One of my family’s favorite day trips is just outside the flurry of Las Vegas’ daily activity: Mt. Charleston. It’s a year-round destination for outdoorsy folks like us and fortunately we don’t have to travel far to experience it. If you’re more of a homebody, one trip up here and you may find that you’re indeed more outdoorsy than you thought. Fall is the perfect season to visit and see all sorts of changes taking place in nature as well as just getting a few breaths of fresh air, after the prolonged heat of the summer. And in the winter you can catch a different type of flurry. Mt. Charleston gets plenty of snow and you can even enjoy winter sports like skiing and snowboarding.
With it being less than an hours’ drive from the city, Mt. Charleston is enjoyed by many and is a great place to have the kids take in the beauty that nature provides. Fresh air, wildlife, and oh so many trees make it, literally, a change of scenery from all of Vegas’ glittering lights. The entire family will enjoy the towering Bristlecone Pines and the beautiful vivid colors of the Quaking Aspens that line the drive as you climb higher and higher in elevation to reach the start of some fantastic hiking and picnic spots. The occasional wildlife sighting of jackrabbits, chipmunks, and mule deer make the short trip a local adventure.
Keep your eyes peeled for a sighting of the wild horses that roam the mountain too. (tip: check the Meadows of Lee Canyon)
A popular stop is Kyle Canyon. Here you can stop and get your bearings at the Visitors Center, pick up some trail maps, talk to the rangers all while seeing various exhibits with the history of the area. This side of the mountain allows you to hike the more popular trails like Mary Jane Falls and Cathedral Rock.
The other side of the mountain is where Lee Canyon is located. It’s the further exit up the highway and home to the ski area during the winter months. However, in the other seasons, they have chairlift rides, archery, and disc golf, as well as many hiking trails, like Bristlecone Pine, which is the perfect hike to grab a few pine cones for a rainy day craft back home.
Grab a few essentials and head on up 95 North for a family fun adventure.
Water – One liter every two hours is the recommended amount for adults on a day out, plan for the kids accordingly.
Snacks/Lunch – There are limited services on the mountain so be sure to stock up on snacks and lunch before heading out. On the Kyle Canyon side, there’s the Retreat on Charleston Peak (formerly the Resort at Mt. Charleston and The Lodge). On the Lee Canyon side, you can find Bristlecone Grill if you’re looking to grab something after your hike.
Hiking Shoes – A pair of sturdy non-slip shoes will keep you and the kiddos safer on the trails.
Jacket– Pack a light jacket and make sure to check the weather. The mountain can be 20 to 30 degrees cooler than down in the Valley, and winds can be stronger. The colder temps can indeed be refreshing, but a jacket or sweatshirt might needed depending on when you visit.
Camera– It’s always beautiful up at Mt. Charleston, no matter what season you visit. You’ll find countless photo opportunities you won’t want to miss.
Fuel– Gas up the car before heading out. There are no gas services on the mountain, so be sure to stop before you go.
Also take some time to look at the mountain’s websites. They have some great family-friendly activities, guided hikes, campgrounds, kids adventure days, ski school and more.
Remember there is limited cell service on the mountain as well. All the more reason to disconnect and enjoy the views. Whatever your interests are, take a break and head up to Mt Charleston to see everything it has to offer.
Written by: Michelle Vance