Trails to Trudge: Ladder Canyon

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Ladder Canyon

length: 6.5 miles

terrain: dusty, desert canyon with lots of climbing; ladders and ropes are provided to help you through; fairly difficult

payoff: one of the most challenging hikes I’ve done but also the most rewarding; amazing views from the canyon floor and on top of it

Author’s note: My apologies for the blurry photos. I use my iPhone on these hikes and for whatever reason, I couldn’t get my camera to focus correctly.  I did my best to “edit” through that problem but as you’ll see, it wasn’t always possible.  

Processed with VSCO with e1 presetTrudging through a canyon with rock walls bearing down on you from each side can be slightly jarring.  The air is different down there.  It’s thick and claustrophobic.  Walking through it requires not only careful footwork but also the use of your hands and arms as you feel your way through the rock walls to (hopefully) come out on the other side. Besides the physical aspect, it also requires a mental fortitude that’s different than any other hike I’ve experienced.  You’ve got to push through tight spaces, trust your body and trust that everything is going to be OK…

Processed with VSCO with e1 presetProcessed with VSCO with e1 presetProcessed with VSCO with e1 presetThis particular canyon is unique in that some brave soul came through with ladders and ropes to make the entire process smoother.  Obviously this makes traversing the canyon floor much easier but at the same time, it takes another kind of bravery to trust to such apparatus’. The ladders are slightly creaky but sturdy at the same time.  With the ropes, you need to lean your full weight into it and trust that the knots won’t falter or fray…

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Processed with VSCO with e1 presetThroughout the first half of the hike, you are trudging through a labyrinth of rock walls and tight passageways.  Eventually you climb up out of the canyon and see the sun shining and the desert burning in front of you.  While in the canyon, it’s pretty hot but it’s shady enough that you never become overheated.  Once you are “on top of things,” you can feel that sun beating down you from above.  The trail winds above the canyon for a couple miles and this might be the most difficult portion (especially on a hot day)…

Processed with VSCO with e1 presetThe landscape is relentless and you can’t help but wonder how anything could live out here….Processed with VSCO with e1 presetProcessed with VSCO with e1 presetFinally, the trail leads you back below the surface and back into the canyon…

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The second half goes similarly to the first half.  Ladders, ropes and rock walls seem to pop up every few steps you take and supreme concentration is required as you trudge through the latter half of the canyon.  As we descended from above, the views of the canyon floor below were startling…

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Eventually with scraped up hands, arms and legs; we made our way out of the canyon in one piece.  The walls continue to rise around you as you trudge through the wash back towards the parking area but the claustrophobia is not nearly as prevalent.  Coming out of the canyon gives you a breath of fresh air and a feeling of accomplishment.  Yes, you’re sweating and you might even be bleeding but I can guarantee you will exit with the biggest smile on your face.  I would recommend this hike for anyone seeking adventure but I would also be cautious and wary.  Doing this hike in the summertime like Tyler and I did was certainly not ideal.  We were well provisioned but the heat is a very real threat and one you shouldn’t take lightly.  It’s also difficult in the fact that you must climb up ladders and ropes to get through the thing.  As it’s happening, you don’t think about it much but after going through the pictures and meditating on this hike, I realized I did a lot of things that were out of my comfort zone.  All that being said, don’t let anything deter you from seeking an unforgettable adventure that will leave immensely satisfied at the end of it.

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3 thoughts on “Trails to Trudge: Ladder Canyon

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