The Mount Charleston Wilderness is less than 50 minutes from Las Vegas and offers a very different experience from that of the bustling city. The Wilderness Area also provides quite a contrast when it comes to temperature; unlike the desert of Las Vegas, you can find cool air even in the warmer months of the year. Consisting of 56,028 acres (87.5 square miles), the Mount Charleston Wilderness Area offers an evergreen forest and cool springs within the Spring Mountain National Recreation Area and is managed by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.
The Mount Charleston Wilderness Area encompasses a large range of elevation, from 4440 feet (1,353 meters) to 11,916 feet (3,632 meters) at the summit of Mount Charleston. While exploring, you will encounter deep canyons, steep hillsides, bristlecone pine forests and a variety of trees, to include Joshua trees, pinyon pines, and Utah juniper. A number of wildlife species make their home in the Mount Charleston Wilderness Area, to include white-tailed antelope, squirrels, kit foxes, burros, elk, mule deer, and mountain lions, among others.
Not only is there a lot to see, but the Mount Charleston Wilderness offers plenty of recreation opportunities just a quick trip from a major metropolitan area.
To get to the Mount Charleston Wilderness Area from Las Vegas, take U.S. 95 north to the turn off, which is well-marked, for State Route 157 West. Take State Route 157 up the mountain for about 20 miles (32.2 km). You will encounter the Resort on Mount Charleston as well as a number of vacation homes on the Rainbow and Old Town villages. Keep your eyes out for a bend in the highway where you will see Echo Road continuing straight ahead. Continue on State Route 157, which is a paved road, until arriving in the Mount Charleston Wilderness Area.
Parking is available within the Mount Charleston Wilderness Area.
There is no public transportation to the Mount Charleston Wilderness Area.
Located in the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, McWilliams Campground is 50 miles (80.5 km) from the downtown area of Las Vegas. The campground includes 75 sites, each of which has a picnic table, grill and campfire ring. Amenities at the campground include flush and vault toilets, drinking water and trash collection.
Sites are nonelectric and can be reserved. RVs and trailers of up to 48 feet can be accommodated. Camping at McWilliams Campground is a great option for those looking to be right in the middle of all that the Mount Charleston Wilderness and Spring Mountains National Recreation Area have to offer.
Home to 35 campsites (single, double and triple), Hilltop Campground is located in the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area about 40 miles (64.4 km) from downtown Las Vegas. Each site includes a picnic table, campfire ring, and grill. Some of the sites are raised, and stairs are provided so that you can reach the site from the parking area.
Sites are non-electric and can accommodate RVs and trailers that are up to 45 feet long. Vault toilets and portable toilets are present at the campground. Hilltop campground offers easy access to a variety of exciting outdoor activities.
Fletcher View Campground is a small campground with 11 campsites (single and double in size). All sites have electric hook-ups, picnic tables, campfire rings, and grills and the campground includes drinking water. As the campground is located in a flood plain, reservations cannot be made during the monsoon season (mid-July through mid-September). However, overnight stays are possible when there are no high chances of rain. Reservations can be made during the rest of the year (the campground is open year-round). RVs and trailers of up to 40 feet can be accommodated.
The majority of the trails in the Spring Mountains allow horseback riding, making the area a great choice for those looking to explore on horseback. There are a number of options for day trips in the area, allowing you to choose to ride a horse and explore the area's natural beauty. There are also several options for summiting Charleston Peak by horseback. Horses should be in good condition and able to handle the high altitude.
Those who enjoy rock climbing will be drawn to this area. The Spring Mountains include limestone cliffs that rise high over the Las Vegas Valley and there are several popular climbing routes. These include Angel Falls, The Hood (which is one of the most developed areas of Mount Charleston and has four caves), Imagination Wall and Universal Wall. Climbs in the Wilderness Area vary by degree of difficulty, making the area a good choice for multiple skill levels.
Within the Mount Charleston Wilderness Area are 40 miles (64.4 km) of trails ready to be explored. Those looking to explore the area on foot can experience the flora and fauna that exist at a variety of elevations, along with incredible views. Be sure to bring your own water as the area has few springs and running creeks. With a number of trails to choose from, visitors will be able to find an option that best meets their abilities.
About 15 minutes from the Mount Charleston Wilderness Area is the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. More than 2 million people visit the area annually, which offers miles of hiking and biking trails, rock climbing opportunities, picnic areas, a 13-mile (20.9 km) scenic drive and unique scenery that will result in your feeling like you are far from the city of Las Vegas, as opposed to just 25 minutes away!
Within the Mount Charleston area is Lee Canyon, an area that includes a number of backcountry trails for skiing and snowshoeing that have fresh snow during the colder months of the year.
Those who enjoy skiing are not limited to the cross-country kind; the Spring Mountains have trails and steep slopes that will appeal to cross-country and downhill skiers. You can explore the area in its winter glory as you enjoy your favorite activities in the snow!
Consisting of 36 miles (57.9 km) spanning three state routes, the Mount Charleston Scenic Byway climbs from low to high elevation, where you can view a variety of flora, from sage to Joshua, pinon, ponderosa pine, and fir trees. As you travel, keep your eyes out for an ancient bristlecone pine, the planet’s oldest living tree. You may also encounter wildlife, like owls, golden eagles, deer, foxes, and wild horses.