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If you�re out of luck on �The Strip�, give Mt. Charleston a gamble. You�ll have better odds and the reward is greater than any monetary value. I was extremely impressed with this peak. Although my expectations were low, the trail wowed me with cliffs, forests, meadows and the barren summit area. I just wasn�t expecting something so nice so far south. There are two trails to the summit, I took the south trail as it was the quickest and my family would be waiting for me at the hotel. A pre-dawn start did the trick.
Mt. Charleston Access:
Distance: 8+ miles (South Loop Trail)
Elevation Gain: 4,300 feet
Summit Elevation: 11,918
Access rating: Level 1
Mt. Charleston Route:
Take US-95 north out of Los Vegas. Stay on the freeway to just outside the city where you will be looking for a left turn on State Route 157, marked �Mt. Charleston.� This road climbs 5,000 feet past homes and 2 small towns. After Old Town, the highway makes a sharp turn to the left. Continue about a half mile until you see a parking area on the right and just a bit further will be the Cathedral Rock Picnic area on the right. I parked in the parking lot before the picnic area. A trail does leaves here but it isn�t the one you want. You�ll need to walk the road, enter the picnic area and find the real trailhead. If park outside, you'll also avoid the $5 fee as well as the chance you get locked behind the gate that evening.
The Forest Service trail description says, "South Loop Trail makes a steep ascent out of the picnic area as it winds toward Echo Canyon. It soon passes through an avalanche chute of quaking aspen. This is a brilliant place in the autumn when the aspen leaves turn orange and gold. The trail continues a steep ascent up Echo Canyon. After a mile it begins climbing numerous switch-backs leading out of the canyon and up to the southern ridge. There are many spectacular views of Kyle Canyon along the way. To reach the ridge, one must hike 4 miles and make a 3000' ascent. The next two miles is relatively easy as the path travels through meadows of grasses and flowers. There are many scenic views of Lake Mead, Las Vegas, Pahrump, and Kyle Canyon. Ancient bristlecone pines are the only trees that grow at this altitude. Several excellent campsites are located along this section of the trail. After six miles, the trail begins to gain altitude once more. As it climbs closer to the timberline, the vegetation becomes more sparse as the trees become twisted dwarfs. After 7-1/2 miles, the trail makes a steep ascent toward the peak. Fierce cold winds whip across the barren rock. At the top of Mount Charleston Peak is the most awe-inspiring view. One can see nearly 300 miles in each direction on a clear day."
The north loop trail goes over this bad boy
Trail entering Echo Canyon
Some of the cliffs
More of the cliffs you hike below
View of summit once you hit the ridgeline
Looking west from the summit
Views from the summit
The summit register
The final climb
Trail works up and around to the left shoulder
Above tree line but still long way to go
North loop trail in there somewhere
Below: Map for lower section of the trail