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Mount Charleston, just 45 minutes from the Strip, is the beautiful and scenic alpine getaway for a day whenever you need a change from the hustle bustle of Las Vegas.
If you've come to Vegas but have never been up here, it'll blow you away how different and refreshing it is.
The Spring Mountains Range, of which Mt. Charleston is a part of, got its name from the 100 plus springs that are created by snow and rainfall that percolates into the fractures and porous limestone and dolomite, then underground, eventually pushing out from below as springs.
Some of these will be evident at Mt. Charleston, as well as Red Rock, which sits towards the southern end of this range.
All these areas are a part of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.
Managed by the U.S. Forest Service and the BLM, for years they've maintained its natural beauty for us all. The Spring Mountains has 5 climate and eco-zones as it rises from the desert valley floor.
You’ll notice the changes as you travel up through some of these zones, which support distinct flora and fauna of which 25 (and counting) of these are found nowhere else in the world.
The Spring Mountains Recreation Area boast 51 miles of 70 plus hiking trails ranging from easy to difficult, over 150 campsites and over 100 picnic areas.
In the Mount Charleston Area there are 7 developed campsites, 6 picnic areas and 12 or so hiking trails, not counting the longer more difficult ones.
At just under 12,000 ft, Mt. Charleston is the 5th highest mountain in Nevada and the highest one of the Spring Mountains. Running north-south, a part of this 53 mile long range also forms the western boundary of the Las Vegas Valley.
And that's what makes it so cool in more ways than one.
It can be 105 in the city and when you take the 45 minute ride up to Mount Charleston, you’ll be in cool gorgeous woodland mountain country of 80-85 degree's.
Less than one hour to be in a totally new place. The difference is simply amazing.
It typically takes 45 minutes from most places on the Strip, and a little less from Downtown, to get to the Mountain and in sharp contrast to the desert floor, it's an alpine landscape of Bristlecone Pine, Ponderosa Pine, White Fir, Pinyon-Juniper and Aspen.
Since this site is focused on those visiting Las Vegas wondering what else there is besides the Strip, the focus is things to enjoy within a 3 to 7 hour time span.
On Mt. Charleston there's 3 main roads that provide most everything you can enjoy on the mountain within that time span.
Kyle Canyon Road - This road takes you by the Visitors Center and to Mt. Charleston Lodge (the no-brainer if you just want to get up and go). This road also has 6 hiking trails (4 miles or less), one very large picnic area (72 spots), one RV and one regular campground, and 4 bathrooms.
Lee Canyon Road - This one takes you to the Ski Resort (summer and winter fun), Guard Station and telephone, 3 hiking trails, 3 picnic areas, 3 campsites, 4 bathrooms and various spots for winter snowplay.
Deer Creek Road - Designated a Nevada Scenic Byway, here you'll find incredible vistas at the Desert View Overlook as well as a few other spots, 3 hiking trails, 1 picnic area, 2 sites for camping and 3 bathrooms.
Deer Creek Rd. will have the fewest amenities because it's the shortest of all 3 roads. As it hugs the lower parts of the mountains between Kyle Canyon Rd. and Lee Canyon Rd. it faces out towards the Valley, giving you incredible views and vistas.
If you're up for an easy hike, each road has at least one. I've included 1 strenuous one for fit experienced hikers because of its special and unique characteristics. You'll find that one on the Deer Creek Road page.
To get to Mount Charleston make your way to Hwy 95.
From the Strip, the best way is to get on I-15, head north and just past Charleston Blvd. you’ll see an exit for 95 North/Reno. Take that exit, which is a ramp that loops onto 95, then heads west before turning north-west out of town.
As you travel north up 95 it will intersect first with Kyle Canyon Rd/157, then about 10 minutes further up 95, with Lee Canyon Rd/156. Turning left onto either of these will take you up to Mt. Charleston. Both of these connect to Deer Creek Rd/158 further up the mountain.
I focus more on the simpler daytripper outings of things to do up here which are easy to enjoy, but also cover the hiking, camping and picnicking in case this visit finds you wanting to make plans for any of those things on your next visit.
Keep in mind to give yourself extra time on weekends and holidays as that’s when it gets busier up here on the Mountain. If you can make it up on weekdays, you'll have a super easy time enjoying everything up here.
If you prefer to keep it simple in visiting the mountain, one of the coolest and easiest thing you can do requires next to nothing ... you just drive on up. Your destination in this case is Mount Charleston Lodge, which I cover in a separate section.
For specifics on camping, picnicking or any other info, check out the USDA site for Mt. Charleston at the Spring Mountain National Recreation Area website.