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Mt. Charleston Wilderness Nevada

The Mt. Charleston Wilderness in Nevada is an inspiring place with invigorating mountain air, ice-cold springs, and huddreds of acres of noble evergreen forests. The rugged mountain scenery extends across the crest of the Spring Mountains and includes towering crags, deep and wide canyons, narrow slot canyons, and steep hillsides. It includes Fletcher Canyon, Robbers Roost, and Mummy and Trough springs. Elevations range from about 6,500 feet on the lowest slopes in the southwest part of the wilderness, to nearly 12,000 feet at the summit of Mt. Charleston, the highest elevation in the Spring Mountains.

Mt. Charleston has 316,000 acres and is part of the Spring Mountains which is part of the Humboldt Toiyabe National Forest. At 7,717 feet elevation, temperatures average 30 degrees cooler than in the Las Vegas valley. Charleston Peak is the highest point in southern Nevada at 11,918 feet making it the third highest peak in Nevada. Joshua trees and yucca cover most of the desert at 2,080 feet. Soon, though, the flora gradually changes to cedar trees, juniper, mountain mahogany, aspen, ponderosa pine, and bristlecone pine forests, and once you have reached the mountain's uppermost region you will be surrounded by an Alpine forest. Wild burros and horses can be found throughout the region, as well as many different types of birds such as humming birds, eagles, and woodpeckers.

picture taking while hiking gravel trail fire road in mt charleston

Mt. Charleston offers you a variety of trails and mountaineering routes to numerous peaks. There are approximately 40 miles of trails with significant elevation changes from trailheads to ridge lines. The Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort located in Lee Canyon and has a total of 13 runs. The resort is open from Thanksgiving through Easter. Mt. Charleston has seven campgrounds with more than 180 campsites, some with RV spaces, and about 160 picnic sites. The first eight pictures were taken while hiking the Cathedral Rock Trail. It goes to an elevation of 8,600 and is three miles long. Cathedral Rock Trail starts in Mazie Canyon among ponderosa and white fir before entering an aspen delight.

Above: Pictures of Jason and me freestyle snowsliding an hour above the waterfalls in Las Vegas.

About halfway up Cathedral Trail, off the trail to the left, is a three-tierd waterfall. These waterfalls were hiding behind a curtain of snow, a remarkable sight. It was a little tricky and slippery getting up to see it but definitely worth it. While there we decided to take a few rides down on our rears. Once you get through canyon and past the saddle you can get a view of the avalanche chute in which the obvious aspen and brush only survive the repeated snow slides.

mt charleston bristlecone pine picture

Above: This picture was taken while hiking the upper portion of Bristlecone Trail.

Above and Below: Pictures of the different types of scenery and trails you will encounter within Mount Charleston Park.

Above: View of Mount Charleston valley from a view point while driving through park roads.

Bristlecone Trail is a six-mile loop. Mountain biking is allowed on this trail so keep an ear out for bikers careening down the trail. The upper trail head is located past the ski area at the end of the Lee Canyon Road. The Upper Trail is the best part of this hike walking along a flowing spring, among fir, aspen, then bristlecone pines. The Lower Trail is an abandoned road that gets a lot of sun. Lee Canyon Ski area can be seen from this trail, as well as Mummy Mountain. Click any picture to see a bigger version.

Jason's thoughts - Great easy hiking. Easy to get to from Vegas. Fun, cool air, lots of trees, and huge panoramic views with snow to play in make this great for kids too. Longer overnight hikes are in the works for us here. If you are looking for wildlife it can be boring as there are very few animals.
Kelly's thoughts - Cathedral Rock Trail was good and rugged but there were quite of few people on the trail. The upper trail of Bristlecone was beautiful and shady, unlike the lower trail which I didn't care for. I prefer a loop rather than an out and back trail because I like to see what's next. Jason laughs at me for this. If it was up to me I would stay out all day just to see what is around the next corner. Our "longer hikes in the works" is a choice between a very large loop or an out and back through some serious wilderness.

picture of a beautiful old pine formed by years on a rocky cliff in nevada

Travel Info - There are two main routes into Mount Charleston, one for cars and one for big rigs. The park is about 35 miles northwest of Las Vegas on US 95. We do not recommend taking RVs up SR 157 due to a long trek up, limited parking, small pull offs and virtually no turn around's. SR 156 heading into Lee Canyon is a lot easier for RVs to maneuver as there are larger size pull offs and big parking lots, and a campground that is easy to get in and out of. There are no gasoline stations or convenience stores on the mountain. The elevation change is big, but gradual and doable. Make sure you have plenty of fuel either way.

The Mt. Charleston Wilderness contains 18,000 acres of bristlecone pine (Pinus longaeva), the most extensive stand of these ancient trees to be found in the intermountain ecoregion. These trees are valued for their aesthetic and scientific purposes and are among the oldest living organisms in the world. In lower elevations, extensive forests of ponderosa pine and white fir provide habitat for the Palmer's chipmunk, a species that only occurs in the Spring Mountains. There are acres of Pinion-Juniper Woodland bright with 15 endemic mountain flowers such as the Charleston Mountain angelica (Angelica scabrida) and booming with wildlife.

About 40 miles of trails cross this area, traversing significant elevation from trailheads to ridge lines. From this back-country, vistas can be seen across the mountains and valleys in the area that seem to reach to the edge of the world. The Mt. Charleston Wilderness was originally part of an area known as the Charleston Forest Reserve.


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