My third trip to Painted Canyon this year took me to another section that I haven’t explored yet. At the last minute my boyfriend wanted to head out to Painted Canyon to do the ropes this time and not the ladders like we did the first time. He had already gone before and wanted to show me this new section he found.
The trip started early like most our trips. We had a group of 6 of us going, 3 adults and 3 children, the youngest being 6 years old. We made the long drive through the desert to Mecca Hills and onto Painted Canyon Road.
This time I noticed that there wasn’t anyone camping, it seemed somewhat deserted from the last two times I was out there. Even when we got to the trailhead there didn’t seem like that there were many cars.
We started down the canyon and made an immediate left that took us out of the main canyon. We followed this down for a short distance when we hit the first obstacle. A large rock had fallen from above and landed on the bed of the narrow trail. It left a small opening below forcing us to crawl under. The kids had no problem but we adults had to do a little bit of a belly crawl in the sand. If you go this way make sure to wear pants or capris, your knees and legs will thank you.
We followed the trail as it narrowed forcing you to suck in the gut to contort around the carved sandstone. The canyon lead us through an obstacle course of climbing boulders, crawling through sand and finally sending us to our first rope.
The walls around the rope were flat with signs of stupid people tagging the walls. The wall itself was about 10 feet high. Don went up first, making sure he was secure to get the kids up with the harness. We got the first kid ready with the harness and up they went without issues. It really was a peace of mind knowing they were safe going up but all three kids climbed the wall with little assistant. Next we sent up the backpacks then it was our turn. I started up the wall which actually was pretty easy. The only time I had a little problem was when I ran out of rope at the top and had to figure out how to move my hands from the rope to the sandstone of the top of the ledge. Finding the grip to get up that last part was the hardest part for me.
Once we got up the first rope it was easy. We made our way through the slot canyon as it narrowed and widened and twisted and turned. The canyon walls changed colors of reds, yellows and greens as the sun beamed overhead changing directs as we zig zagged through the maze. We finally made it to the last rope which was about 16 feet high. After doing 2 ropes already the kids were pros. We put the harness on each of them and up they went without really needing it.
The packs went up next then I started to make my way up. The wall, like the first, was straight up but unlike the first there were plenty of foot holes to make it an easy climb. We made it to the top leaving our cool shaded canyon walls below. This part of the trail was long, boring and hot. The kids started to verbally complain what the adults were silently thinking in their head.
We were almost to the top when the trail dead ended into a steep part of the hill. You could make out a small game like trail to the top of the canyon. We trekked up the hill and finally made it to the top. The view of Salt n Sea danced in the distance as well as the main canyon below. We had run into a couple that we had met at the beginning that had taken the ladder part of the trail. They started to make their way down the way we just came but decided to take the ladders back down instead. The ropes seem like it would be harder to go down than to go up.
We reached the entrance to the Ladder Trail and started to make our way down the canyon reaching our first 2 ladders quickly. After that we stopped for lunch before we got back down into the slots. Once we finished lunch we started back down. As soon as we hit the 1st ladder leading into the slots (3rd ladder from the top) the temperature dropped about 10 degrees. The canyon went from a tan color to a marble of orange, red and tan. This was the first time I had taking the ladders down, the last two times I had taken the ladders up. You get to see the canyon in such a different way.
We finally made it out of the canyon and back into the main wash by noon. So all in all it took us about 3 hours to complete the hike doing both the ropes and ladder trails and that was with 3 young children.
If you plan on trying out the rope trail with children or inexperienced people I would definitely suggested some sort of safety with you own ropes and/or harnesses. But it can be done with all ages just expect to get dirty and to have fun!
County: Riverside County
Miles: 2.1 miles round trip
Permit: No permit needed
Trail: via Painted Canyon Road