The Spring Mountains provide a forested, spring-fed oasis in the Mojave Desert of southern Nevada. The mountains offer a haven for wildlife, a cool retreat for visitors to get away from the valley heat, and a vital watershed fed by numerous springs. Charleston Peak is the crown jewel of the mountain range. Rising to 11,918 feet, the peak is the third highest in the state and the only peak in southern Nevada that rises above timberline.
The Spring Mountains are a north-south trending range of varying, but always impressive, scenery. Stretching from where highway 95 leaves the Las Vegas Valley and enters the Amargosa Valley on the north all the way south to where highway 15 runs through the Ivanpah Valley near the California/Nevada border, the range is also bordered on the east by the Las Vegas Valley, and on the west by the Pahrump Valley.
The northern portion of the range primarily consists of high mountains that typically receive a large amount of snow in the winter. With 9 of these peaks being above 10,000 feet, this portion of the range rewards the summer visitor with temperatures considerably cooler than those in the Vegas Valley below. In winter, the high peaks present quite the alpine environment for skiers/snowboards, mountaineers, and even ice climbers (hereís a shot of the Vegas Hose Monster (WI5+).
The middle portion of the range primarily consists of the sandstone bluffs of the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. These bluffs serve as a sort of mecca for rock climbers of all abilities. With beautiful weather all year long, generally good rock, and incredible scenery, the area is very popular.
The southern portion of the range, as well as the lower elevation portions found elsewhere in the range, primarily consists of desert mountains dominated by yucca and cacti. More rugged than one might guess, these peaks are seldom visited.
Even spelunkers can find enjoyment in the Spring Mountains, as the range also hosts a number of fine caves.
Big Falls/Mary Jane Falls
On State Route 157, travel 2 miles west of Kyle Guard Station to where the highway sharply bends at the junction with Echo Road. Turn right onto Echo Road and travel 1/3 mile. At the fork in the road, proceed left onto the secondary road. Continue on this road 1/3 mile, until it ends at the parking lot for Mary Jane Falls and Trail Canyon trailheads. Mary Jane Falls is a good trail for the visitor who wants an escape from the casinos and from the desert floor - it is a short hike and the drive up and back is very scenic. Pack a lunch to enjoy at Mary Jane Falls, but don't expect heavy water flow over the falls unless it is early spring. This is a short but very strenuous hike utilizing switchbacks and stone steps on a very well-marked and heavily used trail. There is a nice size cave along the N cliff, to the left of the falls on the left; with an easy to follow path leading to the mouth of the cave. From the base of the falls you can see Big Falls to the WSW, and Charleston Peak in the background.
Bonanza Peak Trail
30 Miles RT
There are two trailheads: the Upper Bristlecone Trailhead or Lower Bristlecone Trailhead in Lee Canyon, and the Bonanza Trailhead above Cold Creek. To get to Upper Bristlecone Trailhead, head out to the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area and drive to the end of Lee Canyon Road. For the Bonanza Trailhead, head out to the end of Cold Creek Road.
The trail runs along the crest of the Spring Mountains, connecting the Bristlecone Trail with the Bonanza Peak Trail. Starting at either end, the trail runs west to the crest of the mountains, follows the crest, passes west of McFarland Peak, and then picks up the crest again before dropping eastward to the other trailhead. From the crest, there are spectacular views north and south along the Spring Mountains crest, and view east and west of the deserts and mountain ranges in the distance. This one-way hike requires shuttling vehicles or making other arrangements at the two trailheads. Water is available at Wood Spring (southwest of Bonanza Peak) during the spring and early summer, otherwise the trail is dry.
Drive north out of Las Vegas on route 95 for approx. 30-40 minutes. You'll start to see signs for Mt. Charleston. Past it is another turn off to the left that is for Lee Canyon ski resort. Turn left here. A long steady climb up to the base of the mountain (I'm guessing about 15 miles from where you turned off highway 95) The terrain will change from dusty desert to pine trees & cool weather. As you near the ski resort area, just before a sharp left hand turn and a picnic area straight ahead there is a big pull out on your left in front of a big red house/building. Directly across the street from this house is a dirt road which is the start of the Loop. Turn right on this dirt road and in front of you will be a metal gate. There's a parking area to the right of the gate.
