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Visited: February 27, 2016
Description: A semi-technical slot canyon with rope obstacles in Palm Desert. Basic climbing skills are required.
Length: About 0.75 miles to the end of the ropes
Elevation: ~500 feet
Duration: 1+ hours, depending on how far you go
Difficulty: Moderate to difficult
Terrain: Dirt trail, loose rocky terrain
Parking: Lot (33.618954, -115.999097)
Best time to go: Anytime
Bring: Camera, water, good hiking shoes (good Nikes with solid grip are fine), lunch/snack
Our group of 3 rushed over to Painted Canyons an hour before sunset. We were on a mission to find and complete Ladder Canyon before it got too dark. The map we had gave us the impression that the ladders were very close to the trail head. We came across a fork a few minutes into the hike. Even with an arrow-shaped rock formation that pointed to the right side of the trail, we haphazardly made the decision to go left after a quick glance at our map. Determined that it was the correct way to the first three ladders, we headed out.
Within 5 minutes, we reached a narrow slot canyon. The tight sections seemed promising. With every turn, we hoped to see the outline of the first ladder. Then again, we didn’t know much about the trail… we decided to play it by ear and leave this up to hiking Gods again.
The ravine gets narrow so come on an empty stomach 😛 We had to climb, crawl and improvise to get around tight spaces.
Expecting to see a ladder soon, we were surprised to see a rope instead. Were the ladders replaced by ropes?! It couldn’t be! Maybe we did go the wrong way… or maybe this was a loop that would connect back to the ladders. Seeing this as an opportunity to play, we decided to give our rope climbing skills a try. Our friend Ricardo decided to turn back due to a previous shoulder injury. Guess it’s just team HikeSnobs now…
The first rope was fairly easy to climb. Linda went first and Alice followed after.
Once we made it to the top, there was another rope to climb.
It was easier than the first but it got really tight at the top.
Hoping this trail would connect to the ladders, we marched on. About a 1/4 mile later, we reached a new rope obstacle twice the height of the two previous ones!
Alice was ready to turn back but Linda motivated her to continue. After all, it was mind over matter. We reassured ourselves that it was better to go up and not have to climb back down the ropes we had just climbed. With proper footing and (decent enough) upper body strength, we made it to the top with minimal panicking from Alice.
We continued on the trail and followed an arrow marker that led us even farther up the canyon. The trail seemed to continue on forever with no end in sight.
We walked for 20 minutes and not a single damn ladder. We were lost!!! We had no idea how much longer this trail was or where it would even lead. As it got darker, it was clear that the only sure way back was to go the way we came. We dreaded the idea of climbing back down the ropes but we were running out of options.
Begrudgingly, we turned around. The first rope we had to climb down was one of the scariest climbs the HikeSnobs have ever encounter. Staring down at the drop, the climb seemed daunting. Hoping and praying we would make it safely, each HikeSnob made their way down. Linda first, Alice second. Linda made her way down carefully. Alice was scared as she lowered her body against the canyon wall. Her body was shaking with fear the whole way down. Linda remained brave; encouraging and supporting her any way she could. We got a few scrapes and scratches but we both made it to the bottom in one piece.
By the time we reached our car, it was pitch black. We looked for Ricardo and he was nowhere to be found. He must be looking for us on the right side of the trail. We tried calling his cellphone but it went straight to voicemail. We hopped in the bed of our truck and decided to wait 15 minutes. Locked out with no water and no flashlight, Alice shined her cellphone light into the back window to double check if Ricardo was sleeping in the back but instead saw this:
Ricardo left a note on the car window letting us know he took the trail to the right to meet us. Oh crap… is he still looking for us on the ladder trail and expecting to meet us? We didn’t want to start our search only to bust another Belgium wives incident… We decided we might as well ask some of the campers in the area if they knew anything about Ladder Canyon and if they could lend us a flashlight. They were USELESS. We started walking to the trail and within a minute, Ricardo appears out of the darkness! Thank goodness!!! We had a good laugh and headed back to the car.
At the end of the day, every adventure begins with a single step. In our case, a step in the wrong direction. Even though we didn’t find the ladders, we had an even better time traversing through the narrow slots and climbing up the ropes. There’s nothing better to HikeSnobs than a challenging hike with a few scrapes and cuts to prove it. Guess we’ll be staying the night to give Ladder Canyon another try.
NOTE TO HIKERS:
We were surprised to find so little information online regarding this hike. We don’t even know the actual name of the trail. To us, it will always be “Lost Rope Canyon.” We’re unable to tell you how long this hike is or whether it’s a loop or an out and back trail. However, if you have done this yourself, feel free to share and comment below!
- If you are looking for Ladder Canyon Trail, take the trail to the right.
- If you take a left to the ropes, be careful when climbing them.
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