 m)
Trail type: 
Loop
Trailhead Elevation: 
650.00 ft (198.12 m)
Typically multi-day: 
No
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Contributor

While not as colorful as some of the Utah and Arizona slot canyons, this is a mere two hours from L.A. and is very accessible. The hike is easy with the exception of a few ladders to climb and some boulders to duck under. The carved sedimentary rocks within the canyon are consistently gray, but they start showing some reds and greens if you continue the rest of the hike, hence the name Painted Canyon. 

The road to this location is about 6 miles, and the surface consists of washboard sand, so be prepared for a 15 mph ride that will rattle your teeth. There are no bathrooms or water in the parking lot, so bring water and a shovel if needed. There isn't even a sign because the parking lot is at the bottom of a watershed that appears to flood out every rain, so make sure to check the forecast before heading out. There is a very high risk of flash flooding in this area. The canyon can reach 115 degrees in the summer, and there are no rangers that will find you; be sure to bring plenty of water. 

The hike itself is fairly easy with some bouldering in the very beginning. No trekking poles are required; just your wits. If you are planning on traveling with children, they should be fine if they can climb over a couple of rocks and climb a ladder. 

You can camp here as well. Down the canyon, you will notice some pull-offs where other people have camped. You will be able to drive your four-wheel drive vehicle just about anywhere in the canyon. Two-wheel drive vehicles are not recommended, but if you are smart you will be able to make it work. When in doubt, park and walk it first. 

Fires are permitted, but you will want to bring your own firewood. There are no designated campsites and therefore no fees, no bathrooms, and no trash cans. Be sure to pack out what you pack in and Leave No Trace.

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Updates, Tips + Comments

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Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(9 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(22 within a 30 mile radius)

Adventure Community

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Who Wants To Do It
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Who's Done It
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8 Adventures Explored
2 Adventures Published

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