Days: 1 Days
Location: Horseshoe Meadow
Trail Head: 33.623980, -115.996377
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Located about an hour southeast of Palm Springs, this is hands down one of the most unique California “hikes” you’ll ever go on, largely because it’s a LADDER hike through a narrow and actually really refreshingly cold gorge formed years ago by the San Andreas Fault. The whole “Painted Canyons” name is thanks to the walls, which are washed with pinks, reds, grays, browns, and greens — especially when you first pull into the canyon. Bonus: a few years back, some wonderful person replaced the wood ladders with metal ones.
Approximate length is 5 miles, with an elevation gain of about 450 feet. If all you do is walk the main canyon it is an easy to moderate hike in difficulty, but the soft sand in the canyon floors can be a little hard on the ankles. However if you are planning to hike the ladder canyon and make the complete loop it is a difficult hike and it should only be attempted if you are in very good shape, and you are properly prepared with the right equipment, water and other hiking necessities. It will take you 3-4 hours to complete the loop. I keep reading stories in our local paper of people attempting this hike and having to be rescued. Do not attempt the full ladder hike loop unless you are ready for a fairly difficult hike.