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Tims Ladder Trail

Tim’s Ladder Trail

In This Guide
  • Video and Turn-by-Turn Directions
  • Where to Park for Tim’s Ladder Trail
  • Insider Tips & Recommendations for the Hike
Total Distance (?)6 miles (9.7 km)
Other Options 2.5 miles to First Monument
Hike Time3-4 Hours (Total)
Difficulty (?)Moderate
Total Ascent (?)2,100 feet (640m)
Highest Elevation3,100 feet (945m)
Fees & PermitsFree
Dogs AllowedLeashed
Alerts & Closures (?)Coachella Valley Mountains Conservancy
Park Phone760-776-5026
Weather & ForecastLatest Conditions
Stay SafeCopy this webpage link to the clipobard and share with a friend before you hike. Let them know when to expect you back.
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A local’s favorite, the Tim’s Ladder Trail offers a rugged adventure into the hills of the northern Coachella Valley. Along the way, you’ll encounter a monument built by a local artisan. Then, you’ll enter the Joshua Tree National Park backcountry and finish with a panoramic viewpoint overlooking the Little San Bernardino Mountains. And 2000 feet of climbing in under 3 miles means that you’ll earn the views.

Where is Tim’s Ladder Trail?

There’s no official trailhead for the hike, but parking and starting the hike are easy enough. If you can enter latitude and longitude into your driving GPS, use this trailheads address:
33.904815, -116.362112

Otherwise, navigate to Sky Valley Resort, and about 0.2 miles west of the turnoff to the resort on Dillon Road, the hike start will be on the north side of the road. Use this street address:
74711 Dillon Rd, Desert Hot Springs, CA 92241

Tims Ladder Parking Map
Parking is on the roadside, before the turnoff to the resort.
Tims Ladder Trail Directions 3
There’s a wide shoulder where you can park alongside the road.
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And there’s a gate that marks the start of the hike.

Gear For the Hike

This is a rugged hike in the desert. In the summer and when temperatures are high, doing Tim’s Ladder is not an option and can be deadly. When temperatures are safe, I bring about 2L of water and sun protection. Trekking poles are also a must on some of the steep slopes. Lastly, having a GPS with this trail’s GPX track loaded will be helpful. The trails are unofficial use trails, and are generally easy to follow, but having access to the GPX track will resolve any confusion.

Garmin Inreach Mini 2

Garmin InReach Mini 2
I’m a firm believer in carrying a satellite communications device which works where cell phones don’t. I use a Garmin InReach which lets me send text messages back and forth to my family to let them know that I’m okay or if my plans change when I’m out in the backcountry. It also has an SOS subscription built-in so that you can reach first-responders in an emergency. The devices also offer weather reports, GPS, and navigation functionality (what’s the difference between a GPS and satellite communicator?). For a few hundred bucks they could save your life, so for me it’s a no brainer to have something like a Garmin InReach. If you use a smartphone to navigate and want a more affordable option that integrates with your phone easily, check out the ZOLEO.

Latest Prices: Amazon | REI

Lone Peak 6 Yellow

Altra Lone Peak 6
For most people, the Altra Lone Peak is a solid choice that will leave your feet feeling great at the end of any hike. The feel is cushy and light, and if it had a car equivalent, this would be a Cadillac or Mercedes Sedan. The grip is great and they’re reasonably durable for this type of trail runner, which I think is better in most conditions than a hiking boot, and here’s why. The downside of this shoe is that it won’t last as long as something like the Moab 2 (see alternate footwear choices at the bottom of my gear page). I’ve been using mine for many miles and my feet always feel great. I have a video on the details of the Altra Lone Peak 6 here.

Women’s Latest Prices: REI | Amazon 
Men’s Latest Prices: REI | Amazon 

Black Diamond Ergo Poles 2

Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles
I’ve gone back and forth on trekking poles, but I think for most people they are a good investment. They help you dig in on the uphills, provide stability on loose downhills, act as a brace when crossing streams, and can probably poke away aggressive wildlife in a pinch. The Trail Ergo Cork poles are a good balance of light weight, durability, affordability, and ease of use. If you want something ultralight and a little more pricey, I’ve had great luck with the Black Diamond Z Poles too.

