South Loop Trail makes a steep ascent out of the picnic area as it winds toward Echo Canyon. It soon passes through an avalanche shute of quaking aspen. This is a brilliant place in the autumn when the aspen leaves turn orange and gold. The trail continues a steep ascent up Echo Canyon. After a mile it begins climbing numerous switchbacks leading out of the canyon and up to the southern ridge. There are many spectacular views of Kyle Canyon along the way. To reach the ridge, on must hike 4 miles and make a 3000' ascent. The next two miles is relatively easy as the path travels through meadows of grasses and flowers. There are many scenic views of Lake Mead, Las Vegas, Pahrump, and Kyle Canyon. Ancient bristlecone pines are the only trees that grow at this altitude. Several excellent campsites are located along this section of the trail. After six miles, the trail begins to gain altitude once more. As it climbs closer to the timberline, the vegetation becomes more sparse as the trees become twisted dwarfs. After 7 1/2 miles, the trail makes a steep ascent toward the peak. Fierce cold winds whip across the barren rock. At the top of Mount Charleston Peak is the most awe-inspiring view. One can see nearly 300 miles in each direction on a clear day.
Directions: From Las Vegas, Travel north on U.S. Highway 95, then take State Route 157 west, until it enters the Cathedral Rock Picnic Area. Park in the first parking area to the left. The South Loop Trailhead is the second trailhead to the right. The gate to Cathedral Rock Picnic Area is open from 8 AM until 8 PM in the summer. If hiking to the peak and back in one day, be sure to get back to your car before the gate closes.
Elevation: 7,600 feet
Ending Elevation: 11,918 feet
Elevation Gain: 4,318 feet
Usage: Moderate to Heavy
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Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, Nevada
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