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Mt. Charleston Loop & Area - Summary Page

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This page last updated on 06/21/2017
(Fig. 01)

Destination: Mt. Charleston Scenic Loop
Distance from Point of Origin: 34 miles to the beginning of SR-156 (Lee Canyon Rd), then about another 18 miles to the Bristlecone Trail near the end. From here to the Mt Charleston Village and back to US-95 is about another 23 miles.
Estimated (One Way) Travel Time: 1.5 hours.
Directions: From the Stratosphere Casino head northeast on Las Vegas Blvd about 3 miles and turn left onto US-93/95, keeping on the left for 95 North towards Reno. Following US-95 North towards the Mt. Charleston area, drive 34 miles, past the turn to Mt. Charleston (SR-157 Kyle Canyon Rd.), and continue on the freeway about 15 more miles until you come to SR-156 (Lee Canyon Rd). Turn west (left) onto SR-156 (Lee Canyon Rd). Continue the scenic loop by backtracking to SR-158 (Deer Creek Rd) and heading south. The highway soon crosses a pass at 8400 feet, the highest point of the drive. A few miles below the pass, SR-158 ends at the junction with SR-157 (Kyle Canyon Rd). Turn right to head to Mt Charleston Village at the top of the mountain. Head back down the mountain on SR-157 to US-95 to return to Las Vegas.

General Description: This route was designated as a Nevada State Scenic Byway in 1998. Travel along this 41-plus mile byway will take you past the thick sagebrush of the desert floor, into rugged mountains containing a mixture of trees including Joshua, PiƱon, Ponderosa Pine, Juniper, White Fir and some beautiful Bristlecone Pine, the oldest living tree on the planet. Lee Canyon Road is the northern access to the Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort and the tallest point in southern Nevada. 
Special Attraction or Points of Interest: There are so many beautiful areas and viewpoints along this stretch of roads that it is nearly impossible to pick out any single one as being special. Probably the one spot providing the largest panoramic view is Desert Viewpoint on SR-158. Two more popular stops, both requiring some hiking to reach, are Robber’s Roost Cave and Mary Jane Falls. (view the list of most popular hikes below) Golden eagles, owls, hawks, foxes, deer and wild horses occasionally can be spotted in the spectacular scenery. Mt. Charleston also hosts at least 25 species of animals and plants that cannot be found be found anywhere else in the world. Perhaps you’ll be lucky enough to see a Mt. Charleston Blue Butterfly. 
Primary Activity: Hiking.
Secondary Activities: Photographing, Birding and Rock-hounding.

Elevation: Once you turn off US-95 onto SR-156 towards Lee Canyon at around 2,831 feet, you will begin a climb that will end at over 10,000 feet when you reach the Mt. Charleston Village. The elevation of the Bristlecone Trail is 8,908 feet. The Desert Viewpoint is around 8,250 feet. Robbers Roost Trailhead is 8,017 feet and the Mt. Charleston Village is 10,426 feet.
Best Time To Visit: Though these elevations are on average, 20-degrees cooler than Las Vegas and available for visitation and hiking year round, the best time to make hikes would be from June to October, with the cooler months of the spring and fall being the most favorable. The winter months bring enough snow to close most of the hiking trails.
Difficulty: Easy to Difficult. It depends upon the area and trail chosen. Many are well marked and cleared, though some, especially in the early spring months, may be covered with downed trees. Obviously the further in and higher up you transverse, the more difficult it will become. 
Facilities: For the most part there are no facilities except those that can be found at the Mt. Charleston viewpoint and the village at the top.
Estimated Round-trip Time: Depending upon hiking and one should plan to spend the entire day.
                         
EP-Spring Mountain National Recreation Area - -1
(Fig. 02)


Page Update Notes: It seems like I am always going back and redesigning previous pages based upon new findings, hikes, etc. Because of the newly built Spring Mountains Visitor Gateway center (Fig. 03), I decided to re-title this page from the Mount Charleston Scenic Loop to the Mount Charleston Loop & Area - Summary Page. I then added the trail map in (Fig. 02) above to show the locations of all the trails in the area, including five new trails behind the visitor center. The visitor center is located at the red  (You are here) bar on the map. I then added a link (see below) to a new page showing and describing the new visitor center.