Trail Ergo Poles: REI | Amazon 
Z-Poles: REI | Amazon 

Gregory Zulu 30

Gregory Zulu 30 & Jade 28
After testing quite a few backpacks, the Gregory Zulu 30 (and Jade 28 for women) is, for most hikers, the best all-season day-pack. First off, it’s very comfortable, and the mesh “trampoline” back keeps your back dry. Its 30L capacity is enough for all the essentials and plenty of layers for winter hiking. External pockets make it easy to grab gear. It’s hard to find something wrong with the pack; if anything, it could be a bit lighter, but overall, it’s not heavy. And its price-point makes it not only affordable but generally a great value.

Women’s Latest Prices: REIAmazon 
Men’s Latest Prices: REIAmazon 

Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated May 2022.

My May 2022 Top Gear Picks

No company pays me to promote or push a product, all the gear you see here is gear I use and recommend. If you click an a link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps keep the website ad and promotion free. There is no cost to you.

Tim’s Ladder Trail Maps

Click Here To View

Explore Map on CalTopoView a Printable PDF Hike MapDownload the Hike GPX File

If you try to download the GPX file and your browser adds a “.txt” or “.xml” extension to it, simply rename it as a “.gpx” file.

Gaiagps

How Are You Going to Navigate This Hike?
Here’s what I use. If you are a hardcore hiker and/or hike in extreme conditions, I recommend getting a dedicated GPS like a GPSMAP 66sr or 66i, or a wrist-based GPS with maps like the Garmin Fenix 7 or Epix. If you only hike in fair weather and a touchscreen is fine, or just want a solid tool, I highly recommend downloading the smartphone app, Gaia GPS. It’s a piece of cake to use and very powerful, just make sure your phone is in airplane mode so the battery doesn’t drain. You can also check for wildfires, weather, snow, and choose from dozens of map types with a premium membership (HikingGuy readers get a big discount here). Note that I also carry a paper map with me in case the phone dies or gets smashed.

To access this guide when out of cell phone range on the trail, simply save the webpage on your phone ( iPhoneAndroid ).

Elevation Profile

Tims Ladder Elevation
Even though it’s not a long hike, it’s a steep one. You’ll climb about 2000 feet in 2.5 miles.

Landmarks on the Hike

LandmarkDistanceElevation
Trailhead01090
Monument1.12020
Witness Post1.62460
Joshua Tree22750
Viewpoint2.63100

3D Map

Tims Ladder 3d Map
We’re going to climb straight up and into the foothills. I have an alternative loop that’s longer but not as steep on the way back.

Hike Brief

Tims Ladder Tim
Meet Tim, of Tim’s Ladder! Tim and his wife Pam started Sky Valley Resort, which is across the street from the trail. They’re both avid hikers and are on these trails often. Sky Valley offers vacation rentals and the Farm Fresh market, which sells local eggs and baked goods with an Austrian flair (the owners are Austrian transplants).

