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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This looks like an awesome area. I never get tired of exploring California. While I’ve traveled from San Diego to the northern California coast, there is still so much of this state that I need to see and hike!
Jeremy Branham recently posted..How a spontaneous trip changed my view of the world
There is more in Southern California than all of Illinois, so I am jealous. You have a lot of amazing places right at your finger tips.
Looks like a great place. Thanks for the directions and tips!
Jason’s Travels recently posted..An Overview of Hotels on Lanai
Amazing how many incredible places there are besides the national parks you always hear about.
I adore this area, as you know, and as it happens, you are giving me many ideas of things to do. Do you think this one can be done Mrs. O style? aka not too much walking, max driving?
@mrsoaroundworld recently posted..Finding paradise in the Maldives
It is definitely worth it just to drive up to the parking lot and back. A ton of beautiful views from the road.
The first mile of the trail that I hiked was flat and sandy, so that could easily be done. Once I got into the slot canyon it got a little more rugged. I think you would enjoy the first part of the hike and just turn around when the trail gets more narrow. I would just start to walk and then turn around when you feel like it. Even if you only walk a quarter mile or so it would be worth the trip.
You are not far from Joshua Tree here, so you can continue north into the National Park and there are a lot of places to drive and get out and look there.
Desert scenery can be so dauntingly beautiful. Love these pics – we always say that we need to explore the desert area in Southern California more but there’s just too many places we haven’t yet explored here in the north. One day though…
jill recently posted..Carving the Cliffside: The Quest For Nicaragua’s Elusive Sculptor
I can imagine. There is a ton of beauty in California and in other nearby states. Hard to see it all.
Mecca Hill sounds like my kind of adventure Ted! Photos are beautiful.
Anita Mac recently posted..Rochester NY Bucket List – there is something for everyone!
For not a national park, it was incredible gorgeous.
I love canyons…and this photo of you at the end…awesome! This looks an awful lot like Namibia…so strange. I hope to get out here one of these days and see it for myself.
The World Wanderer recently posted..Southern Africa’s Specialties.
I remember seeing the Namibia photos and it definitely shares some similarities. I hope you get a chance to check this cool place out someday.
I know Phillip Ferranti – the author of the book 140 Great Hikes in and near Palm Springs so when I was there a few years ago we met up and this is one of the hikes we did – though not the whole thing as he was trying to give me an overview of the area. I do love the stark beauty of that hike.
Leigh recently posted..An Easy Hike in Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver
Interesting that you have been too. I did not do the whole area, but just did an out and back. Would love to do some more exploring there.
ironically your photos look a bit like Leah’s from her time in Jordan. really pretty Ted. i’d hike to get closer to that full moon!!
lola recently posted..Top 5 Islands to Visit When in Greece: Opa!
Yep, you don’t have to go halfway across the world to see cool canyons, just to the other side of the country.
perfect shot of you channeling rocky at the end, ted. looks beautiful!!
thelazytravelers recently posted..#LTGoWithOh bucket list item 3
Getting strong now!
What an awesome day…but man Ted, 5am? That’s even more dedication than us golfers!
D.J. – The World of Deej recently posted..Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando – Check-In Florida
It was a full day although I can’t claim to be that crazy adventurous as a nap at the Westin pool took place later in the day.
I’ve developed a new love for hiking after my trip to Jordan. This place looks awesome.
Leah Travels recently posted..I’m on a Boat: Sailing the Spanish Seas
I was surprised to find out I was not even in the national park. I would love to go back and explore more of the area.