An excellent way to escape our oppressive summer heat is by heading up to Kyle Canyon in the Mount Charleston area of the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area. You can expect temperatures to be about 20 degrees cooler than in Pahrump, and there are plenty of trails to hike under the nearly ideal conditions.
One of my favorite short hikes is to the top of Cathedral Rock. The trail is less than three miles round-trip with an elevation gain of about 950 feet, which makes it moderately strenuous. One of its few negatives is that it starts at an elevation of about 7,600 feet. That means city dwellers of Southern Nevada might find the hike feels more strenuous and tiring than an equivalent distance would be at their accustomed elevations of 2,000 feet or so.
Nor is it a good hike to bring children or anyone afraid of heights. Once at the summit there are extreme dropoffs and people have fallen here. But to the courageous and careful, the extreme dropoffs also offer unobstructed, magnificent views.
The well-worn trail starts off in a thickly-wooded forest of ponderosa pines and white fir. Soon you will be walking through Mazie Canyon and a chute scoured of timber by many an avalanche, but now boasting a healthy stand of aspen trees. Once you reach the far side of the avalanche chute, look for the short spur trail on your left which takes you to the base of a series of seasonal waterfalls. Unless it has recently rained, during summer there is just a trickle of water, but it is a pleasant place to rest just the same.
Continuing back on the trail you will make a steady climb up the chute and behind Cathedral Rock itself.
Before the trail reaches a saddle you will come to a fork; stay to the right. The trail makes a slight dip and you will cross over a small stream. After this you will start a series of switchbacks which bring you up the west side of Cathedral Rock. The trail then swings north to the summit and overlook.
If the hike didn’t take your breath, the views will. Almost directly below you can see the Mount Charleston Lodge and numerous private residences. Looking east down Kyle Canyon Road you can see all the way to a portion of the Sheep Mountains. To the north you can see Mount Charleston Peak, towering to 11,918 feet and the highest peak in the Spring Mountains.
There is no gasoline available in Kyle Canyon so be sure to fill up before leaving the urban area. But if you forgot that picnic lunch you can get meals and beverages at the Mount Charleston Lodge and Mount Charleston Resort, both conveniently located to furnish the famished hiker some well-earned calories.
Deborah Wall is the author of “Base Camp Las Vegas, Hiking the Southwestern States,” “Great Hikes, A Cerca Country Guide,” and co-author of “Access For All, Touring the Southwest with Limited Mobility.” Wall can be reached at Deborabus@aol.com.