Fletcher Canyon Trail | Mt. Charleston Wilderness | Spring Mountains, Nevada
2nd Exploration Video: To Upper Barrier Class 3 Ledge + Exploration Above Canyon Toward Cockscomb Ridge
Initial Adventure Video: Lower Canyon During Spring Runoff
Only the Peaceful Sights and Sounds of Water
Overview | Fletcher Canyon Trail | Mt. Charleston Wilderness | Spring Mountains, Nevada
Two Different Adventures
Fletcher Canyon Trail is really two entirely different adventures:
- Easy Version: A nice, easy, fairly level 4.2-mile round trip trail on a wide gravel surface along the side of a mountain stream.
- Extreme Version: An extreme adventure up a narrow, wild canyon, possibly reaching the goal of Fletcher Peak’s 10,319ft summit.
Great for Altitude Conditioning and Injury Recovery
This is a great altitude conditioning trail if you’ve been spending the Winter under 2000ft in the Las Vegas Valley, Lake Mead, Death Valley or other low altitude regions. Altitude along the Fletcher Canyon Trail ranges from about 7,000-8,000 feet depending on how far you venture. In fact, you could do a wild wilderness adventure up to Fletcher Peak’s 10,200ft summit! However, for the sake of this current adventure, we’re only going to the point where Fletcher Canyon narrows and the extreme adventure begins.
Views Along the Fletcher Canyon Trail
Along the way, if it’s Spring, you follow the route of a beautiful mountain creek through a forested area. Turn around often for spectacular views of the cliffs on the Southern base of Fletcher Peak to your right (North) and Harris Mountain towering behind you to the East.
Best Time of Year for Fletcher Canyon Trail
The best time of year to hike this trail is Spring (if you want to see the creek flowing) or Fall. Summer temperatures along the trail can rise to the high 90s. During Winter months you may encounter deep snow.
Trailhead Directions | Fletcher Canyon Trail | Mt. Charleston Wilderness | Spring Mountains, Nevada
Driving to the Fletcher Canyon Trailhead is pretty easy: Up I-95 North from Las Vegas, take a left at the Kyle Canyon exit, continue about 20 miles up Kyle Canyon Road, pass the traffic circle at The Spring Mountains Visitor Gateway, pass the Deer Creek Road turnoff and Mt Charleston Lodge and then onward for less than a quarter mile to The Fletcher Canyon Trailhead parking on your left. In all, it’s less than 40 miles from the Las Vegas Strip.
Route Observations | Fletcher Canyon Trail | Mt. Charleston Wilderness | Spring Mountains, Nevada
2nd Exploration: Upper Slot Canyon and Toward Cockscomb Ridge
Lower Fletcher Canyon Trail
On this last weekend in July I began by heading up the familiar Fletcher Canyon Trail. The trail is beautifully forested amid numerous majestic Ponderosa Pines! It’s wide, well surfaced and has a gradual, though surprisingly healthy incline. The Fletcher Canyon Trail link shows this same trail during Spring runoff along a cascading creek. Today, just a few days from August 1st, the creek bed was bone dry.
Upper Fletcher Canyon Trail Begins
After a couple miles the nice wide trail ends. This is a fine place to turn around, having experienced beautiful wilderness surroundings. However, for a more rugged wilderness experience, and to experience a spectacular slot canyon, continue along the narrow left branching trail. As this trail winds about, it may nearly disappear in places as it passes through overgrowth brush. Just continue upward through the canyon guided by the high cliff walls on either side. The contrast between spectacular limestone cliff faces, scattered ponderosa pines and blue sky is incredible!
Upper End of Fletcher Canyon Trail
Eventually, you will reach a brief elevation over some mid-stream boulders. This was the extent of my previous Fletcher Canyon Trail experience during Spring runoff. Somehow ascending boulders in the midst of a cold, fast-flowing rapid was not too appealing. I vowed to return, and this was the day.
Above the now dry rapids the trail continued as the canyon further narrowed and began to wind along its upward path. Incredibly beautiful!
What’s Beyond the Upper Barrier Ledge?
