There is a lot more to Southern Nevada other then bright lights, gamming and night life. Come to Southern Nevada and go hiking! One of the greatest joys for fall is to take advantage of unspoiled Southwest. It adds a dimension to urban life, its great exercise, inexpensive adventure, and remarkably efficient at clearing your mind.
There’s no better time than fall for hiking in this region. From the scores of hikes the area affords, these five are particularly suitable for our upcoming autumn, and will give you a taste of the region’s diversity. While it’s still a little early for most of these, fall calendars fill up fast, so you might set aside a few days for these outings during the next couple of months.
Remember trailhead elevation when considering a hike, as that will determine when you will want to go and the temperatures you can expect. A good rule of thumb is to subtract 5 degrees Fahrenheit for every thousand feet above the elevation of Las Vegas, which is about 2,000 feet. If 100 is predicted tomorrow in Las Vegas, it should be about 70 — 30 degrees cooler — at the 8,000-foot mark in nearby mountains.
Bristlecone Trail: One of your first chances to enjoy fall foliage in our area is on the Bristlecone Trail, in Lee Canyon on Mt. Charleston. It gets colorful there about mid-to-late September, but remains a good choice through mid-October, barring early snow. This hike is usually done as a 6.2-mile loop, with one mile of paved road between the lower and upper trailheads. Its elevation gain/loss is 918 feet, a moderate hike in most opinions. The trail takes you through stands of aspen, ancient bristlecone and ponderosa pines, a habitat which supports plenty of wildlife, including deer and elk. You might see northern goshawks, woodpeckers, chickadees and bluebirds.
Mountain bikers and horseback riders share this trail. Elevations are 8,680 at upper trailhead and 8,462 at lower. From the intersection of Deer Creek Road (Highway 158) and Lee Canyon Road (Highway 156), it is 2.25 miles to the right hand turnoff for the lower trailhead. To reach the upper trailhead, drive 0.8 miles farther on the main road to the upper parking area of the Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort.
Corn Creek: Located at the foot of the Sheep Mountain Range and only 28 miles from Las Vegas is Corn Creek Field Station in the Desert National Wildlife Refuge. At this former ranch, spring-fed ponds, a perennial stream, mature deciduous trees and a small fruit orchard lie along a network of easy and short interconnecting trails that total about one mile. The site is especially noted for birds; arrive early in the day for your best chance to see some of the 250 species that have been recorded there. Its 2,926 feet above sea level, with minimal elevation gain.
Pine Creek: In the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, this three-miler takes you into a highly vegetated canyon where you will find a seasonal stream as well as the remains of a homestead from the 1920s. It’s a moderate hike that starts at mile 10.2 along the 13-mile scenic drive. The trailhead elevation is about 4,000 feet, and you will gain about 300 feet as you head up canyon. Those who possess adventurous spirit and excellent rock-scrambling skills can travel farther upstream. Stay out of the canyon if rain threatens, as it is subject to flash flooding.
Railroad Tunnel Trail: This trail is as much about history as nature, but it is an especially pleasant place to be in October. It offers spectacular views of Lake Mead and the adventure of walking through five tunnels in a roundtrip of 4.28 miles. Each tunnel is about 300 feet long and about 25 feet in diameter. Near the Alan Bible Visitor Center in Lake Mead National Recreation Center, the trail starts at an elevation of 1,567 feet and descends very gradually along a gravel roadbed which once supported the tracks that carried supplies and equipment for the construction of Hoover Dam. Start your excursion early, and you’ll easily have time for an additional three miles, taking you all the way to the dam. But this last segment is for day use only. There are steep drop-offs along the trail, so small children shouldn’t be there unless you’re willing to hold their hands at all times.
The Lava Tube: The Mojave National Preserve, just over the border in California, has an abundance of diverse hiking areas, but one of the most unusual is a 300-yard trail that leads to the entrance of a lava tube. Such tubes resemble caves but are formed in a different way, when flowing lava cools from the outside in. The top hardens, but the hotter molten rock flows out from beneath, leaving a hollow tube. Metal stairs take visitors down into the tube where those brave enough, and prepared with a headlamp, can crawl through a tight passageway into a large and roomy section. The elevation at the trailhead is 3,560 feet. From the Kelso Depot Visitor Center, take Kelbaker Road northwest for about 15 miles and go right onto Aiken Mine Road for about 4.1 miles, staying left at the fork near the second corral.
Take the first step, and others will naturally follow, and so may adventure, peace, and days that will dwell long and gentle on your mind.