Places Worth Visiting: The Rain Tree via Trail Canyon
Conservation Through Inspiration
Green Chamber’s favorite place worth visiting this week, is The Raintree, Mt. Charleston Wilderness. The word “wilderness” can make it sound intimidating. But this amazing spot is only an hour away from Las Vegas, and boasts some of the oldest living species on earth. Our hope is that people will be inspired by visiting this great resource. Our belief is that inspiration is just another part of the conservation picture.
Majestic Views and 3,000 Year Old Trees
This hike will make you feel like a thousand years and miles away from civilization. Yet, it is only a short drive away from Las Vegas.
This under 3.6 mile (one way) hike will bring you along endemic plant communities found nowhere else in the world. You will see majestic views of Mummy Mountain, one of the second highest peaks in the Spring Mountains. Getting it’s name sake from the sarcophagus looking profile it resembles. As the elevation gains, the vast panoramas give way to an ancient bristlecone pine forest.
Your final destination is The Raintree, an ancient bristlecone pine. If a forest was a kingdom, the Raintree is their king. This species of tree is one of the oldest living beings on earth. Once you see this tree, you immediately understand how it withstood thousands of years of brutal winter weather at that altitude. The growth of the tree is so slow and dense, that some years it didn’t even add a growth ring. Yet the trunk of the tree is almost as wide as giant sequoias. Walking amongst these trees feels almost pre-historic.
Besides these ancient wondrous trees, you can come across a host of wildlife living at this altitude. The only Rocky Mountain Elk herds in Clark County roam here. You can also spot wild burros, black-tailed jackrabbits, kit foxes.
Trail Canyon to North Loop
The hike is about 3.6 miles one way, but should be considered challenging. It starts at an elevation of 7800 and finishes at roughly 9900. That is an elevation gain of about 2100ft. under four miles. If you are healthy and up to the challenge, slow and steady wins the best views when hiking at altitude.
The hike begins on Trail Canyon. The trail head is very accessible and shares a good sized parking lot with Mary Jane Falls. The trail itself is well worn with several steep switchbacks that wind you through tall ponderosa pines and quaking aspens. Eventually the forests give way to views of looming Mummy Mountain at about the 2 mile marker. Eventually the trail becomes less steep bringing you to the North Loop Trail junction at the Saddle.
North Loop Trail to The Raintree
The Saddle is a junction. It is where the Trailhead Canyon Trail meets the North Loop Trailhead. This is the trail that will bring us to the grand finale, The Raintree. This segment of the trail continues well defined under the base of Mummy Mountain. This 1.6 miles is the steepest part of the hike. You might really start to notice being 2 miles above sea level. But just as you crest the last stretch, you will be walking amongst “dinosaurs”, the ancient bristle cone pine forest. The wide range of habitat that is unique to this area makes this a hike you won’t forget.
Just because these forests have survived 3,000 years does not mean they’ll last forever. Respect the fragility of the ecosystem. Do not stand under The Raintree or any other bristle cone pine. This adds to erosion. Please stay on the established paths. It takes years for top soil to recover once it is damaged. All it takes is one stray hiker to cause years of recovery. As always when outdoors, practice good trail etiquette, leave no trace. Please visit Bird and Hike, a great website that offers more information on this trails and many others. Through clear instructions and great photos, Bird and Hike will help you become a hiking pro in no time. This hike is sure to “peak” your interest in what the Mt. Charleston Wilderness has to offer if it hasn’t already. Such a short drive from Las Vegas for an experience that will leave you with a greater appreciation for Nevada’s natural wonders.
Please let us know if you go, we want to hear all about it! The Green Chamber asks that people share their experience, two-cents, photos or ask any questions about our Place Worth Visiting. Help us be a community resource!
1.”Mummy Mountain (Nevada)” . Wikipedia.org. Retrieved 11/20/2015.
2.”Mt. Charleston Wilderness”. United States Department Of Agriculture, Forest Service. Retrieved 11/20/2015.
3.“Raintree (North Loop Trail)”. BirdandHike.com. Retrieved 11/20/2015
4.“Mt. Charelston Wilderness”. Bureau of Land Management. Retrieved 11/20/2015
5.”Trail Canyon Trailhead”. BirdandHike.com. Retrieved 11/20/2015
6. Charleston Peak/Spring Mountains. Green Trails Map. no 2470s.