Tim’s Ladder Hike Directions

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Video Directions

Turn by Turn Directions

Tims Ladder Trail Directions 6
Hop over the gate and start walking straight down the sandy road.
Tims Ladder Trail Directions 7
Follow the road straight. There are a ton of other roads and tracks coming in and out of this one, but just go straight back toward the mountain.
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Off to your left is San Gorgonio.
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And behind you to the left is San Jacinto.
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When you get close to the mountain, at about 0.3 miles, bear off to the left on the diagonal road.
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If you look up from here, you’ll see the monument in the distance.
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When you approach the hillside, look for the path climbing up to the right.
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There’s usually stones marking the path to the start as well.
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And now you start the climb. The trail is small, but it’s there.
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At about 0.4 miles in, you gain the ridge. Hike left and follow the trail up along the ridge. You’re pretty much going uphill all the way to the monument from here.
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Keep looking ahead to find the path of the trail. If it goes downhill, it’s not the right trail.
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There are a few random marks and cairns along the way.
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When you get to the first flat(ish) section, the trail continues up to the left.
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You’ll see the monument again as you get higher up.
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Then you reach a flat area of dark rock. There are two trails to the monument, the shortest is the one on the right.
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There’s some rock art at the flat area.
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Just after a mile or so you’ll reach the monument.
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This is the monument, built by Din Kossova.
Tims Ladder Trail Directions 25
There’s a few areas of rock art and plaques around the monument.
Tims Ladder Trail Directions 24
You’ve climbed about 1000 feet from the start of the hike.
Tims Ladder Trail Directions 26
Continue uphill from behind the monument. We’re heading left. On the way back (later in the guide), we’ll descend on the trails to the left here.
Tims Ladder Trail Directions 27
We’re heading straight, up the hill, and then up the sandy ridge to the left.
Tims Ladder Trail Directions 28
In some places the trail is very well marked, others it’s less well marked but still there.
Tims Ladder Trail Directions 29
If you look back as you climb, you’ll see Toro Peak, the highest point in the Santa Rosa Mountains.
Tims Ladder Trail Directions 30
Keep straight at the flat section, avoiding the viewpoint trail to the right.
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And you gain a crest, with the next (small pointy) peak in the distance.
Tims Ladder Trail Directions 32
As you crest the next rise, there’s a flat area near the top. Off to the left are the remains of a witness post.
Tims Ladder Trail Directions 33
You can still see this witness post referenced on USGS topographic maps as 2513T, although I think the elevation is not that high.
Tims Ladder Trail Directions 34
Crest a ridge just past the witness post.
Tims Ladder Trail Directions 35
Head downhill for a short stretch.
Tims Ladder Trail Directions 36
And then start climbing. There are some cairns to mark the way.
Tims Ladder Trail Directions 37
We’ll be going around on the ridge to the right.
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The end of the climb is sandy and steep.
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And then you get to the pointy peak. There’s a small wooden marker on the rocks to the right, along with some nice views. Otherwise the trail continues to the right.
Tims Ladder Trail Directions 40
Hike uphill from the rock pile.
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You’ll shortly pass the pole, which is the boundary marker for Joshua Tree NP. The Colorado River Aqueduct also runs roughly under this spot. From now on we’re in Joshua Tree NP.
Tims Ladder Trail Directions 42
The trail is not as popular as the early stretch, but it’s still here. Look for cairns and footprints.
Tims Ladder Trail Directions 43
Our final destination is at the top of the hill in the distance.
Tims Ladder Trail Directions 44
After a short downhill, continue up to the right.
Tims Ladder Trail Directions 45
At the top of the small ridge, bear right.
Tims Ladder Trail Directions 46
And then you’re at a flat sandy area. The viewpoint is straight ahead.
Tims Ladder Trail Directions 47
Climb up on the granite to enjoy the panoramic views.
Tims Ladder Trail Directions 48
To the north and east, the many unnamed peaks in the Little San Bernardino Mountain range, and Joshua Tree NP.
Tims Ladder Trail Directions 49
To the southwest, San Jacinto.
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And to the southeast, the Salton Sea.

From here, head back the way you came. When you approach the monument, pick up the directions below to descend on the loop route.

Tims Ladder Trail Directions 52
When you see the monument off to the left, take the trail to the right.
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And then at the junction, go right again.
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Now we have a long, generally gentle descent down toward the wash. The trail back from here is well marked with cairns.
Tims Ladder Trail Directions 55
There’s a steep section but it’s not too long.
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At the bottom of the steep section, make the left.
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And continue down the gradual descent.
Tims Ladder Trail Directions 58
At the y-junction, bear right.
Tims Ladder Trail Directions 59
And soon you’ll be back at the flat section. You can take any of the paths that heads left to rejoin your initial approach path.

This guide last updated on January 11, 2022. Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.

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