10/01/2015 Trip Notes: Today Blake Smith and I headed to Mt Charleston for some “cooler” hiking. When we got there it was only 48 degrees. We decided to drive back to the Resort at Mt Charleston for breakfast before starting hiking. The first place we landed was at Deer Spring Creek Picnic Area, one of the stops along Deer Spring Road. By the time we got there it was beautiful in the mid-60’s. Here is a link to the page on this hike … Deer Creek Picnic Area. After hiking this area we went on to Long Lee Meadow near the upper end of Lee Canyon Road. My the time we go there the temperatures were in the 70's, much warmer than I first stop earlier in the morning. Click this link to see pictures from this area ... Long Lee Meadows

                                       
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(Fig. 03)
05/14/2015 Trip Notes: At the end of our hike on today’s visit, we stopped at the newly built Spring Mountains Visitor Gateway center (Fig. 03) for lunch. With its location, it is truly a “gateway” to the Spring Mountains Recreation Area. We were all amazed at how much work has been put into this place. It includes landscaped parking lots, an education building that can be rented out for events, two small amphitheaters, an 800 square foot educational building, picnic shelters for family cookouts, a “meadows” area for kids to play; and a “solitude node” for serene contemplation, plus hiking, biking and horseback riding trails. Click here for more pictures and details … Spring Mountains Visitor Gateway.
                              
05/14/2015 Trip Notes: On today’s visit I hiked the Big Falls trail, an offshoot of the Mary Jane Falls Trail. Unfortunately, due to the lack of snow this winter, and the fact that it was just a little too late in the season, we were unable to experience any water coming over the falls.
Big Falls Hike: 7,817 feet to 8,689 feet; 2.8 miles round trip
                            
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(Fig. 04)
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(Fig. 05)
04/03/2014 Trip Notes: – As you can see from (Fig. 04) above, we were confronted with a minor road work delays that were still repairing some of last Falls' erosion's along the lower elevations of Kyle Canyon road. As you can see, the mountain range was blanketed with a recent snow fall. Our first stop was at the Mt. Charleston Lodge and restaurant nestled in the middle of Kyle Canyon's Humboldt Toiyabe National Forest at an elevation of 7,717 feet. The Lodge has 26 log cabins (Fig. 05) and features a large restaurant with an open fireplace in the center of the 200-capacity room with a 20-foot loft ceiling. With a lounge on one end, windows surround three sides of the room. Each cabin and the restaurant, offer outstanding views (Fig. 06) of Mt. Charleston and the surrounding mountains. Unfortunately, because it was still very early in the season, several hiking locations, including Cathedral Rock were still closed. From here we drove down to the Fletcher Canyon Trail (see link below). While the majority of the group hiked this trail, Linda and I hiked along the campground (Figs. 07 & 08) opposite the trailhead. Next we stopped at the newly renovated Desert View Overlook. Not only did this renovation work create a much improved parking area, it extended the previous paved trail by 1,500 feet, offering two additional lookout points. Click the link below to see updates to this page. 
Fletcher Canyon Trail: 6,940 feet to 7,790 feet; 3.6 miles round trip
Desert View Overlook:  8,200 feet; 0.7 miles round trip
                                   
EFP-P1070204-P1070205
(Fig. 06)
EFP-P1070214
(Fig. 07)
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(Fig. 08)


10/08/2013 Trip Notes: Harvey Smith and I decided to go back to this location and hike to Mummy Spring and "Raintree", the oldest Bristlecone Pine in the Spring Mountains. Click here for pictures and a description of this hike ... Raintree & Mummy Spring.

10/03/2013 Trip Notes:As many government facilities were closed due to the "Government Shutdown", we were unable to enter the Desert National Wildlife Range for today's scheduled hike. Knowing that we could still hike some of Mount Charleston's trails, we decided to head up Kyle Canyon Road. Though several areas were closed due to last July's wildfires, including Cathedral Rock, as well as the public bathrooms and visitor center due to the "shutdown", we were still able to find several places to hike. Click these links for pictures and information on the three places we hiked on today's visit to the area: Fletcher Canyon Trail, Robbers' Roost Cave Trail and a portion of the North Loop Trail.
Fletcher Canyon Trail: 6,940 feet to 7,790 feet; 3.6 miles round trip
Robber's Roost Trail: 7,870'-8,050'; 1/2 mile round trip loop trail
North Loop Trail to Mt. Charleston: 8,440'-11,918'; 10.8 mile one-way trail
                     


09/20/2012 Trip Notes: Again, I visited this area with the rock-hounds from the Henderson Heritage Park's Senior Facility. There were so many new hikers we ended up with a larger 24-passenger van. Half the group hiked the Bristlecone Trail and the other half hiked the Robber's Roost Trail and the lower end of the Bristlecone trail. 
Bristlecone Trail: 8,470'-9,380'; 5.2 miles round trip
Robber's Roost Trail: 7,870'-8,050'; 1/2 mile round trip loop trail
                           

07/16/2012 Trip Notes: Harvey Smith and I spent several days camping, hiking and 4-wheeling in the Mt. Charleston Recreation Area. Click here to view pictures of our camping area ... Kyle Canyon Campground. Here are the links to the hikes we took on this trip.
Mary Jane Falls Trail: 7,843' to 8,727'; 3.2 miles round trip
Cathedral Rock Trail: 7,600' to 8,600'; 3 miles round trip
Kyle Canyon Slots Hike: 5,568' to 5,787'; 1 mile round trip
                                 

09/19/2011 Trip Notes:  My wife Connie and I made a took a drive around the Mt. Charleston Scenic Loop, ending up at The Resort at Mt. Charleston for dinner and an overnight stay.  Click here to view pictures and read about our stay ... The Resort at Mt. Charleston.
                           