Head up the dirt road. The first three miles are a steady climb then the trail makes one last 20-30 yard climb then becomes single track for the trip down a 3 mile descent back to the car. When you hit the paved road, follow it back to the area you parked. This area is a very popular get away from Vegas because it's usually 15-20 degrees cooler on any day.
This hike is located in Kyle Canyon up in the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, about 1 hour northwest of Las Vegas. From town, drive out to the Spring Mountains Visitor Center, then continue up the road to the Cathedral Rock Trailhead. This is a moderately strenuous, 1.5-mile hike to the top of Cathedral Rock, a rocky promontory with great views overlooking Kyle Canyon. Much of the trail follows an old road up an avalanche chute along the east side of Cathedral Rock to a saddle behind the summit. From there, the trail climbs a few short switchbacks to the summit overlook. Views from the top are spectacular: you can see straight down to the trailhead and the lodge, and you can see off to the other peaks in the area.
Echo Trail runs for about 1.2 miles between Echo Trailhead and Cathedral Rock Trailhead. The west half of the trail mostly runs on old roads, with some steep bits, and the east half runs on a regular trail. The trail provides some nice views to the north across Kyle Canyon, and it runs across the bottom of an avalanche chute strewn with the remains of a forest that once was higher up the hillside. This trail also provides access to the Little Falls Trail.
Desert View Overlook Trail
The trailhead is located on Deer Creek Road between Kyle and Lee Canyons. This is a short, nearly level, paved trail that leads from the parking area to an overlook with grand views of the desert and mountains to the north and east. Historically, people came here to watch atomic bomb blasts on the Nevada Test Site, and is still is a good place to watch the U.S. Air Force maneuver jets, bombing, and firing rockets on the Nellis Bombing Range.
This hike is located in Kyle Canyon up in the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, about 45 minutes northwest of Las Vegas. From town, drive out Highway 95 to Kyle Canyon Road, then turn left and continue up Kyle Canyon Road to the Fletcher Canyon Trailhead. This trail is a pleasant, 1.8-mile hike. The trail generally runs at a moderately strenuous grade up the canyon to a spring, then runs steeply into a deep, narrow canyon with walls that are a few feet apart and about 200 feet high. The trail ends at a fork in the canyon where water has carved an interesting chute across the top of a boulder. Above the fork, water-polished boulders and pour-overs block both canyons, but both forks can be climbed to the forested slopes above (the left fork is easier). The entire hike runs through a deep, heavily forested canyon that is surrounded by towering limestone cliffs. Water flows seasonally. This trail runs up into the Mt. Charleston Wilderness Area.
From Las Vegas, take highway 95 (north) to the Kyle Canyon turn-off (highway 157). Turn left (northwest) and follow the road for maybe 10-12 miles into the small community of Mt. Charleston. En route, you will pass through the desert scrub lands of the lower part of Kyle Canyon, into the Joshua tree lands of the middle section, then into the pinon/juniper woodlands of the upper middle portion, and ultimately to the ponderosa forests of the upper canyon. Once into the community, you will pass the Kyle Canyon Ranger Station on the left, some homes, a school, a library, and then further, a fire station on the right. Just past the fire station, where the main road starts to bend to the left, a smaller road branches off straight ahead. Follow the smaller road. From there, travel another half mile or so as the road bends to the right, and just before it bends again at a sharp right in the road and starts ascending steeply, you will see a USFS sign and some parking spaces on the left. Park there. This is the Trail Canyon trailhead. Trail Canyon will ultimately lead you to a junction with the North Loop Trail.
Kyle Canyon to Deer Creek Road (highway 158): Follow the directions above to access Kyle Canyon. About a mile before the ranger station, you will come to Deer Creek Road heading off and upward to the right (east/northeast). Follow the road for a few miles as it winds up and around the lower flanks of Fletcher Peak. Along the way, you will pass a couple of turn-outs with cool things to check out, but ultimately you are looking for a turn-out on the left just past the signed Hilltop Campground, which is on the right. If you look carefully, just to the north of the turn-out, you will see a sign marking the trailhead for the North.
