Nevada : Safety by City
- Battle Mountain
- Blue Diamond
- Boulder City
- Burning Man in Black Rock City
- Carson City
- Incline Village
- Las Vegas
- Moapa Valley
- Mount Charleston
- North Las Vegas
- Virginia City
- West Wendover
Mount Charleston, Nevada, is the respite from the heat for Las Vegas.
In less than an hour, you can ascend 10,000 feet above the desert to a land of pine trees and stunning rock formations.
This is also the only location where you can ski in the winter in Southern Nevada.
As a four-season destination, the shoulder seasons offer the smallest crowds.
Too many Las Vegas visitors overlook the outdoor wonders that await.
I had the lucky experience of living here for a decade, and when people ask me for the best advice to visit Las Vegas, I always say, “Get off the Strip.
Explore the mountains and trails.
As many as you can.”
Here you can find lodging, dining, and camping, though the latter is more plentiful than the former.
Sure, it’s a mountain town, but it’s definitely more rugged and rural than places like Lake Tahoe.
Somehow, as Las Vegas grew and became more dynamic, Mount Charleston resisted the urge to commercialize and instead held onto its own stroke of good luck from nature.
Warnings & Dangers in Mount Charleston
OVERALL RISK: LOW
There's a low overall risk, but you do need a certain level of experience to enjoy the trails in each season. Options are available for all skill levels.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
The Las Vegas public bus system, RTC, doesn't go up Mount Charleston, but it can get you to the Centennial Hills area. Don't rely on taxis or rideshares to get a ride up the mountain. Limited mobile service means you might not be able to call for a ride home. Having your own car is the best way to explore the mountain. It's not feasible to walk from Centennial Hills up the mountain.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
There's a low risk here, but it's incumbent upon you not to leave your stuff lying around. Don't leave a backpack unattended while exploring a rest area. Always lock your car and keep personal items out of plain sight.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: LOW
Winter storms lure people up the mountain, and road conditions, winds, and visibility can all be impacted. Summer thunderstorms can cause flash flooding, and the resulting lighting can spark wildlife. Never hike toward a wildfire, and always follow evacuation orders. High winds are common on different slopes of the mountain. Extreme cold and heat can be dangerous or deadly if you aren't prepared.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
This is another low risk. This mountain retreat is full of people who want to have a safe adventure, but you should always watch your back, just in case.
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
This is a low risk on the mountain, but Las Vegas will always be considered one of the top terror targets in the country. It's also a place where security is thick, and after the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas, security has never been tighter.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
As long as you use legitimate websites for rentals and ticket purchases, the risk is low. Don't assume you've found a deal too good to be true. Never wire money to reserve a cabin or home.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
This is a low risk, provided the women know how to survive in the wild. I always went with my experienced outdoor adventurer Carolyn since she could get us out of any tough spot. When in doubt, get a tour guide.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
You'll need to bring your own water here for the trails. If you are staying at the hotels, ask for a water quality report from the front office. There's a low risk, but the biggest risk of all is running out of water because you didn't plan properly.
Safest Places to Visit in Mount Charleston
Go Mt. Charleston is the name of the website for the entire mountain.
You can also check out the website for the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area.
Lee Canyon Road (Highway 156) and Kyle Canyon Road (Highway 157) are the two roads that get you to the mountain.
For a busy weekend travel hack – if arriving from Las Vegas, take the 12-mile drive past Kyle Canyon to Lee Canyon.
It will take longer, but you’ll at least be enjoying more mountain views than bumper-to-bumper traffic.
As a Las Vegas local, I sought refuge from the heat on this mountain many times.
I also took every chance I could to see the snow that we so rarely got in Las Vegas.
I’m an avid hiker but with average skills and no desire to do rock climbing or summiting a mountain in record time.
I’ll give guidance based on that skill set but know there are easier and expert options to explore.
This is just to appeal to the masses.
I can’t stress enough how much you should just enjoy the drive.
You see the desert floor peel away and rocks lessen for towering trees.
In fact, you drive through seven ecological zones and more than two dozen species that aren’t found anywhere else on Earth.
Aside from camping, you can stay at or visit the newly named Retreat on Charleston Peak.
