Slot Canyons of the Mecca Hills

General Palm Springs area.

Slot Canyons of the Mecca Hills

Postby zippetydude » Mon Jan 26, 2015 5:49 pm

Okay, so I stumbled across a reference to these "Slot Canyons" online, and then I saw a posting a couple weeks ago of a trail running meet up group with the Mt. San Jacinto Hiking Club that was going to go explore the canyons. Our noble guide, Fred, had scouted out most of the route, and between him and another runner who had her iphone with her, we were able to find a fascinating loop through two slot canyons, one going up, one coming back down. When you first enter, it's surprisingly narrow, maybe 5 - 8 feet across, and it goes on and on. The walls are between 60 and 100 feet up on either side, so it's just amazing when you look up and see how high they are. The floor is fairly flat and sandy, as you can see here:

ImageDSCN9672 by zippetydude, on Flickr

As you continue on, there are ladders that you need to climb to be able to ascend the dry waterfalls that lift you up through the canyon. The climbs are surprisingly easy, and there are excellent views of the path you just came up. Here's one a friend took looking back at me from a vantage point at the top of one of the dry falls.

ImageDSCN9667 by zippetydude, on Flickr

After perhaps a half mile, you pop out onto a ridge. This is the view, although the picture doesn't do it justice. It's really quite beautiful.

ImageDSCN9673 by zippetydude, on Flickr

Now comes the adventurous part! You turn left and go maybe 1/4 mile along the ridge, and turn left after the 5 big piles of stones, each one decreasing in size from the one before it. There's an arrow made of rocks on the ground pointing in the right direction, which is the first left turn you can make after the rock piles. Follow that ridge for maybe a half mile, and then turn right where the stones have been cleared from the ridge to create a clear walkway. You'll follow that ridge for maybe a tenth of a mile or so, and it will look like you're going to be cliffed out, but the trail just drops rather suddenly into the next slot canyon. Once you drop down into the canyon, you'll immediately come to a drop off, with nothing but a rope anchored into the rock. The rope is not very big, so while it's strong enough, it's kind of hard to hold onto. There are knots at 1 foot intervals, but the knots are small also. Makes it kind of hard, but it's still fun. Here's what it looks like from the bottom of the first drop off:

ImageDSCN9674 by zippetydude, on Flickr

From there you'll simply follow the slot canyon as it heads back to the parking lot. It's not all flat and smooth in this canyon

ImageDSCN9680 by zippetydude, on Flickr

You'll descend about 4 or 5 waterfalls using the ropes. Here's a picture of the last one, and you can see the rope isn't any too big:

ImageDSCN9685 by zippetydude, on Flickr

In fact, the rope snapped and I fell to my doom!

ImageDSCN9690 by zippetydude, on Flickr

Not really, of course. All in all it's a grand adventure. It's not long, maybe 2 miles total, but it's fun to take your time, shoot lots of pics, and really enjoy these spectacular canyons. Kids were there, so it seems they're able to handle the ropes. I'd feel comfortable taking mine, but I'd spot them closely on the first rope descent, or maybe even bring my own rope ladder for them to come down if they were young. Anyway, it's best done in the counterclockwise direction that we did it, because you get introduced to progressively more interesting terrain and challenges as you do. The other direction you would do the most exciting part first, so it seems to me it would take away from the exciting climax.

Anyway, there you have it.

z
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Re: Slot Canyons of the Mecca Hills

Postby drndr » Tue Jan 27, 2015 9:28 am

Sounds fun, especially this time of year.

Where do you park and is the route easy to find? Meaning is there an obvious trail or are there hundreds of trails and may never find this particular spot.

Dan
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Re: Slot Canyons of the Mecca Hills

Postby neverwashasbeen » Tue Jan 27, 2015 1:45 pm

drndr, here is a link: http://hiking-in-ps.com/meccahills.php
It gives a description of how to access the Painted Canyon area. There are a number of good hikes in the area.
Happy Trails!
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Re: Slot Canyons of the Mecca Hills

Postby zippetydude » Tue Jan 27, 2015 3:11 pm

The dirt road actually ends at the trailhead, so it's very easy to find. You just walk right into the canyon. About 1/4 mile in there's a sign on the right hand side that points to the entrance to the slot canyon on the left side of the canyon. From there, if you just follow the directions I gave above you'll find the second canyon as well. Surprising to me that this isn't a famous attraction. It's one of the most fascinating places I've been, and I've been out in the wilderness almost every weekend for over 20 years and only just now stumbled across it. If you check it out I think you'll find it amazing. LMK if you have any questions.

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Re: Slot Canyons of the Mecca Hills

Postby drndr » Wed Jan 28, 2015 10:42 am

Ahh, now reading more and checking the link provided, is this also called the Ladder canyon and Painted canyon? I have been there a couple times if so. I thought maybe you were describing the "Grottos". Never been there and want to go.

D
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Re: Slot Canyons of the Mecca Hills

Postby zippetydude » Wed Jan 28, 2015 11:13 am

Yes, it's the Ladder Canyon, though the second part coming down the ropes was actually better than the more easily found Ladder Canyon. If you've been there, you know what I mean about the whole thing being amazing! If you're interested in the grottos, I am too. I'll look into it with Fred, our guide, since he's been there before as well. Maybe he'll lead a meet-up out there, he had offered to lead one just last weekend but I was entertaining friends and we barely had time for the short adventure we took. Fred said he prefers the grottos to the canyon in some ways, so that really intrigued me. I'll keep you posted and I'll put a link here to the hiking club if he sets up a meet-up for the grottos. It would be fun to hike and explore together since we've kinda known each other for some time here on the board.

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Re: Slot Canyons of the Mecca Hills

Postby drndr » Wed Jan 28, 2015 1:03 pm

I have never done the canyon with the ropes. Always have turned right when you pop out the ladder canyon at the large pile of rocks. Google earth shows lots of canyons. From your description i'd guess the rope canyon is to the west of the ladder canyon. Unless of course I'm completely backwards.

I agree. It would be nice to get out and hike with you but you'd have to go my pace because I sure as hell can't go yours!!

Dan
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Re: Slot Canyons of the Mecca Hills

Postby zippetydude » Wed Jan 28, 2015 2:58 pm

We took about 3 1/2 hours to go the roughly 2 mile route we did. In explorations like this, speed is good for scouting, but the actual enjoyment of the place is best done at a very leisurely pace. I would say the same would be true of the grottos. In the totally enclosed dark caves I would want to explore all around and see what they're like and find any hidden areas, maybe take some spooky looking pictures. Unless I get claustrophobic, then speed will become important!

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Re: Slot Canyons of the Mecca Hills

Postby jimson » Sat Feb 07, 2015 9:01 am

There is another great "ladder" canyon that is accessed about a quarter mile before you get to the parking area for ladder canyon. Head up a large canyon through some colorful metamorphic rock on the right and keep taking the left branch where it splits. Eventually you get to a narrow and dark (flashlight during the day) slot that leads to some rickety and sketchty ladders. You top out high above painted canyon with awesome views of a maze of blind canyons. We hit it late in the day so didn't want to look for another way down and get lost and returned the way we came.
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Re: Slot Canyons of the Mecca Hills

Postby zippetydude » Sun Feb 08, 2015 10:01 am

Thanks for the post! After reading it I went back yesterday and followed your directions and found 5 more slot canyons. I was amazed, I had thought there were only a couple. Who knows, there may be many of them all over the area! One was very narrow - I had to go sideways through it for quite a way as it was only a little over a foot across. Such an amazing place. I'll be out there exploring it quite a bit before summer. Thanks again for the tip.

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