This hike is located in Kyle Canyon up in the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, about 1 hour northwest of Las Vegas. From town, drive out to the Spring Mountains Visitor Center, then continue up the road to the Cathedral Rock Trailhead. From the trailhead the trail runs up and left about 200 yards to a fork. At the fork, the Cathedral Rock Trail turns right, while the South Loop Trail continues straight. Past the picnic area, the trail runs steeply up the hillside as it runs generally southeast towards the base of the Echo Cliffs. After about 20-25 minutes, the trail joins an old road which is followed up and across the avalanche chute that comes down from Griffith Peak.
1.6 Miles RT
From the Spring Mountains Visitor Center, continue up the road to the Echo Trailhead. This trail can also be accessed from the Cathedral Rock Trailhead. The Little Falls Trail is a short, 0.3-mile one-way spur trail off the Echo Trail, but it takes at least 0.8 miles, one-way, to get there from the nearest trailhead. From the trailhead, the trail runs southeast through a forest of pine and fir trees to the base of an avalanche chute where many logs have been piled up by the snow. The trail ends in a narrow limestone box-canyon at the base of the Little Falls waterfall where water pours down during the spring and early summer.
6.5 Mile Loop
From town, drive out Highway 160 towards Pahrump. About three miles past Mountain Spring Summit, turn right onto Lovell Canyon Road. Drive north 11 miles to Lovell Summit Road. Turn left and drive 0.4 miles to Lovell Canyon Trailhead. From the trailhead, the trail runs up across the hillside to the northwest at a fair grade. The trail switchbacks up the hillside, then runs out to a low saddle on a ridgeline. Fortunately, this was about the steepest section of the trail. The trail overlooks the Torino Ranch, then continues northward more or less following the contour. At about 1.59 miles out, the trail forks at the beginning of the loop. Continuing to the right, the trail runs north, winding in and out of every little side canyon staying more or less on the contour. The trail runs close to private property, and three signs remind hikers to respect the rights of the land owner. The trail continues north, eventually running down to the edge of Lovell Canyon Wash. The trail turns southwest at a rocky promontory to run up a side wash, passing a trail junction marked with an enormous cairn and a 4x4 post with a paper sign attached. The sign indicates that the Schaefer Spring Trail continues west, but it seems that the trail to the north is the end of the Schaefer Spring "Loop" Trail. Continuing southwest and up the side canyon, the trail quickly reaches another trail junction. The junction is marked with another enormous cairn and another 4x4 post with a paper sign. This sign indicates that the Schaefer Spring Trail turns north, but it seems that the sign should indicate that this is the other end of the Schaefer Spring "Loop" Trail. Heading out on this loop adds about 1.61 miles to the hike. Continuing southwest, the trail climbs onto a low saddle with another trail junction. The main trail continues down to the south (left), while the other trail runs up to the northwest (right) -- another trail for another day! The main trail runs more or less south, staying on the contour while winding in and out of several side canyons. This part of the trail is back in the trees, so there is plenty of shade. The trail eventually winds around to run northeast and reaches the first fork encountered on the way north, closing the loop. The trail then runs south back to the ridge overlooking the ranch and down to the trailhead.
Mt. Charleston Peak via North Loop Trail
16.5 Miles RT
Drive north from Vegas on the 95. Turn left on the 157. Drive for 19 miles, its a very straight road. Continue straight on Echo Rd, when the highway turns sharply left. Follow the road around a curve to the signed trailhead with roadside parking. Kyle Canyon is one of the most splendid spectacles on the planet, especially when viewed panoramically from 11,000 feet. You traverse around Charleston Peak, and most of the trail (at least 9 miles) stays along the ridgeline above 10,800'. You are rewarded with jaw dropping views in all directions including straight down. The trail is relatively flat after you gain the first few miles, and it stays that way especially on the south trail.
Mt. Charleston Peak via South Loop Trail
17 Miles RT
Turn right (north) onto I-15 from Sahara. Take I-15 two miles to US 95. Take US 95 north 14 miles to State Route 157. Go left on 157, drive 21 miles, and turn right into Cathedral Rock Picnic Area. The signed trailhead is located one-tenth of a mile past the fee booth on the right (west) side of the road. The entrance fee is $6 per car. Parking is available across from the trailhead; however, it may be full on weekends. If the parking areas are full, closed, or you donít want to pay to park, parking is also available just before entering the picnic area on the right (west) side of the road. It is a quarter-of-a-mile walk to the trailhead from the entrance of Cathedral Rock Picnic Area.
