Las Vegas is a lot more than just sin city. Contrary to popular belief, Vegas can really surprise you with a wide range of activities in and around the area that can put its glamorous casinos to shame. Surrounded by breathtaking Mt. Charleston range, and also the highest mountain in the state of Nevada, there is a whole new world of fun things to do, if you know where to look. Many locals would love the thought of escaping into the wild, just within a drivable distance from their homes. A trip to Spring Mountains Recreational Area can be planned in a heartbeat if you are armed with all the right information.
Mt Charleston is only 42 miles away from the Strip via U.S. Highway 95 north and State Route 157 west. The scenic area popularly known as Mount Charleston is part of Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. Located at an elevation of 7,500-ft, temperatures are at least 20 degrees lower than the city. This place has all the makings to be your quickest escape from the hustle and bustle of your city lives. As soon as you drive into the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, you will be greeted with gentle rolling hills, valleys steeped in green and cool mountain air. Who would have thought that one can get countryside feel and old world charm just outside of Las Vegas?
Mount Charleston is open year-round, giving plenty of adventurous and affordable opportunities to locals to get out there and embrace the outdoors.
Things to do in Mt. Charleston
It doesn’t matter what time of the year you go if you have an outdoor activity in mind Mt Charleston will have an option for you. Here are some top suggestions, depending on the time of year you visit.
– A Scenic Drive: If you are not looking to sweat over the weekend and would just like to blend in with nature, then take a breathtaking drive from Kyle Canyon, via Deer Creek Highway and exit the Lee Canyon for a picturesque route. You will not only experience the diverse landscape but also the spectacular mountains with every bend of the road. If you are lucky, you may also get to observe wildlife in their natural habitat. You can also consider taking the Off Highway Vehicles (OHV) if you are looking to take the off-the-beaten path. Since there are no gas stations in the region, remember to fuel up before you go.
– Hiking Trails: There are plenty of options to hike around the Spring Mountains area. There are easy grade trails for beginners and the more strenuous ones for the avid hikers. No matter which route you take, you are guaranteed to get the most magnificent views from the top. Popular trails include hiking up Fletcher Canyon which is a 4-mile beginner’s hike, gaining only 600-ft in elevation. Another interesting hike is up to Big Falls, the 100ft seasonal waterfalls that involve a bit of bouldering and walking on the snow. If you want to up the ante, go up Fletcher Peak that rises over 10,000-ft in the air and gives you the best views from the summit. The highest summit in Mt Charleston range is its namesake mountain. The trails are well marked and easy to follow.
– Indulge in an Educational Program: There are many fun-filled engaging programs that happen all round the year. These are the best opportunities to teach your little ones a thing or two about the mountains, nature, and wilderness.
– Go Picnic: There are also many picnic sites where the families can spend a day in the open. These designated picnic areas have all the basic amenities such as bathrooms, fire rings, grills, etc. Some picnic sites also allow you to engage in a friendly match of volleyball with friends or other visitors. Most areas remain closed during winter months when it snows heavily. However, Foxtail picnic spot is open in winter.
– Camp in Nature: what good is a mountain region that doesn’t offer camping opportunities? Spring Mountains Recreational Area has fully developed campgrounds that are operational all year round.
– Mountain Bike Riding: take a mountain bike and just peddle through a variety of nature trails that offer stunning views of the mountains. Do note. However, that biking is not allowed in the wilderness. Stick to the trails for your own safety and that of its inhabitants.
– Explore Flora and Fauna: Mt Charleston is a haven for nature lovers. There are so many options to explore the abundant wildlife and wildflowers. Some of the flora species are only found in this region. The hikers can get the best views throughout summer when the wilderness is brimming with rich vegetation.
– Volunteer: Give something back to nature by contributing to its preservation. You can get involved in the care of its ecosystem and make Spring Mountains National Recreational Area just as enthralling for the generations to come.
– Snow Fun: There is a wide range of snow related activities such as skiing and snowshoe hike that can make your weekend trip to the mountains a memorable one. If nothing else, just snowball your friends or make a giant snowman. You can also go for sledding, among other things.
– Rock Climbing: Mount Charleston also attracts a lot of rock climbers who visit Robbers Roost and The Hood Overhang for classic bouldering and climbing action.
Best Time to Visit
If you are planning your trip to the mountainous terrain of Mt Charleston during summers, you will be met by moderate temperatures of up to 70°F. This will instantly put the Vegas locals at ease since they will be arriving from the sweltering dessert area that can soar over 100°F at the peak of summers. This is the best time to visit as the weather is pleasant and enjoyable for outdoor activities. However, in the months of July and August, expect monsoons and closed campsites, for obvious reasons.
For snow fun, winter is naturally the best time as Lee Canyon and other parts of the mountain open up for hiking and as well as other winter activities such as skiing.
Lodging & Dining Options
Lodging options in Mount Charleston area include The Resort on Mount Charleston that comes highly recommended for its rustic style lodging with full service. Guests can enjoy their coffee at The Bistro or fill up on their lip-smacking meals available at the hotel’s restaurant. There is also a provision of dry and wet sauna to relax you after a long day of hiking and other strenuous activities in the mountains. If you are visiting in winters, you can instantly warm up in the hotel’s lavish lobby, complete with a cozy fireplace.
If you want to truly unplug from the outside world and immerse in the luxury of nature surrounded by comforts, then book a cabin at Mount Charleston Lodge. The cabins are well fitted with all the modern amenities but do not provide Wi-Fi facility, which inadvertently becomes a great opportunity for the guests to connect with their partners and the surroundings.
Additionally, there is also a budget friendly option for campers to pitch their tents in one of the five campgrounds. Most of these campgrounds are located in Kyle and Lee canyons that are easily approachable. The amenities include picnic tables, toilets, portable water and also electricity. For people looking for a rawer experience, they can pitch their tents in the camping areas that are only approachable by either foot or off-road vehicles.
Follow These Tips for a Great Visit
– Respect the region: You are not the only ones who want to enjoy the beauty and wilderness of Mount Charleston region. Always remember that you have to be considerate about other visitors so that everyone can leave with some fine memories and come back again for more.
– Reserve ahead if you are traveling in big groups: Call ahead for a campsite or picnic spots within the region to make reservations for you, in case you are traveling in a large group. If you plan your spread outside of the developed picnic regions, make sure that you are not doing that on someone’s private property. Don’t leave any trash or food behind.
– Don’t make a fire in the campgrounds: follow the fire regulations for your own safety and that of others. Fires are not allowed inside the developed campgrounds and must be only lit in the fire rings. If you have doubts, ask the Visitor Center for the latest information.
– Keep your pets on a leash: Needless to say, the common courtesy is to keep your pets on the leash so that they do not interact with other hikers or pets. Always remember to clean your pet’s mess from the trails and the conservation region.
– Spotty cell phone reception: There is little or no cell phone reception in the Spring Mountains National Conservation Area, so make provisions accordingly.
– Don’t drink untreated water: Drinking water is available at the visitor center, and also some campgrounds. Don’t drink water from the streams or springs directly.
– Don’t leave trash behind: Either take it home or put all your garbage inside a dumpster located at the Visitor Center.
– Toilets: There are toilet facilities at the Visitor Center and all developed campsites as well as picnic spots. If you can’t find a toilet, bury your waste and toilet paper in a hole. Cover it with mud when finished.
Mount Charleston is a great place for locals from Las Vegas to enjoy the best of nature, without venturing too far. So next time you need some time off, consider spending a weekend or a long day at the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area. +