Only 35 miles and approximately 45 minutes outside the armpit of Nevada known as Las Vegas (Las Vegas: Overpriced & Overrated.), Mount Charleston is perched high above the bland desert, its own little mountainous retreat. Located within the Spring Mountains range in the Humboldt–Toiyabe National Forest, and encasing the village of the same name, it’s a super-accessible day outing and a nice reprieve from the city. A beautiful mountainous area, it’s green and cool (weather wise), making it a small slice of heaven hidden away from Sin City’s depravity, nastiness, and cigarette smoke. Called Nuvagantu, or “where snows sits” in Southern Pauite, Charleston Peak (the highest peak in this particular mountain range) rises to 11,916 feet (3,632 m), making it the highest mountain in Clark County, Nevada (and the 8th highest in the state). In fact, it’s the 8th most prominent peak in all the United States.
The town of Mount Charleston is small, with only 396 residents in 2020. It’s known for its 64- room hotel called Retreat on Charleston Peak, making it a very popular place for Las Vegans to spend a weekend. It’s also known as the “get-away” spot for wealthy Vegas residents to own a cabin.
We chose to hike the Cathedral Rock trail, which leads to one of the best look-out spots on the mountain. There are numerous other trails, but this is the main one. It’s approximately 2.8 miles, out and back, and a steady incline for about 90%. Most of the trail is uphill, made of gravel, but you eventually come to a more leveled-off dirt path. You travel along this dirt part for a bit before coming to the last leg of the hike. This part is a steady, looped climb via a rocky trail carved into the peak. For me, the most trying part was the steady uphill climb on the gravel trail. Not only did I wear the wrong tennis shoes and could feel the gravel constantly poking my feet, but it was also difficult for me to breathe due to elevation changes and being out of shape 🥲. However, my friends who are in much better shape than me did the hike just fine. So, take that for what it’s worth.
Even though the hike was constantly uphill and via a rocky path, it was 100% worth it. Not only do you get a great workout, but the views offered at the end of the hike are breathtaking. Standing 4,967 feet above sea-level, you can see far across the Spring Mountains, taking in the mountainous topography that is juxtaposed with the harsh desert landscape that is just within eyeshot. The curve of the mountains perfectly frame the desert between the two dips, almost cruelly showcasing what you must drive back to. There are no rails, ropes, or chains up here, so falling would be easy if you are not careful. Best to stay away from the edge and safely appreciate the beauty.
It took us approximately 1.5 hours to complete the hike, likely due to my lagging. It’s a super time-conscious hike and very doable as a morning or afternoon hike. We started out around 11:30am, and while it was difficult to find a parking spot (we ended up having to wait and hover around this one spot, waiting for the people to leave), there didn’t appear to be that many people hiking. The traffic via the Cathedral Rock trail was light and not overwhelming, and the trail is wide enough to pass each other safely and easily.
Overall, if you’re ever in the area and are itching for a brief escape from the constant noise, traffic, trash, and cigarette smoke that swathes Las Vegas, head out to Mount Charleston. Less than an hour’s drive, it really is worth it. It’s so close and such a doable day hike, you can easily plan a hike in the morning and still do basically anything else within the Vegas limits in the afternoon/evening. You will get amazing views that can only be achieved by putting in the work of hiking up a mountainside. It’s well worth the sweat and effort! 🤘🏼