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Mt. Charleston Memories

Updated on September 17, 2015

Mt. Charleston Fires

Wildfire on Mt. Charleston as viewed from the Las Vegas Strip
Wildfire on Mt. Charleston as viewed from the Las Vegas Strip | Source

Grieving A Mountain Retreat

Fire! The one word in the English language that can spark panic and instant reaction in all that hear it. This week in Las Vegas a new history is being written with this four letter word. Our beloved Mt. Charleston is in flames and our valley is experiencing the worst fire since the MGM 25 years ago.

Ironically, we visited the mountain on July 1, 2013 just before the fire spread and were able to capture some images that we will cherish for years. Up until this week, the Mt. Charleston area is something I highly recommend to visitors to our valley. It is a place I go for a spiritual recharge and cool mountain air. The walks and hikes are very therapeutic. I loved watching the wind tickle the trees and delighted in an appearance of the colorful birds swooping through the forest.

It is my close to home retreat and a place for meditation and reflection for many of us that visit frequently.

Wildfires raging out of control are taking over an area enriched by Mother Nature's beauty. This event is a terrible tragedy and one the city of Las Vegas will be grieving for a long time. The mountains to the north of our city are being scorched and damaged by a terrible wildfire and we are all saddened by the loss that will be caused by this devastating fire.

Where is Mt. Charleston? - Just a short drive from Las Vegas

The drive up to this mountain range is a pleasant journey. The landscape changes from desert to brush to forest in a few minutes and the area is a breathtaking view both toward the mountains and back to the city skyline. Even the drive from Las Vegas to Mt. Charleston is a relaxing event. Watching the scenery change brings about a much needed comfort. The rocks and hills are amazing. Watching for wild life and seeing the different plants is a perfect trip for a nature lover. Sometimes we just drive up to the lodge for a short time out.

Mt. Charleston, Nevada:
Mt. Charleston, Nevada

get directions

Hiking Las Vegas: The All-in-One Guide to Exploring Red Rock Canyon, Mt. Charleston, and Lake Mead
Hiking Las Vegas: The All-in-One Guide to Exploring Red Rock Canyon, Mt. Charleston, and Lake Mead

There are some beautiful and surprising hiking areas surrounding the glittering city of Las Vegas. Our mountain areas offer some of the most challenging climbs in the world.


Hiking Las Vegas - National Parks Around The City

The areas surrounding the city of Las Vegas are a wonderful surprise for visitors from all over the world. These beautiful recreation areas are enchanting and wonderful places for photographs.

The mountain paths and regal views are beyond description. The mountains host miles of hiking trails and cooler weather during the summer months. When the days get too hot in the Las Vegas Valley it is time to head for the hills for some much needed chill time! We visit at least 3 times a year. What really surprises our visitors is a view of snow in the winter. Mt. Charleston holds snow for ski trails up until late in the month of May.

Red Rock and Mt. Charleston both are my favorite places to escape city life. If I need a time out or just need a way to clear my mind, I take a drive to one of these areas. Mt. Charleston is on the north end of the city about 40 minutes from the down town area and Red Rock is west of the city - 30 minutes away. The springtime sends us sweet, colorful wildflowers in yellows, white, and colorful neon orange.

Mt. Charleston Skies - Trees And Fresh Air

Mt. Charleston Skies
Mt. Charleston Skies | Source

Hiking Trails

The trees tower over you as you hike down various trails into the forests of Mt. Charleston. As you wander views of the sky are clear and on a good night billions of stars are gathered overhead. This is an image of some of the tree tops in the area.

These views are a peaceful reminder that everything does not revolve around a hectic schedule or cell phone. Just sitting for a few minutes and admiring Mother Nature's handy work returns serenity to my spirit and recharges my energies.

