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Spring Mountain Ranch still has a spirit of legacy and leisure that it had my first time here 38 years ago.
Its history is quite unique, and the relaxing sense of time slowing down comes so naturally when exploring the ranch.
This beautiful 520 acre spread sits at an elevation of 3,800 ft. and is typically 10-15 degrees cooler than the Las Vegas Valley, which makes it a great place to visit when Vegas heats up.
After passing the small overlook on SR 159 the road bends south, and Spring Mountain Ranch will be the next main stop on your right. You'll see signs for it on your approach.
The Ranch sits at the base of a portion of the beautiful Wilson Range Cliffs, and for good reason ... water.
This real life oasis in the desert has spring fed creeks which in turn creates a lush grassy meadow.
The springs provided precious water for all who came through in days past, and its rich history included Paiute Indians, Mountain Men, Travelers, Outlaws and eventually Settlers.
Later it became a working ranch and luxurious retreat of the rich and famous. It has quite a colorful history of owners which includes ole’ time radio comedian Chester Lauck of ‘Lum and Abner’ fame, Vera Krupp and Howard Hughes among others.
The entrance fee for Spring Mountain Ranch is presently $10 (be sure to bring exact change) and as you drive in you'll pass the North Pasture on you way to the main parking lot.
Once there, you'll see the grassy area on the other side, in front of the Main House, which is the picnic area.
It's a large grassy oval surrounded by trees and picnic tables, with a few tables placed within the grassy areas, giving you great views of the surrounding mountains and the Main House.
All you have to bring is whatever you want for lunch and there are plenty of spots if you prefer to lay out a blanket instead, which has been my favorite way to picnic up here. There's also grills and public restrooms on the picnic grounds.
At times, when I've needed a break from life stuff, I've come out to Spring Mountain Ranch for the therapeutic serenity that comes easily here. The quiet re-connection with Nature is salve for my soul and makes it easier for me to clear my mind.
The Main House, built by Chet Lauck in 1948, is where he and subsequent owners of the Ranch lived and now is the Visitors Center and Museum.
It's been preserved pretty much as it was for those who once lived there, aside from the museum type of layout of certain spaces.
Various areas are now filled with photo's, artifacts, displays and memorabilia of the Ranch dating back to its creation.
You can do a self guided tour of the Main House or call ahead to set up a tour with one of their Docents as I recently did again.
It's the best way to experience the rich background and history of Spring Mountain Ranch and I do recommend it.
Their docents are more than capable of answering any questions you'll invariably have, along with filling you in on many little details you won't know or come across on a self guided tour.
In the Main House is where you'll also find the free map to the rest of Spring Mountain Ranch and its features for you to check out.
Spring Mountain Ranch was established circa 1864 and went through various owners and changes, with the first popular owner being Chet Lauck.
When first introduced, radio naturally was the king of all communication and entertainment. Two guys from Arkansas, Chet Lauck and Norris Goff, developed a comedy skit titled 'Lum and Abner' and it became a huge hit.
It ran for 24 years, which later included 7 film versions of their comedy.
Chet Lauck owned the ranch for 7 years from 1948 to 1955. He named it the Bar Nothing Ranch, built the Main House and also create Lake Harriet, which he named after his wife.
Lauck's ownership coincided with his move to Hollywood to do the film versions of his show and the family lived here and enjoyed ranching it as owners.
The 'Jot 'em Down' Gift shop in the Main House got its name from the fictional store owned by Lum and Abner in their comedy series.
Of the three famous owners, Vera Krupp lived in and occupied it the longest. She owned it for 12 years from 1955 to 1967. She renamed it Spring Mountain Ranch and actively worked the ranch as well.
An aspiring German actress, her biggest success was in marrying Alfried Krupp, a German munitions industrialist, who gave her one of the biggest diamonds at that time - the Krupp Diamond.
Vera Krupp, having used Nevada's easy divorce law previously, did so once again when she filed to divorce Afried Krupp.
The divorce settlement was huge for the times. Apparently, having secured enough money for life, she settled into a life of privacy, western living and cattle raising at Spring Mountain Ranch.
She learned the craft and art of Lapidary (the working, forming and finishing of stones and minerals) and she sourced most of her materials from her hikes of the surrounding area.
She built on and added features to it and seemed to of truly enjoyed the solitude and natural elements the Ranch offered. One interesting feature she added is a secret passage to another room.
It's at this Ranch where she was robbed of the 33.6 carat Krupp diamond, which eventually was recovered by the FBI. Later, Richard Burton bought the ring for Elizabeth Taylor from Vera Krupp's estate after she died in 1967.
