As part of cross-training and working my way further into the wilderness today I’m initiating a “Hybrid Adventure” technique. This technique involves trail running, hiking, and cycling. The strategy is to place everything I need for a wilderness trail adventure on a bicycle. Cycle out to a trailhead, then convert to the traditional trail running and hiking. If the trailhead is beyond paved roads, as in the Sheep Range, the bike attaches to the back of the car, drive out to where the unpaved road system begins then cycle the unpaved roads to trailhead in order to run, hike and climb to mountain summits.
Harris Springs Canyon parallels upper Kyle Canyon Road around 5-8 miles below the Charleston Village area. The lower end begins at the intersection of upper Harris Springs Road and Kyle Canyon Road. It winds upward to its upper opening at the National Forest Service Visitor Center just below Charleston Village. The most notable feature of the canyon is the incredible slot canyon at its lower opening near the intersection of upper Harris Springs Road and Kyle Canyon Road. Though the canyon parallels Kyle Canyon Road it seems as though it is in an entirely untouched wilderness area as there are no sounds of the vehicles just over the ridge on Kyle Canyon Road. Very often as you round a bend there is a direct view of Charleston Peak.
Take I-95 North from Las Vegas, then turn left at the Mt. Charleston/Kyle Canyon Road exit which comes almost immediately after the Skye Canyon exit and overpass. As you exit onto Kyle Canyon Road you’ll pass under the freeway and head straight toward the Spring Mountains and Charleston Village which are about 20 miles up the road. There are 2 Harris Springs Road parking areas, both unpaved: The lower one is not far past the 4000ft elevation marker and is on the right. The upper parking area, the one you want, is not far past the 5000ft elevation marker and is on the left. There is a turnout for installing tire chains just before the upper parking area.
From the parking area there are two directions you can go. If you take the main unpaved road to your left and climb over the ridge that parallels Kyle Canyon Road, you will continue on toward the Harris Mountain Trailhead. On this day I took the unpaved road to the right. It is not as well graded and if you’re in a car you might want to have 4WD. The road winds around along the base of the ridge, then there is a pretty well defined wash that splits off to the left and heads straight through the center of the ridge via an incredible slot canyon. The slot canyon is only about 1/8th mile long, but very distinct with high walls on either side towering 150-200 feet and a narrow band of sky above. It’s entrance is only about 1/4th mile from the parking area at the Harris Springs Rd / Kyle Canyon Rd intersection, so it’s easy to walk the rough 4WD road to the canyon entrance.
After passing through the slot canyon the canyon opens up and continues as a wash with high ridges on either side. There is a very rough exit trail that heads up the ridge on the left after the slot canyon. Not many ways out on the right without a lot of relatively steep scrambling. As I was pushing my bicycle along the rocky wash floor and not wanting to carry it up a steep rock scramble, I stayed in the wash imagining that there would be an upper opening just around one of the bends ahead.
Many bends, no upper opening. However, the canyon was very peaceful and the views of Charleston Peak and the mountains circling Charleston Village made this a worthwhile adventure. There were scattered signs of human habitation washed down from the upper canyon. An old tire, a beat up trash receptacle, what looked like the remains of an old car. It’s not like the canyon was full of trash. These abandoned objects in the canyon were so few and far between that they did not take away from the pristine nature of the landscape.
Many many turns later, way up the canyon, I noticed two things:
And, on top of that, a look at the map the next day showed I had indeed been just one or two turns of the canyon shy of emerging at the U.S. Forest Service Visitor Center located at its upper end!
Oh well, I wouldn’t trade this memorable adventure for anything. This is exploration at it’s best! And I highly recommend the canyon at the intersection of Kyle Canyon Road and Upper Harris Springs Road…especially the lower opening with that magnificent slot canyon!