Before The Fires

Mountain Peaks and Beautiful Trees - Mt Charleston 2013 July 2
Mountain Peaks and Beautiful Trees - Mt Charleston 2013 July 2 | Source

The Toiyabe National Forest

Mountain peaks and beautiful trees dress the canyons and valleys in The Toiyabe National Forest where you will find Mt. Charleston. Many species of wild birds migrate here in the summer.

Before the Mt. Charleston fires, the campgrounds and resorts were popular summer havens. They are our favorite summer AND winter retreats. There are numerous camping areas, hiking trails, a resort, and cabin rentals available. There is a lodge that welcomes Mt. Charleston visitors with a full menu from a morning breakfast to an early supper or a cocktail at the lounge.

When the temperatures in Las Vegas exceed the 100's plus -- locals and visitors alike escaped to the hills surrounding our valley. They are part of the Toiyabe National Forest. Located just 40 minutes from the city -- the peaks are around 12,000 feet at its highest levels. The cooler temperatures are a welcome retreat in the brutal summers of Las Vegas.

During the winter we are gifted with snow packs which make for fun family outings. Ski trails are available once the snow is set and there are areas for snowboarding and sledding along the roads around the mountain.

Mount Charleston Links - Sites and Blogs

This is a collection of various bogs, sites, and information pages about Mount Charleston and the surrounding areas. If you get the time to visit, I hope there is something left behind for you to see. I love the Resort as it is a little more affordable, but if you can do so, renting a cabin near the Lodge would be a great way to spend a couple of days in the area. Both lodge and resort have restaurants and the food is very good.

Wildlife On The Mountain - Birds, Ground Squirrels, Burros

Wildlife On Mt Charleston Collage
Wildlife On Mt Charleston Collage | Source

Mt. Charleston Wildlife

If you are lucky enough to visit on a cool afternoon, Mt. Charleston's wildlife will be out for grazing and gathering. You might even catch them napping in a shady area along your trail or camp area. The bird here are amazing. The colors touch every color of the rainbow, but you have to be quick to see them or even photograph them.

Ground squirrels inhabit most of the recreation areas around our valley so it is not unusual to see them where ever you go. They are the tiny guys with the medium greyish brown fur. There are chipmunks here, too, but I have been unable to capture one in photograph.

As you drive into the Spring Mountain Recreational Area you will see signs posted about burros. There will be warning signs for not feeding them and being on the alert for them. They tend to graze the roads where there are sweet grasses for foraging.

Wild Horses Grazing - Mt. Charleston Ski Trails In Summer

Wild horses grazing the ski trails in late summer
Wild horses grazing the ski trails in late summer | Source

Wild Horses and Trails

My favorite images from this visit to the mountain were wild horses grazing near the ski lift and lodge at Mt. Charleston. During the summer time these are grassy meadows and the local wildlife love to visit and graze as you can see in these images of wild horses we saw on Wednesday afternoon.

There is a hiking trail near here called the Bristlecone Trails hike. It extends beyond the ski lodge and is a gentle climb. There are posters along the trail that highlight the different elements you will see as you walk along this pathway and enjoy the forest.

Flowers And Plants - On The Mountain

Mt Charleston Flowers, Plants, And Trees
Mt Charleston Flowers, Plants, And Trees | Source

The Desert's Sea of Flowers

There is a rainbow of colors when Mother Nature blooms on Mt. Charleston as you can see in the images here. There are beautiful purple thistles, bright yellow daisies and a variety of white flowers in attractive shapes and colors. The mountain grows a blend of wildflowers and bushy plants that produce seeds and berries.

There are wild current bushes scattered throughout the forest with tiny red berries that look tasty until you try one. The berries have to turn a dark purple for them to be sweet otherwise they are rather bitter. It is amazing to turn a corner on the trail and run across one of these dazzling plants.

The small tree is a Bristlecone pine. It is a rare variety of pinetree. The white flowers are Primroses and the orange puffs are called Mallows. The spiky dark orange are Indian Paint Brush. The yellow flowered bushes are called Rabbit Brush and the other images are varieties of sage.

