Upper and Lower Bristlecone Loop

MODERATE 59 reviews
#19 of 105 trails in

Upper and Lower Bristlecone Loop is a 5.7 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Las Vegas, Nevada that offers scenic views and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from March until November. Dogs and horses are also able to use this trail.

5.7 miles
931 feet

dog friendly



horseback riding

mountain biking

nature trips



I-15 N from Las Vegas to 95 N towards Reno, W on SR 156 (Lee Canyon) 17 1/4 miles into Lee Canyon until road dead ends in upper pkg. lot for Lee Canyon Ski Area. Do NOT park on helipad for flight for life (signed) ! Trailhead for upper Bristlecone is located at upper end of parking lot. Note that horses cannot access trail from this point. Park horse trailers in large gravel parking area (signed) BEFORE McWilliams campground. You can ride horses up the lower Bristlecone Trail and meet this loop at the Bonanza trail turn (signed, 3 mi.up lower trail- will add 1 mile overall to hike) -- take the turn onto Bonanza trail and follow switchbacks to top (signed); look for turn BEFORE the wooden steps up the hill. When you exit the hike at the ski area pkg, you'll need to ride alongside the paved road back down to main horse trailer parking (gravel lot). If hiking instead of riding, begin & end at upper trailhead and follow loop as shown for this route.

10 days ago

Nice hike, easy to follow trail. We parked at the upper parking lot and walked down the road to the lower parking lot to start there. The first 3 miles from the lower parking lot is all jeep road, all up hill and not much shade. It’s a nice climb to the point where you see the Bonanza Trail turn off. Continued to the upper where you eventually get to some nice single track trails with shade covering which will take you right back to the upper parking area. Nice views and dog friendly!

17 days ago

we started out at the lower. we gradually climbed and were not sure we would do the upper. we did do the upper and 3 1/2 hours later made it back to our car, but we did it! great views!

19 days ago

Really nice hike, perfect for a morning outing before it gets hot. The trail itself is quiet and well maintained. I started from the Upper trailhead. The Upper trail is nicely shaded and really beautiful. Once you get to the Lower part of the loop, the views are still lovely and the trees are green, but the long dirt road gets a little boring to walk on. Saw two mule deer (does), a coyote, good-sized Palmer's Chipmunks, and tons of birds including several woodpeckers. All in all, a great little hike.

1 month ago

Awesome little hike with a lot of shade.

2 months ago

Second time we’ve done this trail and we love it!It’s not too hard so you can bring the whole family. We prefer to start at the upper trail and end at the lower. This way you start basically on a dirt road and end in the middle of the forest with big beautiful trees and it’s a bit cooler (You will have to walk on the road a little bit to get back to the parking lot.) We brought our hammocks so we could chill and have lunch and it was perfect. Even took a little nap! I would definitely recommend this trail :)

3 months ago

Awesome Hike.

4 months ago

Completed this amazing hike last weekend. Some snow and ice on upper bristlecone, proper shoes , maybe poles recommended. With parts of this trail covered in snow we got a bit off trail so be aware of that. Beautiful vistas!

5 months ago

March, 07, 2018

Depending on what time of year you choose to take this loop will determine where to begin. I personally start at Upper and work my way up through to the peak and then descend into Lower so the end of my hike is a casual walk among nature. If you decide to start at Lower and ascend to Upper be careful toward the middle and end of March (like right now as I am writing this review). The sun only hits certain portions of the trail so if you’re going middle to end of March when the temperatures are still frosty (23 degree when I got there this morning at 0700) but gradually warm up there is A LOT of freezing and thawing out along the trail so be careful of the snow turned ice along the trail especially when you enter a decline. If you do not have the greatest grip or balance I recommend starting from Upper during the end of winter and proceeding to Lower. It is a lot easier to loose balance and brace yourself forward then loose your balance and brace yourself falling backwards especially on an decline descending from Lower to Upper. Any other time of the year either portal is fine. It just becomes personal preference at that point. Lower is 100% a fire access road until the bend that takes you to Upper or Bonanza. From that point from Lower it is another 1/2 mike or so of fire access road and then it gradually starts to incline into Upper and twists and turns up and down. Should you choose to get all the “work” out of the way in the beginning and start from Upper then the first 1 mile or so is pretty easy. Just a steady incline and mixed with elevation change and depending on what shape you’re in, you’re lungs will notice. I’m athletically fit but with a 50lbs backpack on and full gear (during winter) I am huffing and puffing, but don’t worry; I’m not going to blow any houses down. Once you make it inward there is a major switch back incline that is going to be the beginning of the constant incline that is Upper Bristlecone. Be mindful as during the Spring and Summer months there are wild horses who roam this trail in this area. LEAVE THEM ALONE. Mother horse is a stickler for aggressive behavior like any mother would be. Watch your footing. It can get rocky and uneven at times. Be aware of large roots growing out of the ground too. Wouldn’t want Groot to grab you and cause a stumble. I’ve mountain biked this loop as well so be mindful of that as there may be MTBers. It takes me roughly 1.5 hours to mountain bike this loop and it takes me 2.5-3 to hike it at a casual pace with a quick stop here or there for photos for my blog. Other than that be sure to hydrate and apply sunblock and enjoy yourself.

NOTICE: December through March there is a pay station below the parking road. It is $5 but I have personally never paid since I am not using the ski lodge and I am there for the trail. Mention that and they might let you on through. Cannot speak for every tenant who works it.

6 months ago

Beautiful hike with amazing views.

8 months ago

Just hiked the lower and upper bristlecone. Upper is awesome. Lower is a little boring. Upper had a slight dusting of snow. In 2016, last year it had over 12 feet of snow at this same time and was inaccessible.
Was informed by a mountain biker, if doing the bonanza trail, take personal protection because of mountain lions. It’s probably an over night hike.
Just a great hiking destination not far from Vegas.

8 months ago

great hike for the whole family.. puppy inc.

11 months ago

Easy trail for most of the family. Watch for mtn bikes. Great summer and fall hike.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Love this Loop

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Nice trail with great views of the ski lodge and surrounding area.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Saturday, November 12, 2016

All rankings 1-10
Scenery = 6, if catch aspen changing colors then 7
Difficulty = 3, easy grade, good footing
Solitude = 8, few cars on Sat morning in Nov
Wildlife = 2, some birds not much else
Shade = 5, only on the Upper half of Loop near ski area

Best to go up the South side of the loop. You'll be facing the right way for the views and be in the shade during the heat of day. Lower is on a fire road so would be great for snowshoeing or cross country sking. Upper is more traditional hiking path.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Started at the Lower which makes an easier hike to elevation and always you to go downhill for the steepest portions of the trail. The Lower is not very interesting, but the Upper has a number of nice views. The trail is shared with mountain bikers who all gave plenty of notice as they came down hill behind me. I think combining this trail with part of the Bonanza Trail would make a nice backpacking overnighter.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Started from upper bristlecone trailhead which loops to the lower bristlecone trailhead. It's beautiful from the upper trailhead, uphill but not too difficult but the second part leading to the lower trail is really boring and downhill.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Very beautiful hike. A great way to get away from vegas and the heat. Not too difficult, although could be crowded at times. Overall it was a fine hike, at least for vegas anyway haha!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

It was a nice hike, lovely pine trees and bristlecones. Not very challenging, but enjoyed the scenery!

recorded Upper and Lower Bristlecone

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