Looking for a holiday day hike? Give Consider Little Box Canyon Trail some thought
Day hikers can explore a box canyon that runs to the eastern edge of the Mecca Hills Wilderness.
The 4.8 miles round trip Little Box Canyon Trail is best done October to April. Summer is far too hot to comfortably, let alone safely, hike it.
To reach the trailhead, take Calif. Hwy. 111 to Mecca. Turn left/northeast onto Fourth Street then at the roundabout go right/southeast onto Hammond Road. After a couple of blocks, head left/east onto 66th Avenue. As the street curves northeast, it naturally becomes Box Canyon Road. Cross the canal. The trailhead is about 6.3 miles from the Painted Canyon Road sign.
Park off the road at the tailhead on the right/east side.
Head east into the canyon. You’re at about 820 feet above sea level.
The trail heads through a narrow canyon with near-vertical 40-foot walls on either side. The elevation gradually ascends the entire way. Grades here often are in the 7 percent range.
Most of those cliff walls were set down between 2.6 million years to 11,700 years ago when water flowing out of higher ground to the east deposited sediment here. The walls mostly are a loose conglomerate rock of sand, pebbles and gravel.
As tectonic action raises the Mecca Hills, the angle at which water can go from high to low points becomes sharper, however. Water then is able to cut through the conglomerate, washing more and more of it away with each rainfall.
Arizona’s Grand Canyon formed in much the way with the Colorado River slicing its way down an uplifted plateau. A box canyon is much narrower than river canyons, as there is less water rushing through. Because of this, the canyon walls often are steeper. Usually, box canyons are open at only one end, which made them a perfect place for cowboys to corral cattle in the Old West.
At 1.7 miles in, a connector trail heads northeast to the Meccacopia Trail. You’re at 997 feet. Stay in the main canyon however, heading southeast.
River and box canyons aren’t the only type of canyons. Another common type is the slot canyon, which forms when flashfloods dig deep through soft rock. Slot canyons are extremely narrow and often feature strange, twisted shapes created when the rushing water splashed against the rock. The Mecca Hills contains several slot canyons, most notably Big Split Rock Slot Canyon.
At 2.4 miles, the canyon widens and ends as you reach the Meccacopia Trail. You’re at 1070 feet.
This marks a good spot to turn back; simply retrace your steps back to your vehicle.
If you have a lot of energy, you can walk a little farther on the Meccacopia Trail. Taking it south for an additional 4.7 miles (9.4 miles round trip) leads to a great vista of the blue Salton Sea.
Be forewarned that off-road vehicles sometimes use this trail.
Do not hike the canyon if rain is falling, forecast for the day, or if it has fallen during the past 48 hours.
- 03-Some-of-the-canyon-walls-are-nearly-vertical-and-reach-40-feet-high.: Rob Bignell
- Little Box Canyon cuts east-west through the Mecca Hills.: Rob Bignell