Taking a break from Stagecoach
While covering the Stagecoach Music Festival, I decided I needed a break one morning and did a Mecca Hills Wilderness day hike. The initial plan was to visit Joshua Tree National Park, and I put a declaration on my Facebook page that I was going there.
Facebook alert about Mecca Hills Wilderness day hike
I got a message from a fellow hiker friend from Southern California who stated his favorite day hike was in the Mecca Hills Wilderness Area and provided detailed directions to the trail head and to the canyon. I made it to the trailhead perfectly, but I think I chose the wrong trail. It did not matter as the whole area was spectacular.
I woke up bright and early and left the hotel at 5 a.m. with my Toyota 4Runner. I did this because I needed to return to Stagecoach by the afternoon. I am glad I did because the weather was over 100 degrees, so I hiked at the optimal time.
As I was driving down the Painted Canyon road the moon was still high in the air. The sun still had not arisen, so the sky was a pink color. The nice thing about hiking in the canyon so early is your view and colors of the canyon wall seem to change as the sun climbs into the sky. The same phenomenon takes places at dusk too.
Driving into the Mecca Hills canyon
The further I drove into the canyon the more stops I took to take pictures. This trend continued until a yellow sign stated “end” and there was a parking lot. I parked the car and walked past the yellow end sign into a wide canyon. I passed a few campers along the road who were the only other people I had seen. I was jealous as it looks like a great place to camp. The cost is right too I later discovered as it is free.
Just like the deeper I drove the Toyota into the canyon the prettier it got, the same could be said about the hike. I hiked about a mile and the canyon seemed to constrict at one point into a slot canyon. It also continued to the left, but I decided to explore the smaller canyon.
Mecca Hills Wilderness Area day hike
I hiked about a mile up the slot canyon and it was obvious it was a well worn trail even though a little narrower. Footprints could be seen in the sand, and I also came across a cairn or two.
I finally came across a little natural arch and the then the slot canyon ended. I had to climb up to the top, and when I did I was treated to a nice view of the surrounding desert mountains. One mountain really perked my fancy, so I decided to climb to the top. It was not steep, but it was the highest point in the general vicinity. I made sure to note where I had come from and headed up to the top of the peak.
I was right about the view. It was sensational. I took it in for a few minutes and then headed back as the sun was starting to get intense. I easily found my slot canyon and in no time I was back to the Toyota.
Mecca Hills driving directions:
Take the R/86 S. Expressway (toward Brawley)
Turn L Ave. 62
Johnson St. Turn R
Turn L 66th Ave. (Box Canyon Rd.)
5 Miles (cross over All-American canal)
Green sign on your right (Painted Canyon)
Turn left (4 /2 miles, very bumpy/sand & dirt road, approx. 25 minutes, should be a good ride in your SUV rental.
Park at “End of maintained road” on right
Mecca Hills hiking tips:
- It is cooler in the canyon, but it is still a desert, so make sure you bring plenty of water
- Make sure you mark where you have come from if you are unfamiliar with the area. I was constantly looking back and noting landmarks to make sure I would recognize the way back
- Do not overextend the hike too far. I spotted the top of my hill and then turned around. The way many people get lost is they see a place they want to see and then after that they see another and continue forward and then cannot remember the way back.
- Hike in the morning or in the evening
- The Mecca Hills Wilderness area is a flood zone. Be wary of flash floods if you are camping in the area and it begins to rain hard.
This trip to Palm Springs for the Stagecoach Music Festival was sponsored by Toyota, but the thoughts, pictures, and tips regarding the Mecca Hills are purely my own.
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