In the legendary vacation town of Las Vegas, The Strip dominates the conversation. For good reason; it has something for everyone in its miles of concrete, towering neon spires, artificial lakes and streams, and some of the most unique people watching you will find anywhere. In a town where the tourism slogan focuses on keeping secrets, it’s no wonder that the scenic hiking trails surrounding this desert oasis are not widely known to visitors.
A short drive from downtown opens a jackpot of trails that will provide hikers of all skill levels a respite from the constant noise and slot machines. From desert landscapes full of cacti, Joshua trees, and beautiful orange and red sandstone hues to the forested high-alpine slopes of Mt. Charleston, where cool mountain streams cascade over gray and blue limestone cliffs, there is a hiking trail for all seasons and abilities. What happens in Vegas … hopefully includes some beautiful hikes.
Northwest of Las Vegas: Spring Mountains National Recreation Area
Upper and Lower Bristlecone Loop: Located in the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area near the top of Lee Canyon about 40min to one hour drive from downtown Las Vegas. A mix of dirt roads and single-track trail, this 5.7-mile loop takes you through ancient bristlecone pines and is a great summer escape with cooler temperatures and shade along the trail. 931’ of elevation gain along with the distance makes this a moderately difficult summer trail. The McWilliams campground is near the trailhead if you want to spend more time in the area.
Mary Jane Falls Trail: Located in the Mount Charleston Wilderness about one hour’s drive from Las Vegas. Unless there have been recent rains or you go earlier in the spring, the falls are more of a trickle but still beautiful, nonetheless. This 3.9-mile moderately difficult out-and-back trail gains 1,135’ from the trailhead. If you’ve visited the area from sea-level, be aware that the trailhead starts around 7,800’ and tops out close to 9,000’ in elevation so beware of altitude sickness.
Cathedral Rock Trail: Located near the Mount Charleston Restaurant and Lounge in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, this 2.8-mile out-and-back is a popular choice in the summer as the temps can be 20-30° lower than in downtown Las Vegas. Rising through aspens and evergreens, this short but steep moderate hike will gain 1000’, taking you to the summit of Cathedral Rock at 8,603’. There are many campgrounds along the Kyle Canyon Road.