Desert Companion

Design: Gateway to heaven


Mt. Charleston's new visitor center
Brent Holmes

Local artist Austine Wood-Comarow created the polarized light art mural in the visitor center.

How to enjoy Mt. Charleston’s new welcome center

It’s July, when Southern Nevadans ritually remember their closest thing to an alpine getaway, Mount Charleston, where it’s an average 20 degrees cooler than the city. New this year: a 128-acre welcome center, complete with bathrooms, picnic areas, amphitheaters, monuments and a gift shop. The Spring Mountains Visitor Gateway, about a half-hour off State Route 152 in Kyle Canyon, is now open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, offering hikers, walkers and people who simply want to sit on a bench that’s not melting a place to learn about the 316,000 acres of trails, trees and wildlife unfolding before them. The site offers access to 40 miles of trails, which range from stroller-friendly to “Help! I’m getting a Stairmaster cramp!” Below, we call out our favorite highlights.


Support comes from


Silent Heroes of the Cold War memorial
Brent Holmes

The Silent Heroes of the Cold War Memorial is marked by propellers from the Air Force plane that crashed on Mount Charleston in 1955 while carrying 14 workers on the top-secret U2 project.


The Seven Stones
Brent Holmes

The Seven Stones Plaza honors the ancestral relationship between the Spring Mountains and the Southern Paiute tribes collectively known as Nuwuvi ("the people").


bristlecone bench
Brent Holmes

Designers used 1,000-to-2,000-year-old bristlecone pine trunks salvaged from other areas on the mountain to create three benches.


Amphitheater's echo chamber
Brent Holmes

Zak Ostrowski and his team fitted, labeled, colored, fired and placed every ceramic piece in the small amphitheater's echo chamber by hand so that it would have the desired effect.


300-Seat Amphitheater
Brent Holmes

The Gateway's 300-seat amphitheater may not have the best acoustics of any outdoor performance venue i Southern Nevada, but it definitely has the best view (and it's wired for sound!)

If you’ve enjoyed this read, wait until you get your hands on a bunch of these reads from contemporary voices mining the good stuff from Las Vegas — all laid out in a gorgeous design experience. Subscribe. It comes to your house. For real!

More Stories

KNPR's State of Nevada
Along the Way
Along the Way