Harris Mountain from Lovell Canyon is a challenging long distance adventure with an elevation gain of over 4,000ft. However, the elevation gain and the distance are not the main challenge. The greatest difficulty factor is the terrain covered which includes a 5-mile rocky canyon wash, navigating brush and burned out fallen trees and at least 2 miles of steep avalanche slopes – all with no trails.
However, even given these difficulties the rewards are great including:
The most promising 1-day route from Lovell Canyon Trailhead to Griffith Peak is via Griffith Shadow Loop and Sexton Ridge. I estimate 7 hours to Griffith Peak summit and 4-5 hours descent back to Lovell Canyon Trailhead. Total 12 hours – still requiring marathon conditioning, unless broken into 2 days.
Of course, I might be able to shave off a couple more hours from each of these routes, putting them back on the one-day plate, by refining the route, improving my conditioning and taking less than 1.5 hours of pictures and video filming!
All that said, the expansive views, the adventure and the peace and solitude of either of these adventures promises to be incredible and unforgettable!
This adventure begins at the Lovell Canyon Trailhead. See the trailhead directions on the Lovell Canyon Trail page of this site.
Head up from the Lovell Canyon Trailhead until the first directional sign appears about 1.5 miles from the trailhead. Here you could take a left if you’re continuing upward to the Handy Peak Loop or the Griffith Shadow Loop. Instead, continue straight as the trail winds down to the main Lovell Canyon wash at the base of Handy Loop. The trail will cross the wash and continue along the opposite side of the canyon rising up a hundred or so feet before descending back down into the canyon wash further up Lovell Canyon — a total of about 3 miles from Lovell Canyon Trailhead.
Here’s a note on elevation gain and loss: The route up the Lovell Canyon Trail, and then across the canyon wash and along the East side of the canyon is a lot of up and down rolling elevation gain and loss. I predict as much as 5-800ft elevation gain and loss on this route. This caused me to wonder, “What if I just headed up the main canyon wash where I parked my car at the end of Lovell Canyon Road. So later that day I returned that way. Yes, it is a gradual elevation gain with no elevation loss. However, there is a down side: The surface is the rocky floor of the canyon wash…though not so horribly bad. There is only one barrier. It looks as though a homeowner has fenced off the canyon just a couple hundred feet from the parking area at the end of Lovell Canyon Road. Otherwise, this route would be viable and it takes only about 35 minutes. Of course, it is possible to crawl under the fence at one point, but it’s unclear whether this is private property. We could research that.
Back to the upward progression to the top of Lovell Canyon. We left you at the point where the trail on the East side of the canyon (Schaefer Spring Loop Trail? – It’s unmarked.) drops back down into the Lovell Canyon wash further up the canyon. At this point, since you’re continuing up the canyon wash toward the base of Harris Mountain at the canyon’s upper East end, you’re going to encounter about 1/4th mile of large rocks and brush. It’s a bit confusing weaving around trying to find the easiest route. The good news is that this difficult rocky stretch smooths out to a much longer stretch (2 miles?) along a wider, flatter wash with smaller rocks. Continue upward until you reach a ridge dividing in the middle of the canyon.
On this day I took the canyon branch on the right side of the ridge as that pointed me more directly toward Harris Mountain. The wash continued to be fairly smooth until about the 7,000ft elevation point. Here Lovell Canyon Wash begins to be populated by increasing brush and the remains of a burnt forest. Still, it’s possible to weave around the trees and continue upward.
At about 7,500ft I took a smaller wash to the right with the idea of ascending out of the main Lovell Canyon Wash entirely and rising above the brush on the East side of the wash. Yes, the smaller wash was relatively brush free and there were only a few sections of boulders and branches to navigate. However, on the down side, the wash became more and more narrow and its slope increased until it was pretty much a full blown avalanche slope wash. In addition, it was impossible to see my surroundings while in the wash.
At 8,300ft I ascended out of this small wash to the ridge on the left of the wash. Spectacular views! Should have done this earlier, except the vertical sides of the wash further down were pretty steep and composed of loose dirt. Once I emerged from the wash I was treated to a spectacular view at 8,300 feet – still 2,000ft shy of Harris Mountain summit. Views across Lovell Canyon showed a number of potential routes up the West side of the canyon to Griffith Peak. And now I could look down and see the canyon floor. The narrow wash had headed up the East wall of Lovell Canyon a bit too early. Next time I’ll try to stay in the main canyon wash longer before ascending the Eastern wall toward Harris Mountain. However, my initial reason for ascending the narrow wash was to escape the brush on the upper canyon floor. That problem will still remains.
If one could stay on the canyon floor 1/2 – 1 mile longer (until the 7,800ft point), it appears the ascent to the summit of Harris Mountain would be a bit more gradual along a ridge that begins at that point and just possibly has a road – Harris Mountain Road. If you look carefully at the first slide on this page you can make out the straight line of Harris Mountain Road running along the East wall of Lovell Canyon about the 8,500-9,000ft point before suddenly descending into Lovell Canyon. Google maps verifies this road’s existence. Though the line of Harris Mountain Road is clear from a distance, it was nowhere to be seen close up while ascending the canyon’s East wall. I’ll return to see if I can push the ascent 1/2 – 1 mile further up the main canyon wash where that ridge to the summit, possibly Harris Mountain Road, connects.
One of my video viewers, a pretty advanced geologist with their own YouTube channel CarsonCom, gave this very interesting background on Harris Mountain Road:
In 1935 a CCC or WPA crew was building a road to Pahrump Valley when Roosevelt asked the crew chief where the road was going. The chief became witless speaking to the President and stammered “I don’t know.” To which Roosevelt said “If you don’t know where you’re going then stop doing it.” And that was that.
Learn more about President Roosevelt’s 1935 trip to Nevada here: