hiking with kids on Ladder Canyon Trail
Recently, I checked another hiking trail off my list (but I will be back many, many times!). Near Mecca, CA you will find a super unique desert landscape full of slot canyons, colorful mineral deposits, precariously balanced ladders and stunning, desert views. You can get a great view of the Salton Sea here which is If you look down, you’ll also find large, bright green and yellow inflated beetles, which kept my kiddos quite preoccupied as we headed up the trail. Hiking with kids is super fun and beneficial – for exercise, fresh air, education and adventure, just make sure you’re packed up good!
The less I have to bring on a hike, the better. I like to enjoy my adventures without feeling too bogged down, so I only bring the essentials. Preparing kids for a long day’s hike starts in the car. To get to Ladder Canyon/Big Painted Canyon, head towards the small desert town of Mecca (near The Salton Sea). From Palm Springs, it’s about a 40 minute drive, a perfect distance to get out of town but not be driving all day. You’ll wind through farm land and orchards and then down unpaved Painted Canyon Road. Note, this road recommends 4WD but you can easily make it in 2WD, it’s just a bit bumpy!
Those 40 minutes are the ideal time to start prepping your kids for their adventure. I encourage lots of water drinking, which I’ve infused with electrolyte powder. You definitely want the kids to be super hydrated BEFORE they hit the trailhead.
The car ride out is also a perfect time to fuel up and pack in some calories. No one wants cranky kids (or husbands) out on the trail because they didn’t get enough carbohydrates and protein before they left. Use this time to fill up little bellies and get them energized for the day. Also, full bellies means less food you have to pack in your bag.
Goldfish are always a hit with the kids so they are an easy go-to snack. In fact, I always keep a box of the lunch packs in the car. You never know when the hanger pains are going to strike. Portable and perfectly portioned, they are great for road trips and also fit nicely in a hiking pack. These Goldfish variety packs are my favorite; they are a real crowd pleaser.
The Painted Canyon area is really great for hikers of assorted abilities. We were not the only ones with our little kids in tow and there were also groups of near-elderly friends climbing around. The Ladder Canyon Trail is 6.5 miles in total, so make sure you bring lots of water and either a back carrier for small children (or just bring your friend who has sturdy shoulders!)
The Ladder Canyon Trail consists of a series of ladders to help hikers climb dry waterfalls, which is unique and SUPER fun, plus they make for great photo opps. It should go without saying, don’t hike here if there is rain in the forecast since flash floods would be a real danger here. I’d also probably avoid hiking here in the middle of summer since it gets super hot when you’re exposed!
The ladders are not secure by any stretch of the imagination, but are in pretty good shape and easy to climb. Both of my kids are excellent climbers and have rock climbing experience, so I didn’t think twice about sending them up. Gabriel was seriously born a mountain goat. They will need a little help at the tops of most ladders, either pushing them up from behind or pulling them from above.
We love to get out and adventure, try new trails and see new sights. For me, it’s really important that my kids learn to appreciate and enjoy nature from an early age. Being outdoors generally means a lot of exercise as well, which is definitely great for kids, especially in this age of electronic obsession.
Another thing about adventuring in nature is that there are so many levels. It is easy to find new ways to push kids physically and mentally in the great outdoors. It’ll push you as a parent too, watching them explore a littler further, a little higher… It’s worth it.
Ladder Canyon Trail is totally doable for those with kids – I would just recommend more than one adult if there are littles (one to go ahead and one to follow behind on ladders). Extra adults also come in handy for the final stretch when little legs are extra tired and they need a ride.
Gabe was so dead tired at the end, not only could he not walk, he could not sit up or even stay awake! There is a great satisfaction that comes from exhausting your kids with exercise. He slept well that night!
Spring hiking is in the air, so get outside and get moving! Don’t forget to bring Goldfish and plenty of water for the ride up and back. For more inspiration to create fabulous family memories, check out Goldfish on Pinterest and Goldfish You Tube!
Check out our next adventure in Indian Canyons with Goldfish snacks at the end!