Charleston Peak South Trail is a 16.6 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Las Vegas, NV that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, birding, and horses and is accessible from March until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.
dogs on leash
The South Loop Trail starts off at an easy pace as it heads SW. The grade increases rapidly as the trail turns easterly and passes to the east of Echo Cliffs. As the trail turns back SW, it passes through the two sets of cliffs. To the north is Echo Cliffs; to the south is an unnamed cliff range. Also to the south is Springs Fork, one of many springs in Mt. Charleston. It's a short quarter-mile trek to the springs. The trail follows a series of switchbacks as it climbs the backside of Echo Cliffs. There's a great overlook at the top of Echo Cliffs (two miles from the trailhead); Kyle Canyon, Mummy Mountain, and Cathedral Rock can be viewed from this overlook. The trail leaves the overlook and heads west with a gradual incline. It crosses drainage and starts a series of switchbacks that leads to the South Rim Plateau. Many of the switchbacks on the north end offer grand views of Kyle Canyon, Cathedral Rock, and Mummy Mountain. The landscape changes into a meadow before reaching the plateau. The last 100 yards are steep, but the view of Griffith Peak helps ease the pain. Upon reaching the plateau, a sign indicates the distances to Charleston Peak, Harris Saddle, and back to Kyle Canyon (the trailhead). The elevation is 10,700 feet; the distance to this point is four miles. The trail heads west and soon enters a delightful meadow. This part of the trail is referred to as The Meadows and is a favorite spot for campers. The grade is slight with a few downhill sections. Charleston Peak comes into view several times during the ramble through the meadow. The Meadows gives way to a grove of timber as the trail heads west and the grade increases. The trail hugs the ridgeline for more than half a mile, offering remarkable views of Kyle Canyon, Mt. Charleston Lodge, and State Route 157. Directly across the canyon is Mummy Mountain, and to the (west) left is North Ridge Rim. The trail turns away from the ridgeline and heads SW before it climbs to another ridge. Off to the left is an unnamed peak that many hikers mistake for Mt. Charleston. The trail rises to a saddle and Mt. Charleston ridgeline comes into view. The trail heads NW toward the summit and away from the false peak. About 150 yards past the saddle a faint path to the south (left) travels down to Peak Springs. There's a sign marking the turnoff, but it's easily missed. The half-mile trek down to Peak Springs is very steep and you lose 900 feet in elevation. The hike back up to the trail is a killer, but if you need water Peak Springs is a reliable source. Due to the wind and elevation, the landscape becomes harsh. Bristlecone pines are reduced to twisted dwarfs. You're above 11,000 feet at this point, but luckily the incline is moderate. Charleston Peak looks more like a ridge than a summit from this angle. Just off the trail to the right are the remains of a 1955 plane crash. The last half-mile to the peak is a steep 20% grade. Just before the peak the trail forks. Both trails go to the peak; however, the main trail is less steep. The wind can be harsh above the treeline. Bring a windbreaker. It's important to drink plenty of water before this final ascent. One cause of altitude sickness is a lack of water! Congratulations, you're standing, or lying down questioning your sanity, at the highest point in southern Nevada. Take a moment to experience the silence, breathe the clean air, and be thankful you're in good enough shape to stand at the peak. The summit offers a fantastic 360-degree view of southern Nevada, eastern California, and southern Utah. An Army box contains a sign-in book. A dug out fort that holds 10 people is a favorite resting point before starting back down. You can return the way you came up or make a loop by hiking down the North Loop Trail to Trail Canyon.
My crazy huskey and I love the trails here
Beautiful place to hike, it's definitely a nice contrast to the bustling city of Nevada. I recommend Mary JANE Falls, nice water fall and a moderate hike.
South Loop trail is closed for at least a year, due to fire.
