Fletcher Canyon Trailhead to Harris Mountain Summit | Mt Charleston Wilderness, Nevada
Overview – Fletcher Canyon Trailhead to Harris Mountain Summit | Mt Charleston Wilderness, Nevada
Ascend from Fletcher Canyon Trailhead to Harris Mountain’s wild, relatively untouched summit. The approach ridge just West of the Fletcher Canyon Trailhead is even more wild and remote.
Harris Mountain as a Wild, Relatively Untouched Summit
Harris Mountain is the most rarely visited summit of the highest mountains towering above Kyle Canyon: Charleston Peak, Griffith Peak, Fletcher Peak, Mummy Mountain, Lee Peak and Harris Mountain. The reason for the isolation of Harris Mountain is the remoteness of trailhead access. There is no trailhead in the popular Kyle Canyon area. The only trailhead to Harris Mountain summit is tucked away up on the 4WD Harris Mountain Road.
So, unlike the somewhat trampled summits of the other mountains, Harris Mountain’s summit is wild and literally buzzing with life. I have regularly seen swarms of ladybugs using this summit as part of their migratory path along with the rare Acastus and Mount Charleston Blue Butterfly, found only in the Spring Mountains and nowhere else on earth.
If you ever summit Harris Mountain, tread lightly in this wild, delicate ecosystem.
Harris Mountain Approach Ridge: Even More Wild and Untouched
The approach ridge is even more remote. There is the feeling of being the only person to ever stand in that place.
The entire area is experiencing a renewal following an earlier burn. Many of the larger plants: Pines, Mountain Mahogany were leveled, but are starting to return. Wildflowers are in abundance all the way up the ridgeline and on Harris Mountain summit.
Spectacular Mountaintop Views All the Way to Harris Mountain Summit
And, the views in this wide open area are spectacular, offering a unique perspective of the high peaks and ridges in The Mt. Charleston Wilderness along with expansive views up and down the length of Kyle Canyon and beyond to The Sheep Range, Gass Peak, Rainbow Mountains, Potosi Mountain, Lovell Canyon, La Madre Mountains, Las Vegas Valley and points far more distant. It’s a huge slice of the vast Southern Nevada wilderness and beyond!
Best Time of Year to Summit Harris Mountain by This Route
The best time of year for this adventure is Summer and into the early months of the Fall, unless you’re into navigating snow. On this day, the temperature in The Las Vegas Valley reached 114 degrees. Yet, by subtracting about 5 degrees per 1000 feet elevation gain, which I’ve found to be fairly accurate by years of direct experience, and beginning at early dawn, the temperature I experienced on the approach ridge and the summit was between 75 and 80 degrees along with a light breeze.
Harris Mountain Summit: How Long Does This Route Take?
Timing is an issue. I’ve recently done the entire Charleston Loop in 7.5 hours. This route to Harris Mountain summit and back took between 9 and 10 hours! So starting at the Fletcher Canyon Trailhead is no shortcut to Harris Mountain. You really need to want to experience the wild, natural ridge journey as your goal, not a race to claim a summit. The length of time needed is another reason for a Summertime adventure here. You want a lot of daylight. You don’t want to be on this wild route in the dark!
And again, tread lightly everywhere along the way and on the summit. Leave no trace. All things considered, this adventure will be a life memory!
Route Start Point Directions – Fletcher Canyon Trailhead to Harris Mountain Summit | Mt Charleston Wilderness, Nevada
Begin at The Fletcher Canyon Trailhead. 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 Trailhead to Harris Mountain Summit | Mt Charleston Wilderness, Nevada
Harris Mountain and Its Two Main Approach Ridges Above Fletcher Canyon Trailhead
As you stand at The Fletcher Canyon Trailhead and look South toward Harris Mountain, you will see two main ridges ascending upward toward and meeting in the center at Harris Mountain’s summit. The ridges and the summit form a huge triangle, the base of which is The Acastus Trail and the summit point being Harris Mountain. There is an approach ridge to the East (your left) and an approach ridge to the West (your right). Incidentally, there is also a central ridge I call Fletcher View Ridge due to its expansive, unfolding views of Fletcher Peak and the cliffs and canyon below as you ascend that ridge.
