Charleston Peak South Trail

HARD 50 reviews

Charleston Peak South Trail is a 16.5 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Las Vegas, Nevada that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from March until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

DISTANCE
16.5 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
4993 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

dogs on leash

backpacking

birding

camping

hiking

horseback riding

nature trips

trail running

walking

forest

views

wild flowers

wildlife

rocky

no shade

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.

hiking
2 months ago

Lots of nice views along the way (plenty that are about as good as the views from the summit IMO). Definitely a must do if you are into suffering... first time I've hiked more than 4-5 miles in a day in probably 7-8 years... 9hr 30min from car to car including the detour to Griffith Peak and breaks - linked to the north loop trail on the way down and connected via the road at the base. Worth doing at least once. I'll have to forget about how my knees feel today before I do something like this again...

hiking
3 months ago

Beautiful hike. Really enjoyed it. Fairly difficult. Started at 10 am and finished about 5pm (7 hours). Last mile or so is pretty rough. Really had to dig in to get up there but totally worth it. Quick trip to the parking lot. Not too cold. Long sleeve shirt will suffice if you are not a wimp. Bring lots (3-4 lifters) of water, hopefully in a camelback. Also bring some snacks and maybe a gatorade for cramps if you get any. All in all beautiful hike. Much harder than Griffith peak.

hiking
3 months ago

Bring lots of water, a full meal, good shoes, good socks and an extra pair, and expect it to get very cold and windy.
If you can make it to the summit then this is something you must experience. The first few miles are colorful plants and pine trees. The Meadows offer a beautiful long distance view followed by miles of trees that were burned a few years ago. The final mile before the summit is difficult but worth it.
The way back down is much easier.

hiking
3 months ago

Only did a little of this trail - too late in the day to go further. Loved the part I did and hope to be back to hike more of it. Had trekking poles and was glad I did. It's steep.

backpacking
5 months ago

Challenging yet rewarding hike! The first 4.5 miles is an aggressive uphill climb to the ridge, but after that the trail smooths out along the ridge and meadow. Be sure to save some energy for the last climb up to the peak! I made this an overnight trek and camped out on top of the meadow. Plenty of space to set up camp and incredible sunset and stargazing!

hiking
5 months ago

If you're planning on hiking this out and back in one day - start early. Bring plenty of water, energy snacks and invest in a good pair of hiking boots and socks as you'll be asking your feet to do a lot - almost 17 miles. From upper parking lot trail head to the summit and back it took me 9.5 hrs including breaks and 1/2 hr lunch at the summit. Definitely, a challenging hike in terms of stamina and fitness, but well worth the effort.

hiking
6 months ago

incredible journey takes you through several different ecosystems including a burn zone, ancient bristlecones, alpine meadows, aspen groves and juniper forests. Worth the effort.

hiking
6 months ago

Great hike worthy of it's rating. It was rather busy but not bad considering it was the 4th of July. Great crowd though. The last mile or so was very difficult for me. I probably would have given up had it not been for the encouragement from all the other hikers. Well worth it. Very glad I didn't give up. Will definitely do this one again.

6 months ago

Hiked this back at the start of June. The snow was still patched in some spots but the trail was mostly clear. Beautiful views throughout the hike with plenty of places to stop along the way. Despite the extremely windy summit, there's a pleasant dugout at the top that shelters you well. Just watch out for little red spiders! Hiked On: 11 JUN

hiking
7 months ago

Great hike but too much snow to pass in regular hiking shoes at about the 2.5 mile mark. Need to give it another month or so before it will be passable to the summit of Griffith and Charleston. Hiked on 05/27/17.

hiking
10 months ago

Hiked this back in September '16 the day it reopened from the Carpenter 1 fire. Spectacular views but you have to work for it. There is also no water source so be prepared! The first few miles are a little tough up to the junction of Griffith Peak and South Loop with lots of switchbacks but many nice places to stop and relax and take in some sites. The meadows and previously burned forest set a wonderful backdrop to this long hike. You'll also get to pass the 1955 plane crash site the last mile or so to the peak, don't miss it, it's worth the stop. Weather was wonderful but it can be very windy at the peak. Don't forget to stop at the lodge and have a bite or celebratory drink after. They also have small cabins to rent with big tubs for that soak after all those miles.

hiking
11 months ago

amazing hike, saw several mule deer, took most of the day up and back, bring lots of water and snacks, great place to escape the vegas heat in summer

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Hiking

cross country skiing
Saturday, January 30, 2016

My crazy huskey and I love the trails here

hiking
Sunday, June 14, 2015

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.

hiking
Friday, June 20, 2014

South Loop trail is closed for at least a year, due to fire.

hiking
Tuesday, June 11, 2013

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.

hiking
Sunday, October 07, 2012

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.

hiking
Thursday, September 06, 2012

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.

nature trips
Wednesday, April 25, 2012

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