Are you looking for a fun and healthy outdoor activity? Did you know one of the best kept outdoor secrets is the tremendous amount of hiking southern Nevada has to offer? We have year-round hiking in three very diverse areas. These areas, Mt. Charleston, Red Rock Canyon, and Lake Mead National Recreation Area, are just minutes from the Las Vegas Strip. You owe it to yourself and your family to take advantage of this great activity.
Hi, I am Branch Whitney. I am your host of this monthly column. For the last 20 years I have been hiking around southern Nevada and writing about the hikes I and others have discovered in my books and on my Web site. Through these articles I will tell you what equipment you need, which hikes are best for beginners, and let you in on some of the best-kept outdoor secrets in southern Nevada. Let’s get started.
Where to Hike
The southern Nevada’s climate and diversity of terrain provide year round hiking. In the winter months Lake Mead area is our first choice. It’s warmer than the other areas and virtually never sees snow. The hiking features hot springs, narrow canyons, and the Colorado River. What Lake Mead lacks in peaks, it makes up with incredible formations and natural wonders. You need a Lake Mead Pass ($30) or a National Pass ($80) to avoid the entrance fee ($10). Lake Mead is the best place to hike currently.
During spring and fall we head to Red Rock Canyon. It’s a maze of canyons and mountains, ledges and ramps, and chutes and gullies that lead to seldom climbed peaks. It’s only 20 miles west of Las Vegas, but when you’re deep in the heart of Red Rock Canyon you’ll think you’re on another planet. This outdoor playground is waiting to be explored. You need a Red Rock Canyon Pass ($30) or a National Pass ($80) to avoid the entrance fee ($7).
When the summer heat starts bearing down, it’s time to head up to Mt. Charleston. There are a variety of trails and mountaineering routes to numerous peaks. Waterfalls, 3000-year-old bristlecone pines, and fresh air are less than 60 minutes away. There’s no entrance fee to hike in Mt. Charleston.
What to Bring on a Hike
First, determine the difficulty of the hike. You’ll need to bring more items for a 12-mile cross-country hike than a one-mile trail hike. Common sense plays an important part. If you bring too many items, it adds weight and slows you down. For easy hikes (less than four miles, all trail, and little or no elevation gain) bring the following items: water (one quart or more), running shoes or lightweight hiking boots, sunscreen, sunglasses, snack, day pack, and proper clothing. The proper clothing depends on the climate. Southern Nevada temperatures range from near zero in Mt. Charleston to over 110 degrees around Lake Mead.
How do you prevent becoming chilled? Wear layers of clothing. The secret to layering is combining correct clothing in the proper order. When done properly, clothes trap air warmed by your body while it wicks moisture away from your skin.
The first layer (closest to your skin) wicks moisture away from your skin while trapping body heat. Any of the wicking fabrics found under the trade names Thermax or Coolmax work well. They come in different thicknesses. The colder the climate, the thicker the material you need.
The middle layer acts as insulation. Fleece sweats, polypro pullovers, or a long-sleeved flannel shirt are good choices. The middle layer can be more than one garment.
The final layer protects from wind. A windbreaker is fine in Las Vegas, unless you’re hiking in Mt. Charleston during the winter months. I recommend jackets made from GORE-TEX for cold weather hiking. If you become hot, simply peel off layers. If you become cold, add layers. Using this technique you’ll be comfortable in any kind of weather.
In future articles, I’ll write about the best hikes in Red Rock Canyon, Mt. Charleston, and Lake Mead National Recreation Area. I’ll also share some more tips to making your hiking experience fun and safe. From snow-capped mountain peaks, to desert washes southern Nevada is the perfect area for you and your family to share quality time in the great outdoors.
Looking to join an advance hiking group? The 52 Peak Club is your answer.
More information here: http://www.52peakclub.com/
Branch’s bio here: http://www.hikinglasvegas.com/about.html
Branch’s Facebook Hiking Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/HikingLasVegas/