Access to The Western Approach Ridge
The adventure route is still a bit of a work in process. On this day, beginning at The Fletcher Canyon Trailhead, I headed up the Acastus Trail to The Fletcher View Campground area, then took a light use trail toward the East side of the Western Approach Ridge. Beyond the powerlines that run parallel to Kyle Canyon Road, the progress toward the Western approach ridge is complicated by a band of fallen trees from the previous burn. However, it’s fairly easy to weave around the trees as you ascend through that band. My target was an area on the ridge above the cliff area at the lower end of the ridge. It was slow progress, and the descent route I later took via another ridge further West was far more streamlined, probably saving an hour or more. Explained below.
Final Approach to The Ridgeline Center
There was only one class 3 section, near the point where I reached the center of the approach ridge, and that was not too difficult. Getting up onto the ridge was mainly slow progress weaving through the band of the burn area below, and then ascending a steep, loose rock slope with an angle of ascent nearly 12-18 inches per step. It was like ascending The Empire State Building stairway twice on an angled, loose rock surface! As noted, the descent route was more gradual and streamlined.
Mountaintop Views on The Ridgeline
Once up on the center of the Western approach ridge, the angle of ascent leveled considerably and the views became spectacular in all directions. From here on out it was like being on a mountaintop clothed in Spring blooms all the way to Harris Mountain summit, and this was the second week in July!
Navigating the Ridgeline
The going on this ridge, though much easier than the earlier ascent, was still a bit complicated. There were fallen trees, some rocky areas and some steep inclines to navigate. However, it was all class 2 weaving around various obstacles, and the rocky areas were relatively brief and scattered along the ridgeline. It was always easy to weave around to continue the ascent.
Grassy Stretch Below Harris Mountain Summit
Around the 9,500ft, not too far from the 10,014ft Harris Mountain summit, there is a large grassy stretch that looks and feels a bit like a scene from the movie, The Sound of Music. There are many fallen trees to navigate along this stretch, before the burn likely a Bristlecone Pine forest.
Spectacular Views from Harris Mountain Summit
Then, the last couple hundred feet below the summit, there is a stretch of beautiful, unburned Bristlecone Pines. Weave through that and before you know it, you’re on the summit of Harris Mountain! More spectacular views opening up: Now you can see Lovell Canyon all the way to Potosi Mountain and look down The Wilson Ridge on the canyon’s East Side stretching below Harris Mountain, eventually meeting up with The Rainbow Mountains Upper Crest Ridgeline. Bridge Mountain, Rainbow Mountain and Mt. Wilson are visible along that lower ridgeline. Then look over to Griffith Peak and trace Sexton Ridge down the West side of Lovell Canyon. To the East of Lovell Canyon The La Madre Mountains are now visible.
Harris Mountain Summit itself is wild and buzzing with all the life previously noted.
The Descent Ridge
As you ascended the Western approach ridge, you probably noticed another, more gradual ridge a bit further West, just beyond the canyon between. Since both ridges meet just below Harris Mountain Summit, around that grassy stretch, it’s easy to descend by the more gradual ridge, which turns out to be a potentially easier ascent ridge.
Connector Roads at the Descent Ridge Base
That more gradual ridge further West lands on Rainbow Ridge Road along the Eastern edge of The Rainbow Subdivision. That road connects with forest road (Forest Road 579), which circles right (East) around the base of the Western approach ridge and doubles as a powerline maintenance road as it continues East parallel to and about a quarter mile from Kyle Canyon Road below. Eventually it lands on The Acastus Trail not far from the starting point at Fletcher Canyon Trailhead.
The Descent Route Would Make a More Streamlined Ascent Route
Reverse this descent route and it becomes a much more streamlined ascent route from Fletcher Canyon Trailhead to Harris Mountain Summit. The more gradual approach ridge runs a bit lower and not as spectacular as the higher Western approach ridge, but it’s easier and faster.
Remember the phrase, “It’s not the destination, but the journey that is most valuable.” That phrase pretty well sums up the value of this awesome route to Harris Mountain Summit. Although, in this case both the journey and the destination are remarkable!