In September 2017, Mt. Charleston fans watched in horror as the Mount Charleston Lodge burned to the ground.
The resort had been there since 1905 through several iterations, including another fire that leveled it in 1961.
It is once again being rebuilt, and the cabins are still open for business, thankfully untouched by the fire.
“This is one of those structures that, it does become more than just a structure, more than just a business.
It’s one that becomes part of people’s lives because it’s just the place you go,” Historian Mark Hall-Patton told local news station KTNV.
Stop by the Spring Mountains Visitor Gateway building, about 17 miles on Kyle Canyon Road (Highway 157) entrance off US 95.
Pick up a trail map and plot your course.
- Eagles Nest
- Bristlecone Loop
- Sawmill Trailhead
- Desert View Overlook
- Mahogany Grove
- Robber’s Roost
- Mt. Charleston South Loop
- Cathedral Rock
- Mary Jane Falls
- Trail Canyon
- Kunav Huveep
- Pack Rate Route
- Valley of Fire
- Lake Mead
Most of the trails are within Spring Mountain National Recreation Area.
Mary Jane Falls is always packed in spring, as that’s when the falls come alive with melting snow.
Cathedral Rock is another busy trail, and you can get great views of Cathedral Rock without going on the trail.
Lee Canyon Ski & Snow Resort is the only ski area in Southern Nevada (leecanyonlv.com).
The resort is open throughout the year, with several restaurant options at the top.
The resort has a store with outdoor accessories, a pro shop, and a gift shop.
Check trail conditions on the resort’s website before you go.
Book your tickets early to guarantee a spot on the mountain.
Check the events page on the tourism site to find guided tours, wilderness activities, and Junior Ranger programs for kids.
There are tour companies that will do guided hikes or other outdoor activities with pick-up from your hotel.
Ask the concierge for the best options.
You can also look under the “Programs” section on Go Mt. Charleston to see activity options like night hikes for starry skies and snowshoe hikes.
Places to Avoid in Mount Charleston
You want to avoid any hike or activity that is beyond your skill set.
Both Clark County and Go Mt Charleston websites have plenty of safety information for each season.
A place you can safely explore in the spring can be closed in winter.
Parking spaces available in summer aren’t always open after a snowstorm.
Guests have no excuse for making stupid mistakes here because there’s enough safety information available to consider any issue or problem.
It’s strongly urged to avoid trying to summit Mount Charleston in the winter due to unstable conditions, cold weather, and other risks.
In April 2018, a man who knew this mountain well took a fall while hiking alone.
He died from exposure to cold elements and dehydration.
June through September is the best time to submit.
Also, avoid any private property.
You should also heed all warning signs and stay out of the backcountry unless you are certified for that activity.
Mount Charleston’s traffic can turn a relaxation day into an anxiety-fueled experience.
If you are concerned about too much traffic on the road and trails, consider these other hiking options nearby:
- Red Rock Canyon
- Sloan Canyon
- River Mountains Loop Trail
- Death Valley National Park
If you’re determined to ski, check out the low fares between Reno and Las Vegas, with more than a dozen ski resorts around Lake Tahoe.
It’s an easy day or weekend trip.
Mount Charleston doesn’t have bears, so you don’t need to worry about a run-in.
However, there are coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions, skunks, and foxes.
The road up the mountain could have wild horses or burros around.
Don’t feed them, and always stay at least 40 feet away (the length of a school bus).
I can tell you that burros are somewhat curious.
I had one follow me at a distance through Red Rock Canyon.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Mount Charleston
- Las Vegas Metro Police Department (“Metro”) serves as law enforcement for Mount Charleston, and the Northwest Area Command (NWAC) specifically patrols this region. You can always follow Metro on social media, but there is a section for NWAC on Facebook @NWACLVMPD.
- The closest gas station to Mount Charleston is at US 95 and Skye Canyon Park Drive. No gas stations are available anywhere on the mountain. Gas up before you go.
- If you’re heading up the mountain in winter, the valley weather can be springlike, but the mountain roads can still have restrictions and chain controls. You should know how to install tire chains or be willing to pay someone else to do it. You can also get a four-wheel drive vehicle rental if you don’t want the hassle.
- Due to the sheer number of people who head to the mountain, police will close off the main road if the mountain, resorts, or trails are at capacity. Start early.
