Tall Pines and cool temperatures . . .
Most people who know anything about Nevada would not be surprised it holds the record for the driest state in the United States with an average of only 7 inches of rain per year. On the other hand, most would probably be surprised that the state of Nevada has the most mountain ranges than any other state (only behind Alaska) in the continuous United States. The highest peak in the Las Vegas, Nevada area is only 35 miles from downtown and it is beautiful: Mount Charleston.
Mount Charleston is very close to the city yet a world away from everything. Forests with pine trees, wild deer, Aspen groves, meadows, snow, seasonal waterfalls and a very nice drop in temperature make this the ideal place to escape even for just a couple of hours. Mount Charleson is full of wonderful places to explore and to immerse yourself in nature.
There are two ways to get to Mount Charleston. Both exits are off the 95. If coming out of Las Vegas, take I-95 North towards Reno. There are two canyons you can take up both on two lane highways. Kyle Canyon Road (route 157) is the most commonly taken route up. It dead ends into the charming and cozy Mt. Charleston Lodge. I love coming up to the lodge in the winter months and sit around the fire pit drinking a delicious warm hot chocolate. In the summer months, the deck offers a perfect place to sit and enjoy a meal with breathtaking forest views. It always feels so nice to get out of the heat in the summer and come up to the top of the mountain. The temperatures can reach up to 30 degrees less than down on the desert floor. In the winter months, snow can hit at any time and chains are sometimes required so plan accordingly.
This side of Mount Charleston (Kyle Canyon) has great hiking trails, campgrounds and picnic areas. Most residents live in this area and there is a small community with a school and library but no gas stations anywhere so be sure to fill up before you make the trip.
A second way up is through Lee Canyon Road (route 156) which is also off the I-95 North coming from Las Vegas. The Lee Canyon Road exit is 13.5 miles past the Kyle Canyon exit on the I-95. The Kyle Canyon Road exit is well marked but the Lee Canyon Road exit can be easily missed as I have missed it a couple of times and ended up in Indian Springs. Keep your eyes open for it. This route will take you to the ski resort. Before you get to the top where it dead ends, you will pass a beautiful meadow and some great campgrounds and picnic areas. This side also has wonderful hiking and great views. This side tends to be less crowded but it is just as beautiful. When there is snow this quiet meadow can turn into a very busy winter playground on the weekends. Again, no gas stations so be prepared with the essentials.
You can take either route up and access both canyons through route 158, Deer Creek Road. This road also has stunning views, campgrounds and great hiking and picnic areas. So much to see and explore at Mount Charleston. As you come up Kyle Canyon Road, route 158 is just past another mountain themed lodge with a wonderful restaurant and grounds, The Resort on Mt. Charleston.
You can easily drive up and see both canyons in less than a day. Worth the drive up and enjoying the beauty everything Mount Charleston has to offer.