- Type: Nature & Wildlife
NileGuide Expert tip:
Stop at the visitor's center to learn how to identify Bristlecone Pines from other types of pines.
- Less than an hour from the Las Vegas Strip, the Spring Mountain National Recreation Area is an island of mountains in the middle of the desert. Mt. Charleston, which is how the local collectively refer to the entire area, is actually the name of the highest peak in the Spring Mountain Range. At a little under 12,000 feet, it's also the third highest peak in Nevada.
Two major canyons welcome visitors: Kyle Canyon, where you'll find a village (no grocery store) and two lodges. Lee Canyon is home to homes and snow play areas, including a ski and snowboarding lodge.
Hiking trails can be found in both canyons, and a hike to the peak of Mt. Charleston will take you into designated wilderness. You're likely to see more birds than any other type of wildlife, but look for deer and lots of squirrels. Elk herds also live here, although they are rarely seen. This is a very dry mountain, so if you're hiking, bring water. Water sources are few on Mt. Charleston.
State Highway 158 connects Kyle Canyon to Lee Canyon, making it easy to turn a trip to Mt. Charleston into a scenic loop. Look for picnic areas, campgrounds, and viewing turnouts throughout the entire area. A small visitor center can be found on Kyle Canyon Road, or SR 157.
Officially a part of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, SMNR is home to the bristlecone pine (Pinus longavea), which are some of the world's longest-living plants--the oldest are thousands of years old.
Temperatures here are often 20 degrees cooler than in Las Vegas, and during winter the area is covered in snow. This is the only place close to Vegas where you can ski in winter, and the mountain roads are clogged with locals after the first snowfall--something the residents of Las Vegas don't get to see often.
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