Being the last contemporary to actually live in the house, you'll see more of her personal effects than anyone else's. After 50 or so years, it's interesting to see what was considered modern and contemporary at that time.
Vera Krupp sold Spring Mountain Ranch to the Hughes Corporation. Howard Hughes wanted it for his wife, Jean Peters, in hopes she would come live in Las Vegas, which she refused to do.
Nonetheless, his company used it for corporate entertainment and some of his executives spent time there also. At the time, it was thought Hughes might eventually decide to live there but that never happened.
Instead he holed up at the Desert Inn Hotel-Casino and eventually bought it when asked to leave, so although he owned the ranch for 5 years and visited, he never actually lived in it.
You'll find Lauck and Hughes were pretty well documented figures but Vera Krupp? Different story.
This is probably the only place where you'll learn more about her than by any other source ... even google. How often does that happen?
On your way to Lake Harriet and the Overlook, you'll pass buildings housing various aspects of the Ranch, such as a Calving Shed, Ranger Station, Hay and Horse Barn-Corral and Blacksmith shop.
You'll pass the ones previously used for the same purposes, with the sight of these old and weathered buildings looking just like something out of some old Western movie, but these were the real deal.
The walk to Lake Harriet is an easy and picturesque walk. The lake, created by Chet Lauck, is a watering hole for animals of the area as well as a stop over for water birds.
You'll find a few benches placed along its shoreline for you to sit and take in the gorgeous scenery you're surrounded by. The colors and contrast of nature you'll encounter here is really something.
On my last visit to Spring Mountain Ranch I arrived at Lake Harriet around 3 p.m., and while facing the mountains towering right behind it, the sun to the west gave the water a greenish tint ...
...but when I walked to the other side of the lake, the water was blue.
Combined with the red bandings of the Wilson Cliffs, the lighting and shadows changed and shifted colors all around me throughout the surrounding areas as I walked around the lake.
Spring Mountain Ranch is loaded with photo op's, with Lake Harriet being just one. As you walk around the Lake you'll encounter the trail head for Sandstone Canyon Trail.
If you're up for a relatively easy hike, this one's almost 3 miles round trip (1.4 each way) with a small elevation gain of 140 feet or so. Not difficult for kids or the average person, but be sure to factor in the weather and in the summer, bring some water along with you.
If you're with elders, the walk out to Lake Harriet is perfect for both of you to enjoy.
The Overlook may also be an option for them, depending on age and physical abilities, since it's a very short trail with a bit of elevation and very light climbing, but as you'll see in the next section, well worth the effort.
If you picked up a map when visiting the Main House, you'll notice there are a few spots from which you can access the Overlook Trail.
The first one, when walking from the Main House to Lake Harriet, you'll see early on with a clearly marked trail head sign on your way up. That trail treks you by the Old Reservoir and wind it's way up.
The second one you access at the entrance parking lot, which for me has always been the end of the trail.
When going to the Overlook, I usually visit Lake Harriet first, then head over to it via the Wilson Cemetery path.
Which ever way you go, you'll enjoy the Overlook Trails and any way you decide to take it is pretty easy enough for most anyone.
So considering that, I'll feature the best route if you have elders with you that's the easiest physically for both of you to be able to access and enjoy the Overlook.
Even if they only have light abilities, this should be doable for them ... and it's easy enough for you to help them out if they need a little help getting up there.
The route I recommend for that is the last one mentioned above ... Lake Harriet first and then taking the path via the Wilson Cemetery, a tiny family plot where various members of the Wilson family who lived on the Ranch from 1876 to 1959 are buried.
Shortly after the Wilson Cemetery you want to look closely for the path that veers right and begins going up mostly eastward. That's the one going up to the Overlook.
The other path, that veers northward with the mountains of Red Rock in the distance, is the longer leg of this trail, which will be too difficult for elders to do.
If in doubt, check which direction you're mostly facing. Lake Harriet and the nearest mountains should be at your back.
The top of the Overlook is a great spot to hang out for a while, take some great pictures and just soak up the scenery.
This rockytop overlooks the whole of Spring Mountain Ranch with Lake Harriet behind you on your right, the old reservoir below to your right, the Main House and buildings further out to your right and the North Pasture in front of you.
To your left are the mountains of Red Rock as they run up and around in the distance, and behind you are the banded Wilson Cliffs.
