The Spring Mountains National Recreation Area is part of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. This area is better known to locals as the Mount Charleston Wilderness Area and located thirty-five miles northwest of downtown Las Vegas, Nevada. In forty-five minutes, visitors can escape to the mountains and enjoy cooler weather and panoramic views that provide a quick getaway from the city. This recreation area is three thousand and sixteen acres and consist of diverse and beautiful snow-capped mountain peaks that are surrounded by desert. The area is open year-round and visitors can expect to see an array of diverse wildlife and vegetation. The area is quite popular during the summer months, because temperatures tend to be significantly cooler due to the higher elevations in the mountains. The scenery provides a nice and relaxing place for a casual drive, hiking, picnicking, wildlife viewing and photography. There are many other things to do at Mount Charleston for the more adventurous individual as well, such as horseback riding, rock climbing and other snow-oriented activities such as skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing.
As a child, I used to come out to Las Vegas to visit family for the summer. One of our traditions included taking trips up to Mount Charleston. I haven’t been to the area in about fifteen years and as some things have stayed the same, a lot of things look very different this time around. I remember there being fewer structures on the way to Mount Charleston and that has sure changed. The area has been built up along the way with a lot more residential and commercial property. Upon entering the road into the recreation area, it was nice to see things as they always have been. This time was different though, because the mountains were covered in snow. This sure was a treat indeed, because like I mentioned, I had only been to the area during my summers. Although our visits to the area were always remarkably cooler than in the lower elevations of Las Vegas, there was never any snow present on the mountains. This past visit during April would be quite different than the summer months I was used to. We saw plenty of snow clouds over the mountains on the way up there in the distance. This was quite a beautiful scene with the beauty of the desert contrasted with snow-filled mountains in the background.
Mount Charleston Scenic Drive
Viewing snow filled mountains in the distance.
A mix of clouds and blue skies.
Entering the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area.
A view from the road.
Spring Mountains Gateway Visitor Center
Upon entering the recreation area, we were welcomed by the new visitor center. This was a whole new experience for us, because this wasn’t here during our last visit to the area. Construction on the building began in late 2012 and was completed in the spring of 2015. Local artists have worked with the forest service and LGArchitects to provide a unique experience for visitors. The beautifully constructed building was designed to complement the natural environment. The building is also environmentally sustainable, as it is equipped with radiant heating and cooling systems. In addition, they have also repurposed old picnic benches from the mountain, that has provided wood paneling in the building.
The staff at the visitor center was very warm and welcoming. Here are a few photographs I had taken of a few of the educational displays and tourist shop.
An exterior view of the Spring Mountains Gateway Visitor Center.
The Spring Mountains Gateway Visitor Center sign.
Maps of the area.
A view from the visitor center.
An interior view of the Spring Mountains Gateway Visitor Center.
Information on the Spring Mountains and the City.
Some information on birds.
Information on birds and the local vegetation.
Information on local mammals.
Interactive display in the center.
Hiking journals for sale.
Pottery for sale.
A beautiful nature ornament.
A stuffed black-capped chickadee.
A display of various camping and hiking books.
A stuffed animal display.
A stuffed Smokey Bear. Who doesn’t remember seeing this guy growing up?
The view from across the street.
Before leaving the visitor center, I couldn’t resist taking a photograph of this red Ferrari. It’s not like you to see one of these every day.
Mt. Charleston Lodge
The next stop on the agenda was having lunch at the Mt. Charleston Lodge on top of the mountain in Kyle Canyon’s Humboldt Toiyabe National Forest. I hope you enjoy the following views from the drive to the top of the mountain.
Making the drive up the mountain.
Here is where we saw a lot more accumulation of snow along the roadside.
The Mt. Charleston Lodge is just one of the hidden gems located at 7,717 feet elevation at the top of the mountain. As I mentioned earlier, I have been coming here my whole life. It was interesting to see how it looked the same as when I was a kid. I have never been here with snow on the top of the mountain. When we left Las Vegas, the weather was in the seventies and at the top of the mountain, it was around forty degrees Fahrenheit. Now being from Maine, that is considered to be nothing, but I didn’t expect to see all that snow on the mountain. In Maine, at forty degrees, that is considered a warm spring day and people are wearing shorts and t-shirts. When I had left Maine, there were about two feet of snow on the ground. Actually, the day we flew out of New Hampshire, it was snowing. Apparently, the snow was following us, because it started to snow while we were eating our lunch. It was beautiful to watch as it came falling down outside of the A-frame style windows. The only thing we were missing was a nice fire burning in the open fireplace located in the center of the room.
After lunch, we decided to visit the gift shop located at the back of the lounge. I guess they did away with it, because it wasn’t there anymore.
The entrance to the Mt. Charleston Lodge.
The cozy dining room where we enjoyed our lunch.
I have seen images of Slingshots online, but never in person.
A mix of snow and sun in the sky.
Cabin rentals on top of the mountain.
Clouds over the mountains.
Can you imagine living here?
The Resort on Mount Charleston
On the way back down the mountain, we stopped at the Resort on Mount Charleston. My family and I used to come here as well. The structure itself is newer than the Mt. Charleston Lodge, but has since changed ownership, since my last visit. A couple from North Carolina had purchased the property for $4.8 million dollars recently. At first glance, everything appeared to look the same, but upon a closer look, some things have changed indeed.
There have always been two dining rooms, but now the room in the back is reserved for events such as wedding receptions and the dining room in the front is for everyday dining. We used to dine in the back room and one could enjoy the spectacular views of the mountains while you enjoyed your meal. In addition to enjoying the views, we would enjoy watching the hummingbirds. In each window, there was a hummingbird feeder and diners could enjoy watching these splendid birds. Perhaps, the new owners will carry on with this practice, but I believe the temperatures were a little too cold for hummingbirds at that time of year on the mountain.
Everyone we spoke to at the resort was very kind and accommodating and I wish the new owners well. They have chosen a beautiful resort in a wonderful location.
The sign for the Resort on Mount Charleston.
The exterior of the Resort on Mount Charleston.
The open fireplace in the lobby of the resort.
The ceiling of the dining room.
One of the two dining rooms.
The resort bar.
Another view of the dining room of the Mount Charleston Resort.
The Drive Back to Las Vegas
After a wonderful day, it was nice to back to Las Vegas. At this point, the temperature was about forty-five degrees Fahrenheit and by the time we got back down from the mountains, it was in the sixties. I hope you enjoyed the views and here are a few more photographs on the way out of the area.
The mountains in April.
Enjoying a desert scene.
A mixture of snow and desert.
Rock walls along the road.
The Joshua trees about to bloom.
Mountains in the distance.
Back to Las Vegas!