The hike takes you to the highest point in southern Nevada. Youíre almost 10,000 feet above Las Vegas. Once you reach the meadows, the hiking becomes easy. The last half-mile is very strenuous, but the views from the peak make it all worthwhile. The South Loop Trail climbs the steep slope to the ridge. It then heads west through the Meadows and into a forest. Near the treeline, the wind has reduced bristlecone trees to dwarf size. Once above the treeline, the trail traverses to the final push to the peak.
6 Miles RT
The trailhead is located on Deer Creek Road between Kyle and Lee Canyons, about 1 hour northwest of Las Vegas. From the trailhead follow the clearly marked and well-maintained North Loop Trail west into the forest. About 1.4 miles out, the trail crosses the Viewpoint, an open, flat ridgetop with good views of Las Vegas and other points east and south. The trail then switchbacks steeply up to the Highpoint on the ridge east of Mummy Mountain. The North Loop trail then runs west along Highpoint Ridge to the Raintree, the 3,000-year-old bristlecone pine that stands over the intersection of the North Loop and Mummy Spring trails. From the Raintree, the Mummy Spring trail runs northwest, drops off the ridge, and traverses the east-facing slopes beneath the Mummy's feet and ankles. Most of the way out to the spring, the trail crosses over a ridge. Just down the ridge, a sheltered campsite hugs the ridgetop. In total, the trail passes through a dense forest of bristlecone pines for 0.3 miles to a wide gully. The gully is swept by avalanches during winter, so only quaking aspen, shrubs, and grasses grow in the gully. A spur trail runs steeply up the south side of the avalanche chute to the spring. Mummy Spring is located above a band of limestone cliffs about 50 feet up the gully. Water emerges from the ground, trickles down the rocks, and falls over the cliff as a gentle shower. To get back to the trailhead, retrace your steps to Highway 158. If you've made prior arrangements to shuttle vehicles, you can continue west on the North Loop Trail to the Trail Canyon Trail, and head down Trail Canyon to the trailhead in the bottom of Kyle Canyon.
.7 Mile Loop
The trailhead is located on Deer Creek Road between Kyle and Lee Canyons, about 1 hour northwest of Las Vegas. From the trailhead walk across the road, pass the trailhead sign, and hike westward on a clearly marked trail through the forest. The trail crosses the old original road before starting up the canyon. As the canyon narrows, the trail steepens, but stone and concrete steps ease the way. On the way up, notice that a trail cuts off to the south (left) at the beginning of the second set of stone and concrete steps; this trail is the end of the loop. Continue up the stone steps to the caves, which are only about 5 minutes from the trailhead. The trail leads directly to a large cave in the north (right) wall of the canyon; there is a smaller cave in the south (left) wall. After investigating the large cave, continue up the canyon for a minute or two. The canyon narrows and pinches off at a pour-over that blocks further progress. The canyon is only a few feet wide at this point. On the way down, stay on the south (right) side of the canyon and pick up the trail that heads east across the slope and towards the smaller cave. After that cave, the trail continues eastward, makes one big switchback, drops into the bottom of the canyon, and rejoins the main trail to close the loop. From there, retrace you footprints down the canyon and back to the trailhead.
1.3 Mile Loop
Using Lee Canyon Road, from town, drive north on Highway 95 to Lee Canyon Road. Turn left onto Lee Canyon Road and drive southwest for 12.9 miles to Sawmill Trailhead Access Road. Watch for signs along the highway. Turn right and drive northwest into the trailhead area. Using Kyle Canyon Road, from town, drive north on Highway 95 to Kyle Canyon Road. Turn left onto Kyle Canyon Road and drive southwest for 17.1 miles to Deer Creek Road, which is just past the Mt. Charleston Resort. Turn right onto Deer Creek Road and drive north to a T-intersection with Lee Canyon Road. Turn right onto Lee Canyon Road and drive northeast for 1.2 miles to Sawmill Trailhead Access Road. Watch for signs along the highway. Turn left and drive northwest into the trailhead area. In the trailhead area, stay left to the south trailhead parking or right to the north trailhead parking. Sawmill Trailhead provides access to several new USFS trails, including Sawmill Loop, Mud Springs Loop, Pinyon Pine Loop, Blue Tree Loop, Rocky Gorge Loop, and Deer Creek - Catch Pen Loop.
Spring Mountains National Recreation Area