Good trail but they keep moving the trail head back due to construction. This is a good trail but getting longer every time I hike it. The new construction looks like it is coming along but still sucks hiking past all this construction equipment with the heat and diesel smell. The trail head is bumped back to echo TH now. The upper portion is awesome with several overlooks and sweeping views of the valley. The meadows provides a grate place to camp out and the wind break at the Griffith intersection is awesome when getting up there late. I do like this trail but I would do Trail Canyon to NLT if going to the top.
4 of us (females only) packed in a Botanist's equipment on horseback to 11,427' so just shy of 400' below the peak. The trail was in good condition other than the 2nd switchback above the rock waterfall where a large tree is down across the trail. A hiker can scramble over the tree or go just below it but because of the slope on the downhill side we had to go above it with the horses, wasn't fun. The rest of the trail was fantastic which isn't the reports that Forest Service had gotten. They'd been told that there was water damage from recent rains which we didn't find to be the case on the trail tread.
The views are breathtaking and I see why this is such a heavily used trail by the numerous hikers we passed on the way in and out. Word of caution, make sure to take a map to get you from the parking lot to the south loop, we came from the Trails Canyon parking lot where horse trailers can park and because of the construction going on at the lower day use area it can get a little confusing to turn on the right trail. It's lacking in some signage at this point but we were told it's being worked on.
Hiked the South Loop on October 6, 2012 and it was perfect weather. It was 50 degrees when I started at 7:00 am and stayed that way on my trip to the peak then half way down before it warmed up. I didn't see anyone on my way up but passed a lot of folks (about 20) on my way down.
There is still construction at the trail head so I started at the Cathedral Rock Lower Trailhead which added just under a mile. From the parking area for the Cathedral Rock area, go up the steps and turn left then when you hit the well groomed rock path turn left again and your on the trail. I got to the peak in 4 hours and it took me 3.5 hours to get back down.....plan for a long day.
There are plenty of camping spots after the switchbacks (about the 5th mile). You can find trees and terrain to shelter your tent from the wind should it whip up.
The trail is well defined and I didn't need to reference my map once. I had a GPS but I only used it to track my distance and elevation.
Don't get discouraged by the switch backs at the start, once your out of them its well worth it. The last 3/4 of a mile was a bit of a challenge for me as I wasn't accustomed to the 11,500' elevation but it wasn't impossible. The view form the peak is awesome.
Mummy is next...get to the peak and you'll see why I say that.
This trail is absolutely BEAUTIFUL on the top of the mountains. It stays high for a very long time. Lots of switchbacks but they are worth it.
For an east coast hiker, this was quite a challenge. We hiked the trail in October of 2011 and the colors were vivid and alive. We came out from Las Vegas at 2,300 some elevation to the South Trail head at 7,500 feet. We started around 8:30 am after an hours drive. The trail was under repair, so we had to make a few detours, then it was up, up, up. The hiking was slow and steady with frequent stops for photos. About half way up my hands began to fell the altitude and became swollen. Making it to the Alphine Meadow was the first milestone. The meadow allows you to get adjusted to the thin air and provides a break from the incline. One hiking partner diverted to Griffith Peak and 3 of us continued toward the summit. I had two buddies ahead of me saw about 5 other people on the trail. Once I got above the tree line and had a second wind and thought I'd make it, however my head began to ache and I felt like the altitude was getting to me. I turned around shortly before the B54 crash site and my two friends made it to the summit. We met up again about half way down and took a photo shoot. My headache continued to get worse and I had plenty of water in my system. I was certainly glad to make it as far as I did and I will definately go back to attempt the peak once again. The experience was incredible despite my altitude illness.
This was a long and demanding hike. There were great views, I was a little dissapointed however because some clouds blew in and picked up a lot of dust that blocked the view of the Strip from the summit. However is was a great overall hike and pretty cool to see snow up there in July. I'll definitely do it again but maybe just take two days for the fun of it and so i'm not so sore from hiking 18 miles in day.
Amazing way to see Vegas...from a distance LOL!! Hiked to the peak w/ my good bud Mike Crowder. Started from the south loop trailhead to end at north loop total trip miles 26 miles.