The Cockscomb Ridge Wilderness Circuit is an extension of the Cockscomb Ridge hike/run. The difference is that it includes a descent from Cockscomb Ridge through the wilderness back to the trailhead on Kyle Canyon Road just beyond the Rainbow Subdivision turnoff. Descending from the top of the Cockscomb Ridge involves traversing a section of wilderness in such a way that you locate and descend a final ridge ending in an unmarked trail system that you can navigate back to the trailhead. It’s an enjoyable experience giving you an opportunity to practice some basic wilderness navigation skills that could come in very handy during a longer wilderness navigation experience. You will overcome the basic fear that comes with not having the security of a trail. Depending on your comfort level you will grow the ability to navigate by large landmarks vs. depending on compass, electronic guidance systems or maps. This will bring you closer to the experience of dissolving the artificial barriers that commonly exist between yourself and nature.
Trailhead directions are the same as the Cockscomb Ridge trailhead directions.
Kyle Canyon Road to Echo Road
The Cockscomb Ridge Wilderness Circuit begins further from the wilderness than nearly any other adventure on LasVegasAreaTrails.com. From the trailhead proceed up a 1-2 mile stretch of paved road beginning with a right turn up Kyle Canyon Road. Normally you’re traveling up this stretch of road in a car and missing some of the unique sights that come with slowing down. There’s Charleston Village, a library, a fire station and an old water tower. To your left there’s a creek and some unique views of Cathedral Rock and the South Ridge of Kyle Canyon. To your right there are the foothills of the North Ridge of Kyle Canyon and some possible additional lower approaches to Cockscomb Ridge.
Beware of a few sections that have no shoulder and be prepared to take evasive measures to avoid being hit by passing vehicles. If it’s dark I strongly suggest a reflective vest and flashlight.
Echo Road to the Trail Canyon Trailhead
At the intersection of Kyle Canyon Road and Echo Road, just before the bridge, continue straight up Echo Road. Along the way you’ll notice Echo Trailhead which is a good departing point for winter wilderness adventures up the South Ridge of Kyle Canyon and on up to Cathedral Rock and Charleston Peak. During the Fall, Winter and early Spring the South Climb trailhead is closed and gated off, so Echo Trailhead is your best departure point. After about ¼ mile on Echo Road you’ll arrive at the familiar Trail Canyon Trailhead.
Trail Canyon Trail to the North Loop Trail Junction
Take the Trail Canyon Trail up 2 miles to the junction of the North Loop Trail. In the video I took this section of trail slowly as I have not previously slowed down to document this area. Of note, there is a popular rock-climbing cave to the left about 1/4th mile up the trail and some unique views of the West side of Cockscomb Ridge.
Along the Cockscomb Ridge
At the junction of the North Loop Trail take a right up to Cockscomb Ridge. You’ll be on the ridge immediately. For the first 1/8th mile the trail is well established, but gradually becomes more of a navigation experience along an avalanche slope to your right and an abrupt drop-off to your left. The views are tremendous, especially to the left (or East). When you reach the rock pinnacle of Cockscomb Peak proceed around the right (West) side…your only option. There are two main rock pinnacles. Between the two there is a route that descends to the left (East) and continues along the East base of the larger pinnacle, actually a cliff. I did not take this route in the video but retraced my steps back to the trail on the other side of the pinnacle of Cockscomb Peak.
Descending Cockscomb Ridge and Traversing the East Base of the Ridge
Just beyond Cockscomb Peak I descended to the East and began traversing the avalanche slope at the Eastern base of Cockscomb Ridge. There are a series of 6 or more ridges to summit before reaching the ridge that will take you down to the Miner’s Tree and the unmarked trail system beyond that takes you to your point of origin.
The trick is to find the correct ridge that will take you down to the miner’s tree. Only one ridge does it. I believe it’s the 6th ridge. Traversing the 6 ridges along the avalanche slope is a study in locating routes to ascend and descend the ridges without encountering rock formations to climb. It’s possible, and at times there is what appears to be a very faint trail to confirm you’re on a good route. But don’t count on the faint trail because it more often disappears than appears.
The Final Descent Ridge to Miner’s Tree
The real confirmation that you’re on the correct ridge (I believe the 6th ) is that when you turn left to descend the ridge you will be heading straight for the Rainbow Subdivision and Harris Mountain as your point of reference. Another point of reference is the large ridge system to the left and the right.
At the base of the descent ridge I ended up about 50 yards to the right of the Miner’s Tree. There was a trail/creek to the left that took me to the Miner’s Tree. In the Fall, the creek is full of yellow jackets, but they were pretty tame, unlike the evil yellow jackets of the Pacific Northwestern states.
Navigating the Unmarked Trails from Miner’s Tree to the Trailhead
At the Miner’s tree take a right and head along the trail that proceeds along the base of a ridge on your left for about a half mile. Avoid the initial 2-3 trails that head down to the right. You’ll know it’s time to take a right turn when you arrive at a larger trail/abandoned road. Proceed down that road for about a half mile, then take the first substantial trail to the left. This will take you along a half mile wash that ends where you parked your car at the beginning of this adventure.
Congratulations! I don’t believe many people have made this circuit adventure.