- Once you’re on the mountain, please know that parking near trailheads is limited. One of the biggest problems here is people making up their own parking spots. That’s a great way to get a ticket and be towed. When you do find a parking spot, confirm that your tires are to the right of the white line. Anything less, and you’ll be considered parked illegally.
- Head to the mountain before 9:00 am, or don’t expect to get a place to park. I can’t tell you how many groggy mornings I trekked up the mountain just to be able to get a parking spot. I’ve even napped in my car once I got there just to secure the space.
- Public restrooms are only available at the Cliff Rose Trailhead and Sawmill Picnic Area. Otherwise, you’ll need to dig a six-inch hole to do your business and then bury it with toilet paper before you leave.
- Anyone bringing a pet must keep them on a leash. I took my dogs up here all the time, and I can tell you the trails are too crowded even to consider letting a dog run free. Other people will call you out for not picking up dog water or bagging & dropping waste.
- The mountain has many switchbacks, like the trail to Mary Jane Falls. Do not walk straight up through the land between the switchbacks. (For those who don’t know, a switchback is a zigzag path with sharp turns at each corner to help get up a mountain easier). It takes longer, but you don’t want to impact the land that supports the switchbacks.
- Check the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) website for road closures, traffic troubles, or accidents. You can also review live cameras to see what the mountain areas look like that day.
So... How Safe Is Mount Charleston Really?
Aside from the occasional theft or domestic situation, crime isn’t your biggest concern on Mount Charleston.
It seems the higher the attitude gets in Clark County, the lower the crime rate goes.
This is a nice blend of resort, recreation, and residential spaces.
Home burglaries would be a bigger target than any kind of violent attack waiting around the corner.
The real risks here are the natural kind.
Search for “Mount Charleston Lost Hike,” and you’ll find too many stories of people who disappeared into the mouth of the Spring Mountains.
Hikers can get lost, end up stuck on a cliff or ledge, or even suffer an injury or become disoriented while hiking the terrain.
The rescues that result are dangerous for the officers who respond.
In 2013, an officer fell to his death while rescuing a stranded hiker.
The rescue was successful, but the tragedy rocked the Mount Charleston and Las Vegas communities.
In March 2023, a backcountry skier was killed in an avalanche.
Even with all his training, the dismissal of the changing conditions couldn’t change his mind to continue.
He was found wrapped around a tree by his friends.
All this is to say, you still need rigorous and diligent safety training and practice it as you go along.
Even though this mountain is so close to Las Vegas, safety should never be a gable.
How Does Mount Charleston Compare?
|Sao Paulo (Brazil)||45|
|Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)||43|
|Siem Reap (Cambodia)||63|
|Phnom Penh (Cambodia)||61|
|Niagara Falls (Canada)||87|
About four million international visitors come to Las Vegas each year, and they all need a passport and visa or visa waiver. Wait times can be long to get the required documents and to get through Customs and Border Patrol at the airport. Start at the U.S. State Department website to get the process going.
You can exchange currency at Travelex inside the airport, and you'll need U.S. Dollars to spend here. All casinos will require cash for slot machines. You can turn cash into chips at the tables or casino cages. Avoid using the casino ATMs if you can since they charge a much higher fee.
Mount Charleston will be at least 20 degrees colder than Las Vegas, which is a nice break in the summer, but can mean a whole new change of clothing in the winter. Bring layers, hiking boots, sunscreen, and drinking water. You can rent ski equipment at the resort to avoid lugging around your own.
Harry Reid International Airport (formerly known as McCarran) is the closest and largest airport in the region. That's about an hour from the top of Mount Charleston, but leave extra time in case there's traffic. The international terminal is a separate location from the main terminal. Follow the signs when you enter the airport's main road. The two terminals are not connected.
Travel insurance is a great way to protect your trip investment, especially when rogue storms can close down the mountain. Some rental companies might offer travel insurance as an add-on to the reservation so you don't lose your deposit.
Mount Charleston Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
|Temperature / Month||Jan||Feb||Mar||Apr||May||Jun||Jul||Aug||Sep||Oct||Nov||Dec|
Nevada - Safety by City
|Burning Man in Black Rock City||70|
|North Las Vegas||54|