Half an hour away from the Las Vegas strip lies a desert paradise, strewn with fascinatingly beautiful and strange rock formations.
There are pockets of zen to be found all over Vegas – from the tranquil rooms of the Canyon Ranch Spa to Red Rock Canyon’s Black Corridor, where climbers crag to seek refuge from the scorching desert sun.
The rocks are reddish and time erodes them into the pinkish sand that covers the trails.
But perhaps the best kept secret of Vegas is Mount Charleston, a sanctuary located just 35 miles northwest of Sin City.
At 11,916 feet, Mount Charleston is the highest of the Spring Mountains of Southern Nevada. The sometimes snow-capped mountains offer year-round outdoor activities, from hiking to climbing to skiing (yes, even skiing!).
This is Vegas: sometimes referred to as the epicenter of North America’s hardest climbing. Mount Charleston is where Chris Sharma sharpened his teeth on his first difficult problem, and nearby Mount Clark is where Sharma sent Jumbo Love, a 5.15b and one of the toughest climbs in the world that was only very recently repeated by Ethan Pringle.
Mount Charleston is made up of limestone that had been under the sea at some point in time, and dotted with Bristlecone Pine Trees, which are the oldest known organisms of any species.
When to Go:
We love sending in summer, when temperatures are high but crowds are far and few in between, even in shady areas such as Black Corridor. But most climbers head here in the cooler and much more climbable Spring and Fall months.
How to Get There:
Fly to LAS airport. Drive down the Nevada Scenic Byway from Kyle Canyon through Lee Canyon, and pass through five different ecosystems. Travel from desert to mountain in less than an hour
Check out Walla Walla Wash for moderate sport routes ranging from 5.8 to 5.10c on sharp limestone. Make sure to bring a helmet, lots of sunscreen, and a GPS to find the somewhat hidden crag.
Mount Charleston offers miles of hikes and amazing scenery. The best way to see the mountain is with a local, but here are some trails to get you started:
- Mary Jane Falls, a 3.5 mile hike
- Bonanza Trail, a strenuous, 5-mile hike that starts at the Bonanza Trailhead above Cold Creek
- The Cathedral
What to eat:
- Grab a bite to eat the Mount Charleston lodge afterwards, and celebrate a day or cragging or hiking with a hearty main and cold one, (I opted for a delicious salmon plate with steamed veggies and a mimosa, yum!).
- Go for one of Kona Grill’s addictive and scrumptious chicken and shrimp lettuce wraps in nearby Summerlin, en route from Red Rock Canyon back to Vegas for an awesome aprés-climb meal!
Where to stay:
- Red Rock Canyon has decent camping outside the park, but summer months are far too hot here and the camp is likely closed, so your next best bet is airbnb
- Red Rock Resort and Casino is close to the crag and far from the strip. We love their pool!
- The Venetian: simply the best!
- Mandalay Bay has a sweet wave pool and has an ideal location on the strip closest to the airport for easy access