Not too far above, there was another scramble over boulders followed by a pretty massive barrier ledge. It looks as if one can ascend this ledge on the left side by making some high class 3 rock climbing moves with some significant exposure. Not impossible, but today this is where I turned around. A video viewer let me know he had made that ascent to ultimately land on the North Loop Trail. However, due to the steepness of the slope, he said he would not recommend it!
Potential Ascent Points Below Along Fletcher Canyon
Today, I turned around at the barrier ledge and headed back down Fletcher Canyon Trail observing a few potential ascent points on either side of the canyon…all looking rather steep with some exposure.
Ascent Point Chosen, Steep Non-Exposed Slope
Eventually I reached a more gradual ascent gully on the West side of the canyon and decided to go for it. It seemed the slope on the right side of the gully might be fairly gradual, though steep, so I headed upward in that direction. Very steep…getting steeper all the time, but with no exposure to a fall, and there were just enough places for a foothold to egg me on upward. Expansive views of Fletcher Peak were opening up the higher I ascended. Spectacular!a
Turn-Around Point Not Far Below North Loop Trail!
Eventually, having had enough of the now ultra steep slope and seeing some cliffs ahead, I turned around to retrace my way, careful step by careful step back down the slope, into Fletcher Canyon and back to the trailhead. Later map study revealed that at the turn-around point I may have been very close to the North Loop Trail! Next adventure will begin in the Cockscomb Ridge Area and look for a connection to Fletcher Canyon. Still connecting the dots!
Initial Exploration to Main Slot Canyon During Spring Runoff
Initial Stretch to Eagle’s Nest Loop Intersection
From the trailhead parking area cross Kyle Canyon Road to The Fletcher Canyon Trailhead on the opposite side. The initial stretch is on a wide, graveled surface with a gradual angle of ascent, though the angle of ascent does increase as you progress.
Within less than a quarter mile there is a sign for the Eagle’s Nest Loop Trail branching off to the right. You may want to return later for that 2.7-mile loop trail with spectacular views up and down Kyle Canyon and abundant Spring flowers.
Continuing to the End of the Wide Graveled Trail
Here, The Fletcher Canyon Trail takes a left, continuing its gradual ascent and soon reaching the first of 3-4 easy creek crossings as you pass through a beautiful mountain forest, so different from the Las Vegas area, just 30-40 miles away. This is an easy trail, so take your time to enjoy the pleasant, peaceful forest along the singing creek (if it’s Spring)!
Onto the Narrow Canyon Trail
In a couple miles, the wide gravel trail suddenly ends, but you can continue up Fletcher Canyon on a narrow pathway along the edge of the ridge to your left. The angle of ascent along the narrow trail steadily increases as you continue along the left side of the creek. The creek also narrows as it cascades over larger obstacles. In fact, the entire canyon begins to narrow, eventually with high vertical walls on either side. It’s pretty incredible, and like another world compared to the initial stretch of The Fletcher Canyon Trail.
During this stretch there are too many creek crossings to count, but the crossings are rather tame and even during Springs high water flow I was able to keep my feet dry by stepping on rocks at each crossing.
The Beautiful Cliff Cove
In less than a quarter mile you’ll arrive at a beautiful cove in the cliff face on your right. The stream channels along the base of the cliff cove and water drips through the porous, moss-covered limestone roof above, like a gentle rain. This is a totally unique, pleasant world in itself.
Canyon Trail Ends, Extreme Adventure Begins
Continue up the narrow canyon to a point where, lets say, the extreme wild canyon adventure begins. There’s a cairn at the base of a waterfall/rock scramble. Cairns usually mark the beginning of a pathless route into the upper regions. This is the end of dry feet during the Spring runoff. I’ll return here in the Fall to continue the rock scramble ascent up Fletcher Canyon. I understand, from interviewing other hikers, that in another bend or two in the canyon, there was a steep snow drift blocking further advance to all who were not wearing crampons. However, during dryer seasons, one can continue the upward rock scramble to where things begin to level off a bit above the canyon and, possibly, near the base of Fletcher Peak’s summit approach. I’ll report on this more extreme route once I’ve tried it out!