Big Falls Hike at Mt. Charleston

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EFP-Big Falls-2
(Fig. 01)
Big Falls Hike-2
(Fig. 02)
Directions: 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 US 95 to Kyle Canyon Road. Turn left onto highway 157 and head west. Drive 20.3 miles to a turn on the right. This turn off is where the the Kyle Canyon Road makes a sharp left turn and almost makes a U-Turn. When you get to this sharp U-Turn like corner, continue straight onto a side road rather than follow the main road to the left. The side road will take you through a small housing area. Drive 0.4 more miles to a dirt road turn off on the left (west) that goes up to the Mary Jane Falls Trailhead. Turn left onto the dirt road and drive 0.3 miles to a huge parking area. This is the trailhead for both Mary Jane Falls and Big Falls.
Hike Description: This is a fairly strenuous, 2.8 R/T hike that runs up Kyle Canyon on the Mary Jane Falls Trail to the base of the Mary Jane switchbacks. From there, the unmarked route drops down into the wash and follows the 0.7 mile boulder and log-strewn Big Falls Canyon that requires scrambling over and around boulders and logs most of the way (Fig. 02). The goal in this area is merely to get into the wash at the bottom of the canyon without giving up more elevation than is necessary. The canyon is deep, forested, and surrounded by beautiful gray limestone cliffs. Staying in the wash, about 1/2 way up the route reaches a 20-foot-high pour-over, which is formed where the wash runs through a narrow slot in the bedrock where a big boulder (Chock stone) is jammed in the top of the slot. To get around this obstacle you must climb up the steep banks on either the left or right side of the wash. There is actually more of a  steep, narrow, rocky use-trail on the east bank. The route follows this use-trail up and around the pour-over and back down into the wash. The trail on the west side is more of a game trail, with a lot of loose rocks that requires some tricky climbing down to get back into the wash, short of the falls. The route continues boulder and log-hopping up the canyon to the base of the tall, gray limestone cliffs and the area of the falls. When there is water is flowing, it is obvious that this is Big Falls.
05/14/2015 Trip Notes: I traveled here with the rock-hounds from the Henderson Senior Facility. Having hiked to Mary Jane Falls twice on previous visits, I decided to hike to Big Falls. Luckily, a fellow hiker, Mary LaMasa, decided to make this hike with me, as I don’t know if I would have completed it alone. Thanks Mary! Though this hike is actually shorter than the hike to Mary Jane Falls, there is no well defined trail (Fig 02), just as steep, and no switchbacks, making the constant scrambling over rocks, boulders and debris seem much more difficult. The elevation from the trailhead at the parking lot (7,817 feet) to the bottom of the falls (8,689 feet) make for a elevation gain of 872 feet over the 1.4 miles. As you can see from (Fig. 01), taken at the parking lot trailhead, the morning looked pretty ominous. I was just hoping there wasn’t going to be any rain, as hiking up this wash is no place to be when it is raining. As it turned out, the rapidly moving cloud cover began to break up, even showing some patches of blue sky. The view in (Fig. 03) was taken from the lower portion of the Mary Jane Falls trail. The snow patches in the very center of this picture is where we were headed. About a third of the way up the wash you can get a view of Mary Jane Falls. (Fig. 04) is a view of Mary with Mary Jane Falls (arrow) in the background. Click here to view my page on Mary Jane Falls … Mary Jane Falls Hike at Mt. Charleston. After nearly an hour of hiking up the rocky, avalanche strewn wash we came to the 20-foot-high pour-over where the big chock stone is jammed into the top of the slot (Fig. 05). Unable to see any well defined trails from the wash, we decided to climb the steep bank on the west side of the wash. This actually proved to be the most difficult route around. Not only was there a lot of loose gravel going up, going down the backside to get back into the wash required some vary careful maneuvering along a precarious rocky ledge. After climbing down the backside of the bank (upper left of (Fig. 06), you are once again confronted with even more logs and debris that have washed over the falls for years. Looking due south up the wash you can now see the 100 foot high limestone cliff (Fig. 07) that the falls runs over when there is water flowing. Scroll down for more …
(Fig. 03)
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(Fig. 05)
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(Fig. 07)
Trip Notes (con’t): Once you climb over the avalanche debris at the top of the wash (Fig. 08), you will find a plunge pool area directly below where the waterfall would be plummeting. Because there was no water flowing on our visit today, it was just filled with debris and some snow that had yet to melt (Fig. 09). After looking up at the 100 foot waterfall cliff, it was easy to imagine how loud it would be when water was actually flowing over it (Fig. 10). All toll, it took us two hours to get to this point. on the way down, we decided to circumvent the blocked pour-over in the wash by hiking along the east side of the wash. We found this to be much easier than hiking the other side. When bouldering down on the return (Fig. 11), one has to be quite careful of footing due to the many slippery rocks in the wash. The good new was, because it was downhill all the way back, it only took us and hour and ten minutes to return to the trailhead. Even though it was a good hike, and we were both happy that we made it, we both agreed it wasn’t anything we wanted to do again. On the way home we stopped at the new visitor center on Kyle Canyon Road - check it out here ... Spring Mountains Visitor Gateway.
(Fig. 08)
(Fig. 09)
(Fig. 10)
(Fig. 11)
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