Fall hiking has arrived: Where to go, how to prepare in Southern Nevada
Fall is the not-so-secretly the best time to go hiking around Las Vegas.
You don’t have to drive all the way up to Mt. Charleston for cooler weather, and in the foothills, hundreds of miles of trails are carved through canyons, across stretches of vast desert and atop craggy cliffs.
And for those who have found it, hiking offers a dose of solitude you don’t often find in the city’s urban core.
With State of Nevada host Joe Schoenmann on Monday was Chris Mash, a local organizer for Hiker Babes, Craig McVeay with Red Rock Search and Rescue, outdoor expert Alan Gegax and Satara Cooley with Outdoor Afro.
Before the pandemic, Mash said she was smoking, drinking and gambling. What changed her?
“They closed my bar,” she joked. “I just couldn't stand to sit in the house.”
She started walking outside which turned into a passion for hiking. It helped her lose 70 lbs., and improved her mental health.
“It opened my mind to that there is way more in Las Vegas than what people see at the Strip, or your local pub. We have an awesome outdoor environment here.”
She said hiking is a form of meditation, and helps her clear her mind.
“When people are hiking, it's hard to be depressed or sad. Nature just does something.”
Cooley agreed: “You're at peace. And you know that the moment that you're planning that adventure, you're going to be at peace.”
Hiker Babes is a Facebook group for women hikers in Southern Nevada. Mash said they organize hikes on all levels from beginner to expert.
If venturing out, she recommends bringing water, proper shoes and a safety kit with bandaids, Neosporin and something to wrap in case you twist an ankle. She also recommends a whistle in case you need to get someone’s attention.
McVeay suggested also carrying an antihistamine.
“People don't realize that they might have some sort of allergic reaction to something,” he said.
Knowing the conditions of your hike is also important – keep an eye on the forecast. “You don't want to bite off more than you can chew.”
This past weekend, the Gold Strike Hot Springs Trail reopened at Lake Mead. They dealt with dozens of people showing up in flip flops “completely unprepared for what that trail requires to get down and then back out.”
The hike involves several layers of assist ropes, which are only maintained by local hiking groups. But don’t worry, McVeay said if you are in need of being rescued by Red Rock Search and Rescue, it won’t cost anything. He said he hasn’t heard of Las Vegas police charging anyone, either.
There are thousands of miles of hiking trails in Southern Nevada, something hikers like Cooley don't take for granted.
“Hiking in Nevada, I've been hiking more, just because it's so accessible. You can go to Red Rock, you can go to Henderson, you can go to Mt. Charleston.”
Gegax has been seriously hiking the longest of our guests – about 20 years. The story of a caller resonated with him, noting the possible dangers of summiting Mt. Charleston.
“Once you get up in elevation, it definitely gets a lot harder. It's very different from hiking around town. It's different from running on a treadmill. The experience of actually having to propel your own weight up the hill is something that a gym really can't prepare you for,” he said.
But the more you do it, the more you build those skills, and pace is an important factor.
“October is the best month in Las Vegas,” Gegax said, because Red Rock, Valley of Fire and Lake Mead become more accessible. And in all of those places, you’ll find hikes less traveled.
Where should you go this season? Here’s what the guests said:
- Gegax: Fire Canyon Loop Trail at Valley of Fire, behind Mouse’s Tank
- Mash: Upper Bristlecone Trail at Lee Canyon
- Cooley: Loop Trail at Desert National Wildlife Refuge
- McVeay: Anything in Red Rock
Chris Mash, organizer, Hiker Babes; Craig McVeay, team commander, Red Rock Search and Rescue; Alan Gegax, organizer, Vegas Hikers via meetup.com; Satara Cooley, regional lead, Outdoor Afro