                                                    

09/08/2011 Trip Notes: Again, I traveled with the rock hounds from the Heritage Park Senior Facility for our second visit to the Mt. Charleston Loop area this year. This time we actually got to hike some of the trails that were closed due to snow during our visit last April. Because this area is best known for its vast number of hiking trails, I've decided to shorten the length of this page by creating a separate page for each of our stops; by hike. Click the trail titles below to view pictures from today's hikes. 
                                           
Bristlecone Trail: 8,470'-9,380'; 5.2 miles round trip
Desert View Overlook:  8,200 feet; 0.3 miles round trip
Deer Creek Picnic Area.: 8,307 feet to 8,450 feet; 3 miles round trip
Fletcher Canyon Trail: 6,940 feet to 7,790 feet; 3.6 miles round trip
Little Falls Trail: 8,223 feet to 8,923 feet; 1.5 miles round trip
                                            
                                                    

04/07/2011 Trip Notes: I hiked at several stops along the Mt. Charleston Loop on a daytrip with the rock-hounds from the Heritage Park Senior Facility. We began the day on the northern portion (route 156) that goes through Lee Canyon and up to the Las Vegas Ski Resort. Though we were privy to numerous scenic views, many of the trails at the higher elevations that we had planned on hiking were still closed due to this winter’s heavy snowfalls. This area is filled with dozens of famous hiking trails. Due to snow conditions, we were somewhat limited on this visit and only attempted a couple; the Bristlecone Trail, Robber’s Roost Trail and the walk out to Desert Viewpoint. Some additional popular hiking trails in this area that I hope to try in the future are:

Bonanza Trail: 7,500'-10,280'; Bonanza Peak - 4 miles 1-way, Lee Canyon - 13.6 miles 1-way
Griffith Peak Trail: 8,400'-10,500'; 10 miles round trip
Mummy Springs Trail: 9,790'-9,890'; 0.3 miles 1-way from junction with North Loop Trail
North & South Loop Trail: 7,640'-11,918'; N. Loop - 9.6 miles 1-way, S. Loop - 6.6 miles 1-way
Sawmill Loop Trail: 7,410'-7,490'; 1.3 miles round trip
Trail Canyon Trail: 7,820'-9,330'; 1.9 miles 1-way

For more info on each individual hike, go to http://www.sangres.com/nevada/national-forests/humboldt-toiyabe/trails/index.htm and scroll to the bottom of the page.
                                         
Mt Charleston Map[10] As you can see from the map on the left, the Mt. Charleston Loop is a 41 plus mile paved drive, encompassing routes 156, 158 and 157, that leads up into the high elevations of the Spring Mountains and Toiyabe National Forest northwest of Las Vegas and includes both the Las Vegas Ski Resort and the Mt. Charleston Village.

Our first stop was the Bristle Cone Trail. The upper trailhead is located at the end of Lee Canyon Road past the ski area at the end of route 156.  At this point, a fenced trail runs up the little ridge above the paved road towards the ski area  (Fig. 09). The fence was built along the start of the upper trailhead in 2007 for the purpose of protecting rare plants and the rare butterfly species that live on the plants. The first group of trees on the right side of the trail includes two large Bristlecone Pines.  At the top of the ridge the trail turns more to the west and starts up a canyon through a mixed forest consisting mostly of Ponderosa Pine, White Fir, and Quaking Aspen. Because the hard-packed snow was to the top of the fence rails in many places, most of the group only hiked a few hundred yards before being forced to return back to our van.
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(Fig. 09)


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(Fig. 10)
We continued our drive by returning to Nevada Highway 158 and heading south. This highway continues to gain elevation and offers a number of excellent views of the valley far below. The highway soon crosses a pass at 8400 feet called Desert Viewpoint, the highest point of the drive, offering the viewscape above (Fig. 10). The people in the collage below (Fig. 11) were some of today's hiking group from the Heritage Park Senior Center
                                
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 (Fig. 11)

E-P1040456 Stitch
(Fig. 12)
A few miles below the pass, Nevada Highway 158 ends at the junction with Nevada Highway 156. From here we turned right and headed up to the Mt. Charleston Village, located at an elevation of 10,426 feet at the top of the mountain in Kyle Canyon's Humboldt Toiyabe National Forest. Surrounded by Juniper, Mountain Mahogany, Aspen, and Ponderosa pine trees, nature is all around you. The picture above (Fig. 12) was taken at the summit looking down into Kyle Canyon.

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Slideshow Description: Adding 31 more pictures from recent hikes, the slideshow above contains 86 pictures that were taken at various stops and hiking destinations along the Mt. Charleston Scenic Loop.