Identifying Wild Flowers And Plants - Field Guides

When you are tramping around in the wild and want to know more about what you are seeing, a field guide for identifying flowers is a handy thing to have around. The pictures and the descriptions will tell you what is poisonous and what you can use for medicinal purposes. I love these guides and would love to have several to study in my library.

The nature lover in me is fascinated but the many colors and varieties that grow on our mountain and around the desert floor. I have heard so many people say there is nothing but sand and cactus around Las Vegas. That may be true unless you look a little closer. As you can see in the collage above, there is a lot more here than cactus. Even the cacti bloom when spring arrives.

June 30, 2013

Lightening strikes and starts a dangerous wildfire in Carpenter Canyon just on the other side of Mt. Charleston...

Carpenter Canyon 1 Wildfire Spreads - July 1, 2013

Carpenter Canyon 1 Wildfire Spreads - July 1, 2013
Carpenter Canyon 1 Wildfire Spreads - July 1, 2013 | Source

Carpenter Canyon Wildfires - And Mt. Charleston Fires

These videos of the Carpenter Canyon and Mt. Charleston wildfires are local images from angles around the valley and even up close to the fire's edge. One photographer commented about being kicked off of the mountain! We are all both shocked and mesmerized by these images.

Wildfire Capture Monday July 8, 2013

The sunset lights up the clouds. The yellow is from the sun - it is not flames. The image was captured behind the Rio Hotel - Monday July 8, 2013
The sunset lights up the clouds. The yellow is from the sun - it is not flames. The image was captured behind the Rio Hotel - Monday July 8, 2013 | Source

July 8, 2013 - The Fire On Mt. Charleston

Smoke Rolling Over The Las Vegas Valley

This frightening image is decorating our skies this week in the Las Vegas valley. It was shot from the back of the Rio Hotel on July 8 at approximately 7:30 pm at sunset.

The sunset is an eerie red sun dropping into burnished clouds and smoke cover. The fire has reached over 12,000 acres with no end in sight. Because of the terrain on the areas, firefighters are having to use aircraft to dump gallons of flame retardant chemicals on the fire but it is not stopping the blaze.

The smoke is causing visibility issues and the flames keep advancing. The communities in Carpenter Canyon, Kyle Canyon, and Mt. Charleston are concerned about their homes and over 500 people have been evacuated to this point.

The sun set in a haze of clouds and enhanced this photo with its light. The yellow is not fire but only a trick of light. The smog levels over our city is awful. This scene is like something out of a horror movie.

Fire Over The Skyline Of Las Vegas - View Of The Smoke Clouds

This is a video of the Las Vegas Skyline filmed from McCarran Airport. It shows you how big that smoke plume is. This nasty cloud is stretching over our city and causing some uncomfortable conditions.

Mt. Charleston Prayers

Mt. Charleston Prayers
Mt. Charleston Prayers | Source

Get Away At The Resort On Mt Charlie

Get Away At The Resort On Mt Charlie
Get Away At The Resort On Mt Charlie

Cabins And Lodge On Mount Charleston

Cabins And Lodge On Mount Charleston
Cabins And Lodge On Mount Charleston

Mt. Charleston Memories

My favorite memories of this wonderful area are gratefully preserved on the hard drive of my computer. I am glad I took the time to snap images and collect my favorite views of this incredible mountain. Its future is uncertain at this point. The damage from this fire will span decades of revitalization.

While I understand that Mother Nature has to clear the field now and then the impact of this fire is personal as this is the closest forest for us here in the Vegas Valley. This is like losing an old friend. Mt. Charleston, we are mourning you today!

Mt. Charleston Revisited 2015

I recently returned to view the mountain and see the healing that has taken place. Our campsite was, thankfully, spared from the devastation of the fires. There is some damage present, but the majority of the common areas remain the same as it always has.

Camping Mount Charleston with a Dog and a Dutch Oven.

