Taking the word "climb" to new heights.
Located in the Mecca Hills north of the Salton Sea, Ladder Canyon is quite an adventure. Ladder Canyon is a slot canyon. The canyon was created by water. At the end if the canyon it is clear how the canyon was created. The slot canyon ends at what can be described as a giant funnel. That funnel would take flash flood waters and concentrate them into a very small channel. The sandy bottom of the canyon offers further evidence of the flood waters that carved out the slot. One thing worth noting is that most of the canyon is in the shade for most of the day and is quite a bit cooler than the surrounding desert.
From the parking area that marks the dead end of Painted Canyon Road. Follow Painted Canyon for a little over a half mile until you reach Ladder Canyon. On the right side of the Painted Canyon Trail is the sign pointing to Ladder Canyon on the left side of the trail. With how wide the Painted Canyon Trail is you have to wonder why the sign isn't on the left side, but it nevertheless isn't.
As you enter Ladder Canyon you are greeted by a beautiful rock carving of an eagle. The initial opening of the canyon is not all that impressive looking and doesn't provide much of a hint of what is in store ahead. Although the prevailing path is uphill, the first ladder is a climb down. How else did you think ladder canyon got its name? Because you have to climb ladders. Shortly after ladder 1 you enter a round chamber that is the location of ladder 2, a long 18 step metal ladder. At about a foot and a half between steps, that would make the ladder about 27 feet long. If you have a fear of heights, be forewarned.
Immediately after reaching the top of ladder 2 you have to scramble up a wall that isn't quite steep enough to require a ladder, but is steep enough to cause to climb rather than just walk up. After the scramble the canyon meanders for a while before reaching ladder 3. The canyon walls above are quite high, probably more than 50 feet.
Ladder 3 is the last ladder in the canyon. Above the ladder is a ledge that looks down on the canyon that you just hiked through to get to ladder 3. The ledge offers an interesting perspective. Beyond ladder three the canyon walls are wider than they have been between the ladders. The canyon continues to ascend the height of the walls continue to shorten until the canyon opens up into a large funnel. From the funnel the trail climbs up to the top of a ridgeline. If you head up to the ridgeline you will be rewarded with views of the Salton Sea.
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.