Early summer is a good time of the year for outdoor adventures in the Spring Mountains. While the temperatures in the Las Vegas Valley are in the triple digit range, the air up high in the mountains can be 20ºF cooler. A drive from Las Vegas up to Mount Charleston definitely spells relief from the extreme heat and this is all the inspiration that is needed for setting sail!
Mt Charleston is only about a 45 minute drive from Las Vegas and it is like being in a totally different world. Starting at about the mile high level, the high desert landscape changes from sparse Joshua Trees and sagebrush to Juniper and Ponderosa Pine forests. At over 7,500 feet up, the cool mountain air starts to take effect. By following the hiking trails that go higher up on this 11,000 foot tall mountain, the air can actually be quite chilly even in the middle of summer.
The lush pine forests at the base of the bare rock summit are pure inspiration for doing a hike. The clouds drape the high rocky peaks and the sounds of nature are all around. There are several trailheads that begin in the town of Mt Charleston and more can be found a few miles away next to the ski resort. The hiking trails do vary greatly in length and the long pathway to the summit of Mt Charleston is an overnight venture. A good choice for a short evening stroll is the Mary Jane Falls Trail. This trail is less than one mile long and it is as easy as a walk in a park. Early evening is a good time to arrive, because this is when the Mule Deer come out of the forest to feed in the mountain meadows along the trail, which definitely adds to the charm!
The Mary Jane Falls Trail is located near the village of Mt Charleston and the parking is ample. There are patches of meadow grass pasture along this trail that weaves through the Ponderosa Pine forest. The hiking trails on Mt Charleston are well marked and they are easy to navigate. Since this area is on the east side of the mountain, the shadows cover the landscape before dusk and the glare of the sun fades away, which makes it easier to spot wildlife.
Mule Deer are the primary wildlife to look for during early summer on Mt Charleston, because this is when a doe will bring a foal out of hiding. The baby Mule Deer are kept hidden till they can fare well on their own and early summer is when the baby deer can first be spotted in the meadows along the Mary Jane Falls Trail. Be sure to bring a camera, because baby Mule Deer photos are as cute as can be!
For people living just about anywhere outside of a big city, seeing wild deer is no big deal. For those who live in Las Vegas, it can be a rare sight. In fact, I have met many people in Las Vegas that have lived in that city for decades and they have never even been to Mt Charleston, which goes to show how strong the big city tunnel vision can be. What this all means is that for somebody that is stuck in the big city, doing a little hike on Mt Charleston to see some baby Mule Deer will be a thrill of a lifetime. Moments like this can make the big city seem like it is a million miles away!
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