Griffith Peak Southern Approach from Lovell Canyon | La Madre Mountains Wilderness | Spring Mountains, Nevada

Overview – Griffith Peak Southern Approach from Lovell Canyon, Nevada

Compared to the traditional popular Griffith Peak ascent from the Mt. Charleston South Climb Trailhead in Kyle Canyon, ascending the Griffith Peak Southern Approach from Lovell Canyon is a much longer adventure with about 2000ft more altitude gain. However, the view is wide open all the way up to Griffith Peak summit and this is a total 1 or 2-day wilderness emersion!

There are 3 huge benefits to this route:

  1. The Griffith Peak Southern approach from Lovell Canyon is snow-free 6-8 weeks sooner than the more popular approach from the South Climb above Charleston Village.
  2. The views all the way up are non-stop with no hidden forested areas. It’s like you’re on a mountaintop from 6,500ft to the 11,060ft summit!
  3. The trailhead does not close…ever!

But there are a few drawbacks:

  1. As mentioned, there is nearly a 6,000ft altitude gain.
  2. The distance is about 30-50% longer. I still need to check this out.
  3. There are no trails: From the 7,000ft point all the way to the 11,060ft point you’re on your own.
  4. As a result of #3 above, you are likely to encounter a few challenging sections, but I suspect nothing that requires more than class 3 scrambling. (Note: As of the writing of this article I have not made it beyond the 8,000ft level so…no guarantees. However, the ascent looks pretty gradual and the ridges look stable. I’ll report on that last 3,000 feet after achieving it.

At Least 3 Approaches from Lovell Canyon:

  1. Lovell Canyon Trail > Griffith Shadow Trail > Upper Ridge System: This approach involves losing and regaining 2-400ft altitude along the way, and navigating a bit of thick brush at first when the trails end at 7,000ft. However, the route is higher in the beginning with better views, and you’re on established trails from 5,000ft – 7,000ft.
  2. Lovell Canyon Trail > Up Lovell Canyon about half way to the upper end of the canyon > Hard left up a ridge to the upper Southern ridge system (one ridge past the ridge I ascended in a video on this page): This route avoids any descent of note. However, for a few miles you’re on the Lovell Canyon wash navigating gravel and rock. Not too bad, but not as easy as the established trails in #1 above. And, once you turn left and head up the ridge the angle of ascent calls for marathon endurance. However, the route is fairly free of brush.
  3. Lovell Canyon Trail > Up Lovell Canyon to its upper end at the saddle between Harris Mountain and Griffith Peak > Up the saddle to Griffith Peak: You’ll get into some avalanche slopes on the final approach to the saddle…then a few more avalanche slopes on the saddle, along with brush and fallen logs. It’s a bit of a steeple chase.

Once I’ve accomplished these 3 routes I’ll have more insight for you. Up to now I’ve scoped them out from the 8,000ft point South of Griffith Peak (video on this page), and have earlier traveled the saddle between Griffith Peak and Harris Mountain.

Trailhead Directions to Griffith Peak Southern Approach from Lovell Canyon, Nevada

Take Hwy 160 from Las Vegas toward Pahrump. The highway ascends over a “hump” (the Potosi Mountain area). There’s a saying around here, “Over the hump to Pahrump”. Well, you’ve just traveled over that hump. Around 4-5 miles from the point where the highway begins to descend toward Pahrump there is a well-marked sign on the right for Lovell Canyon Road.

Trail Observations for Griffith Peak Southern Approach from Lovell Canyon, Nevada

Trial and Error Learning

This was one of those adventures where I made a number of wrong turns, but ended up discovering a large part of the Lovell Canyon Western Ridge up to the 8,000ft point. Also discovered navigation strategies for some very different kinds of terrain. Quite the learning experience!

Lovell Canyon Trail to Upper Griffith Shadow Loop

I headed up the Lovell Canyon Trail, then took a left and continued to ascend the Griffith Shadow Loop. I kept to the left, passing the intersection for the Handy Peak Loop. I continued up to the high point of the Griffith Shadow Loop trail…about 7,000ft, just before it circled to the right and began to descend toward Lovell Canyon. The big question: Continue up the ridge beyond the high point or descend the trail in hopes of connecting with a further ridge system? As there was a lot of brush to navigate had I continued up the ridge I descended the trail toward a further ridge that looked more barren. I was also concerned that the upper ridge might not continue unbroken by a canyon.

1,000ft Descent to Catch an Adjoining Ridge to the Upper Southern Griffith Peak Ridge

Mistake! I ended up descending nearly 1,000ft before being able to ascend the ridge that looked more brush free! And the descent and reascent eventually landed me on some rather steep avalanche slopes. You’ll see in the video on this page. On the positive side, I’m even more of an avalanche slope expert than before…and I had a lot of avalanche slope experience! Curiously, there are natural…animal-made trails on the avalanche slopes. The big horn sheep navigate those slopes to feed on the brush, and their trails make navigation a bit easier. Still, it’s pretty rough going!

View from 8,000ft on the Upper Southern Griffith Peak Ridge

Once at the 8,000ft high point the view was incredible. I could see across the Wilson Ridge over to the tip of La Madre Mountain, and the tips of Bridge Mountain, North Peak and Mt. Wilson on the border of Red Rock Park. Then down the entire length of Lovell Canyon to Potosi Mountain. Up Lovell Canyon I could see Griffith Peak, Harris Mountain and the saddle between. In addition, I could see other potential approaches from Lovell Canyon to the upper Southern Griffith Peak ridge system.

Descent Down 2 Canyon Washes Toward the Base of Lovell Canyon

So, now another choice for the return trip: Head up to the upper ridge and then take that ridge back to the upper Griffith Shadow Loop Trail and then down retrace my earlier route back down to the Lovell Canyon Trailhead, or head down an avalanche slope and canyon to the base of Lovell Canyon. I selected the second choice. Not sure it was the easiest, but definitely interesting.

I headed down a narrow canyon. Not too difficult navigating this first canyon. Lots of beautiful polished rock. It adjoined another canyon heading toward the base of Lovell Canyon. Easier going at first. I had to bypass one dry 15-20ft waterfall. Not too hard. Then I hit a double waterfall: Two 10ft falls. They almost looked possible, but it also looked possible to get down the first 10 feet and be stopped by the second 10ft plunge…and not be able to reascend the first 10 foot plunge…trapped between! And an injury out there in the middle of nowhere could be really bad news.

Reascent Up a 200ft Steep Grassy Slope to Griffith Shadow Loop Trail, Then Descent to Lovell Canyon Wash and Back to Lovell Canyon Trailhead

So, I took a hard right up a very steep and grassy 200ft avalanche slope. Not as dangerous as falling off one of those 10ft dry falls, but definitely a lot longer. At the top of the avalanche slope I knew I’d be able to reconnect with the Griffith Shadow Loop trail and take it down to the wash at the base of Lovell Canyon. It all worked out that way. But all the while that high ridge back at the 8,000ft point was looking more and more like the better, faster, easier choice. Oh well, this was a discovery day. I now know a number of potential approaches up Lovell Canyon to Griffith Peak!

Griffith Peak South Approach from Lovell Canyon | Spring Mountains, Nevada
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Griffith Peak South Approach from Lovell Canyon | Spring Mountains, Nevada
Overview at least 3 approaches to Griffith Peak summit from the Lovell Canyon Trail Trailhead. This approach to the summit will be longer than the traditional Kyle Canyon approach, but the view is wide open and the terrain snow-free both earlier and later in the season!
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