Comments And Review - Mt. Charleston Memories

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    • MBurgess profile imageAUTHOR

      Maria Burgess 

      5 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      @lesliesinclair: Those horses thrill me when I see them and I am very glad to have gotten these images. I made my BF stop the car so I could get those photos! We were pretty scared for a while. The latest news as of July 22, 2013: Fire contained at 95% and the residents of Kyle Canyon were allowed back in to their homes 4 days ago.

      When I do a city tour in the daylight I always mention our Mountains to help give people an idea of what direction they are facing. Mt. Charleston is North West of the city. This is part of our area people too often overlook! (Local's secret hideout!)

      When it gets cold and the snows come back I have to get a picture of the snow cap. That's the only image I think I am missing here.

      Thank you for taking time to comment, Papier! I so appreciate your visit!

    • lesliesinclair profile image


      5 years ago

      Since I've been to the city more than once I guess I've seen something of the mountain in the distance, but nothing like this up close and personal tour you provide. The fires can be terrifying and my heart bleeds over the plight of the wild horses of Nevada.

    • MBurgess profile imageAUTHOR

      Maria Burgess 

      5 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      @OhMe: I was in shock watching that smoke cloud and what prompted me to dig through my files and share these image. I wanted to remember Mt. Charleston the way it was and will be again someday. There have been flash floods and heavy thunderstorms this week, thankfully, and I think they have it out now. The residents went home day before yesterday. (This being July 21, 2013) Thank you for dropping by and commenting, OhMe! This place means a lot to me and so many others.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 

      5 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      I know you must be so thankful to have these wonderful pictures. I love the one looking up into the sky through the trees and can easily see why this would have been a wonderful retreat. My heart just breaks for the loss caused by these horrific fires. Thank you so much for sharing this.

    • MBurgess profile imageAUTHOR

      Maria Burgess 

      5 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      @SusanDeppner: It was a scary situation from a distance. I cannot image what it would be like up close. At this point the residents are allowed back in their homes and there is still a fire but it is on its way to being put out very soon. Thank you for your comments, Susan, and visit today!

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 

      5 years ago from Arkansas USA

      A great job documenting such a sad event. Having experienced a (short-lived) wildfire up close and personal (it grabbed our house on its way through) I can truthfully say I know how you're feeling. I hope the situation is much improved now and that it doesn't happen again in your lifetime. Look forward to re-growth in the forest over the next several years. Wildlife returned to our area very quickly and the up-side is that we can see them better now since there are fewer trees!

    • MBurgess profile imageAUTHOR

      Maria Burgess 

      5 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      @LizMac60: We hope it doesn't do much damage to the area that we visit often but it is not looking good at the moment. Thank you for taking time to visit and comment!

    • LizMac60 profile image

      Liz Mackay 

      5 years ago from United Kingdom

      This is such a shame, but the land will recover and new things grow.

    • MBurgess profile imageAUTHOR

      Maria Burgess 

      5 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      @Unlimited11-11: We are saddened by this, certainly. Thank you for stopping in and taking time to comment.

    • katiecolette profile image


      5 years ago

      What a beautiful place to visit. So sorry to hear about the wildfire - hope they can get it under control very soon, before it spreads to homes. We had a bad wildfire in our area a couple years ago, and I know that dealing with smoke is not fun at all.

    • Unlimited11-11 profile image

      Tom McHugh 

      5 years ago from Lake Champlain, Vermont, USA

      Thanks for sharing. I can feel your pain about this tragedy.

    • MBurgess profile imageAUTHOR

      Maria Burgess 

      5 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      @katiecolette: Thanks Irina! No, it is not fun. The smoke is causing respiratory problems here in the valley. I can't imagine what those that are close to the fire are going through. I know they are working day and night to control this monster.

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      5 years ago from Canada

      The fire is unbelievable how large it is in size. I can imagine the smoke will also be very difficult for those with breathing difficulties to deal with as well. What a terrible disaster this is. So very sad.


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