Mt. Charleston, with unique biodiversity, offers a breath of fresh air from the city. It’s less than an hour from Las Vegas but feels like a world away. It’s an oasis with ice-cold springs, evergreen wilderness, and revitalizing mountain air in the Spring Mountain National Recreation Area. Mt. Charleston has a sprawling 18,000 acres of bristlecone pine trees covering the lower ridges; one is even known to be almost 3,000 years old.
In the summer, Mt. Charleston provides a much-needed rest from the desert heat. Here are some fast facts to help you plan your visit this season!
Things To Do at Mt. Charleston
Don’t let the name fool you. Mt. Charleston offers a wide range of activities that can suit mountain climbers, avid nature lovers, families, and friends alike.
Hiking, Walking, and Viewing Trails
The area boasts more than 60 miles of maintained trails. Most of these begin above 600 feet in elevation and some end at Charleston Peak at 11,916 feet in elevation. Below are the trails for walkers and hikers on Mt. Charleston:
- Desert View Outlook – A paved trail that is 0.2 miles one way, or 0.4 miles round trip and experiences moderate traffic.
- Mahogany Grove – A short, mostly-paved trail that is 0.1 miles long that weaves through pine groves. It features informational panels on the Civilian Conservation Corps’ work in the Spring Mountains and the remains of the CCC’s first campgrounds.
- Kunav Huveep – The concretized paths make for an easy stroll around the Spring Mountains Visitor Gateway. Enjoy the views of Kyle Canyon as you explore the features and exhibits of the Gateway.
- Acastus Trail – An easy to moderate three-mile trail in the Kyle Canyon area that experiences light traffic. It follows the path of several historic CCC sites, informative panels about the area’s history, and surrounding flora and fauna. The path offers shade and benches for walkers to rest on. It has two starting access points – the Spring Mountains Visitor Gateway, which begins on a gravel path, and the Fletcher View Trailhead, which is paved and has gentle slopes in elevation.
- Eagles Nest – A 2.7-mile looping trail that begins at Fletcher Canyon trailhead, and loops at the Kyle Canyon area. It experiences moderate traffic and is suitable for beginners.
- Bristlecone Loop – A 6.3-mile looping trail within the Lee Canon area. It can be accessed through two points – either the Upper or the Lower Bristlecone trailheads.
- Robber’s Roost – At only 0.4 miles roundtrip, it’s a short trail in the Deer Creek Highway area. It experiences moderate traffic.
- Pack Rat Route – A 1.4-mile looping trail in the Kyle Canyon area that experiences light traffic. The path can be accessed via the Spring Mountains Visitor Gateway and is dotted with benches to rest on.
- Mary Jane Falls – This trail is 1.6 miles one way or 3.2 miles roundtrip. It’s located in the Kyle Canyon area and can be accessed via the Echo parking lot. Pro tip: It experiences heavy traffic, so you can try to avoid the crowds by getting an early start.
- Trail Canyon – Located in the Kyle Canyon area, this is 2.2 miles one way or 4.4 miles roundtrip. It experiences moderate traffic and can be accessed from the Echo parking lot.
- Cathedral Rock Trail – This trail is 2.8 miles long and starts at Mazie Canyon. During summertime, this area is bursting with color as the wildflowers bloom and butterflies flutter about. Halfway up the trail, a short road leads to a waterfall. The trail goes up the back of Cathedral Rock, offering a view of the avalanche chute. It culminates with a view of Kyle Canyon.
- Mt. Charleston National Recreation Trail or South Loop – This is the most difficult trail at Mt. Charleston. It’s an 8.5-mile steep climb starting at Cathedral Rock trailhead and culminates at Charleston Peak.
Whether you’re planning a date for two or a group gathering for 200, Mt. Charleston has picnic sites immersed in the area’s wondrous flora and fauna for an enjoyable outing amidst nature. Their picnic areas are Deer Creek Picnic Area, Upper and Lower Lee Meadows, Foxtail Group Picnic Area, Old Mill Picnic Area, Sawmill Picnic Area, Cathedral Rock Picnic Area, and Kyle Canyon Picnic Area.
Mt. Charleston welcomes expert and aspiring campers alike. They have a range of developed campsites, namely McWilliams Campground, Mahogany Grove Group Campground, Hilltop Campground, and Fletcher View Campground. For experienced campers who love to live in nature, Mt. Charleston allows for dispersed camping in the Spring Mountains for up to 14 days. Dispersed camping requires campers to be fully self-sufficient and abide by Leave No Trace guidelines.
The area has many trails for off-road driving on the west side of the Spring Mountains and trails in Mt. Charleston, such as in Lee Canyon and Kyle Canyon. The pathways fit for OHVs are indicated with signs stating, “Forest Road or “Motorized Trail,” and a 3- to 5-numbered marker. Many of the looping trails also have single tracks that are perfect for biking.
Riders are spoiled for choice in terms of setting, from alpine ridges to winding Joshua Tree forests. Note that the area requires certified weed-free hay, pelletized feed, or grain products. The Forest Service also requests that riders feed livestock weed-free feed at least 48 hours before going to the Spring Mountains.
Referred to as a “sky island,” the Spring Mountains are an oasis in the middle of the Mojave Desert, with more than 25 endemic animal and plant species, trees varying in elevation, and wildflowers springing around the trails.
Things To Know Before Going to Mt. Charleston
Before you head off on your adventure, take note of the following essential information:
Expect increased sun exposure due to the heightened elevation. Avoid dehydration by bringing ample water. Note that even during summer, mountain lightning storms may occur, so be alert and prepare to turn back or seek shelter if necessary.
Ensure to check the local weather forecast and any potential warnings for lightning. Take a jacket, too, as higher elevations can be extremely cold even in mid-summer and can cause hypothermia.
Picnicking and Camping
While smaller picnic areas are on a first-come-first-served basis, picnic areas for large groups and campsites are by reservation. If you opt to have a picnic outside of the developed areas, ensure that you are not on private property and abide by Leave No Trace guidelines.
Doggos are welcome at Mt. Charleston! It’s a pet-friendly place, but owners must keep them on a leash in the developed areas like picnic areas and campgrounds. Owners are also expected to clean up after their pets.
Limited Phone Reception
There’s no reception at Lee Canyon and very limited reception at Kyle Canyon. If you intend to split from a group, inform others about where you’re going and what time you expect to return, and agree on a contingency plan in case you don’t make it back by then. For safety reasons, you must also never hike alone.
Access to Amenities
There’s limited drinking water availability. Drinking water can be found in the Visitor Center, the developed campgrounds, and most of the picnic areas from Memorial Day to Labor Day. If you plan on go on the trails, make sure to bring sufficient water with you. Don’t consume untreated water coming from the springs or streams as these may have bacteria that can cause illnesses. There are also toilets at the Visitor Center, picnic areas, and developed camping sites.
Leave No Trace
Mt. Charleston is home to many historical sites and flora and fauna, so guests have the responsibility of helping preserve its natural beauty. Ensure that trash is properly disposed of or keep it with you until you leave. If you come across any artifacts, leave them undisturbed.
Mt. Charleston is just one of many amazing things you’ll find in Las Vegas. If you’re ready to call the city home, contact The Brendan King Group today.