If you have binoculars, this vantage point is a great spot to catch a glimpse of some wildlife. Typically desert animals are nocturnal but once in a while you'll see that loner or early riser curious to see what's going on nearby.
Natural inhabitants here include Jackrabbits, Kit Foxes, lizards/snakes and Coyotes. More often spotted though will be Wild Burro’s, Mule deer, Roadrunners and Ground Squirrels.
Keep an eye out in the distance though as Big Horns might be checking in to see who's watering up at the lake or to get a closer look at what's going on at the Ranch.
After you're done on the Overlook, getting back is easy. After climbing down, simply keep heading back towards Lake Harriet.
For those not with elders, when coming down from the Overlook, look to your right or northwards, and follow that trail. It winds you around and thru sections with unique and varied vegetation. As the trail ends, it hugs the entrance road to the parking lot.
For fans of the flora, this place offers a diversity of plants and vegetation besides the varieties of cacti.
Desert Marigold, Globe Mallows, Joshua Trees, Brittlebush, Mojave Yucca and Indigo Bush are common along with some Woodlands.
With enough rainfall around Spring Mountain Ranch, you’ll witness what occasionally happens in the desert ... a burst of blooms from wildflowers that canvas the terrain for a short while. Death Valley is known for huge blooms of this sort.
For the non-elderly this isn't a difficult trail, but for elders there's many spots for possibly twisting an ankle or losing balance and injuring themselves, so I don't recommend even trying it with them.
For any one else, including kids, it's a cool and very doable trail.
Between May and September Spring Mountain Ranch is home to the Super Summer Theatre program. If its been a while since you’ve seen a play outdoors or if you never have, the Ranch is a great place for it.
The location is ideal as the meadow greens slopes down to where the stage is set up. As you sit facing the stage you can turn and see the Wilson Cliffs right behind you. It's postcard perfect while the sun is setting.
I’ve gone to numerous plays here and took my young son to see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat as well as bringing dates to a few music events here.
What's great about this place is that it's typically 10-15 degrees cooler than the Valley and I've had many a perfect nights out here when it was really hot in the city.
The scenery is excellent and the set-up for it is great too. There's areas for blankets only so you can bring a picnic with your favorite eats and drink for the shows.
They have seating areas situated by the blanket areas and you can bring your own seating or rent one for a buck. They also have a concession with hot dogs, nachos, sodas, water, ice cream, candy and at times they’ll feature something new to go along with those.
The plays are award-winning shows covering a range of styles and you'll find them on their online calendar of events.
I recommend you go early for whatever event you choose to see. It'll be easier to pick your spot for the blanket or chair and the scenery is just great, especially as the sun begins to set.
Spring Mountain Ranch also host Living History Programs. These will include costumed role playing, demonstrations and re-enactments.
It gives you a taste and unique insight of the pioneers and people of that era, how they lived and what their lives entailed, with some of these being interactive.
Once a year they'll host a re-enactment from the Civil War that historians, costume era fans, children and those who've never experienced it really enjoy.
If you're planning a family vacation to Vegas, this would be a great event for your kids to experience and a great place in general for the whole family.
With each of these, you'll need to check the dates and times for these events to plan your time accordingly.
If a Las Vegas wedding ceremony is in your future, Spring Mountain Ranch is one of the best places when it comes to weather and scenery.
One great thing is little to no bugs to contend with. The desert has virtually no mosquitos or much in the way of flies or other flying pest to torture your guest during your event, and normally ants aren't an issue either … just one more thing I love about living in the desert.
Most of the time the weather here is great for outdoor events since the heat isn't as much of a factor at the Ranch as it is in the Valley, but be aware it does get real cold up here in the winter months.
One consideration is when the wind kicks up. The heat and cold are predictable, but the wind factor could change over the weekend. If stronger than normal, it could get magnified by the nearby mountains and canyons.
Typically, there's always a nice gentle breeze at the Ranch, but if the forecast calls for stronger winds in general, having contingency plans for the outdoors part of your event is a smart move just in case.
If you're in Vegas during the winter, check to see if it snowed out at Red Rock. It's a great treat to see the Conservation Area canvased in white and in particular, the Ranch. That's something I look forward to every winter.
You’ll find the Park Rangers and those who Volunteer out here very helpful and accommodating.
Spring Mountain Ranch is just beautiful in so many ways and offers a variety of great ways to spend an afternoon (and some evenings) whether it's with elders, children or just you and your camera.
For information about events, program or shows at the Ranch, check out the Spring Mountain Ranch website.
For all other Red Rock related things visit their BLM-Nevada website.