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Overview | Lovell Canyon Trail & Loop | Lovell Canyon, Nevada

Adventure Slide Show Week of November 12th, 2023

As you’re traversing the ridges and saddle between Griffith Peak and Harris Mountain and you look down a beautiful canyon to the South (opposite direction from Charleston Village), you’re viewing Lovell Canyon in the La Madre Mountains Wilderness.

When you’re in and around Lovell Canyon there are unique and awesome views of Griffith Peak and Harris Mountain at the summit of the canyon:

  • Wilson Ridge bordering the East side of Lovell Canyon ascends to the summit of Harris Mountain.
  • Sexton Ridge bordering the West side of Lovell Canyon ascends to the summit of Griffith Peak. 

What are the Lovell Canyon Trail and Loop Like?

The Lovell Canyon Trail gets you to the Lovell Canyon Loop. Both are in a beautiful forested Pinyon Pine and Juniper zone with a base of abundant low plants and shrubs like Pointed Leaf Manzanita, Ashy Silk Tassel, scattered Yucca and Prickly Pear Cactusa and much more. As you pass through this forested area there are frequent views of the majestic high points identified above.

At one point the Lovell Canyon Loop descends into the wash at the base of Lovell Canyon. Here you get an experience of the beauty of Lovell Canyon, far from the more stark high desert environments elsewhere in the Southwest. There are vast fields of wildflowers in a bed of lush annual grasses and plants with a backdrop of high ridgelines and peaks. 

Rolling Ascent and Descent

The trail itself is rolling with a lot of significant ascent and descent along the way. It’s not one of those “uphill all the way and downhill all the way back” trails.

Trail Connections Along the Lovell Canyon Loop

All of the major trail connections for signed, maintained trails in Lovell Canyon are to be found along the Lovell Canyon Loop. These include:

These trails pass through Lovell Canyon’s mid-upper region and give you access to all the highest ridgelines and peaks in Lovell Canyon. Learn about a number of these high adventure routes here. 

Best Time of Year for the Lovell Canyon Trail & Loop

The average altitude on this adventure is between 5,000 – 7,000ft and so I recommend this as a good adventure for Fall or Spring.

  • Winter can get very cold and windy. Though the trail may be open through the Winter, prepare to encounter snow.
  • Summer temperatures can rise toward the upper 90’s.

Starting Point for Griffith Peak and Harris Mountain Summit Adventures

Griffith Peak Summit Route: One can use this trail and loop as a starting point for a trip all the way up to the summit of Griffith Peak. That adventure involves catching the Griffith Shadow Loop at the high point of the Lovell Canyon Loop, then ascending to Sexton Ridge from the high point in the Griffith Shadow Loop. With the Southern facing angle of the ridges the entire approach is the first approach to Griffith Peak free of snow in the Spring. However, getting to Griffith Peak from Lovell Canyon is a marathon effort covering nearly a half marathon and 6,000ft ascent just getting to the summit.

Harris Mountain Summit Route: For Harris Mountain summit, cross Lovell Canyon where the Lovell Canyon Loop Trail descends into the canyon wash. Then keep to the West (right) side of the canyon as you approach a number of approach ridges to the Wilson Ridge. Once on the Wilson Ridge, continue upward to the summit of Harris Mountain. Here’s an adventure that takes one of the routes from the base of Lovell Canyon to Harris Mountain Summit.

But you can enjoy the beautiful Lovell Canyon Trail and Loop without taking on a huge mountain summit adventure!

Trailhead Directions | Lovell Canyon Trail & Loop | 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.

Views Along Lovell Canyon Road

Lovell Canyon Road is a beautiful stretch passing through a Joshua Tree forest that soon becomes populated predominately with junipers and pines. There are ridges and meadows and many camping pull-outs along the way. This stretch reminds me a lot of the high desert area around Bend Oregon. Very open and majestic. All the while you’re looking up at the Spring mountains with Griffith Peak standing prominent. The road has very little traffic and would make a great bike, walking or running route. In fact, what an awesome backdrop for a marathon (pretty easy to add 2 miles to the 24-mile out and back stretch)!

End of Lovell Canyon Paved Road

Proceed 12 miles up the well-paved road until the pavement ends and the unpaved Lovell Summit Road branches off to your left 1/4th mile to a small campground on the left and the official Lovell Canyon Trailhead on the right. There is ample parking across from the trailhead. 

Trail Observations | Lovell Canyon Trail & Loop | Lovell Canyon, Nevada

Ascending the First Hill

From the trailhead, you’ll ascend the first hill: 2-300ft. As I mentioned, there is a lot of ascent and descent along this trail. After the first couple miles and a total of nearly 1,000ft of rolling ascent and descent, you find yourself still basically at the same elevation as the trailhead!

Spectacular Views from That First Hill

But as you top that first hill, the incredible, expansive views may make you forget the effort of that first hill and the hills that follow. You’re looking straight across Lovell Canyon to the Wilson Ridgeline. A few steps around the first bend reveals an expansive view all the way up Lovell Canyon to its summit area with Griffith Peak and Harris Mountain.

The Forest Through Which You Are Passing

Adding to all the wonder of this moment, you’re passing through the tallest Juniper trees you may ever have seen. Towering up to 50ft, they are as tall as the surrounding Pines! In the Spring, the shrubs at their base – mainly Manzanita and Ashy Silk Tassel – are in flower. In the fall, they are filled with berries, as are the Junipers.

The First Trail Divide

Continue along the Lovell Canyon Trail to the first divide. This is the start and finish point of the Lovell Canyon Loop. There’s a sign at the divide indicating the Lovell Canyon Loop in both directions. You the sign also indicates the loop will access the two other main Lovell Canyon trails: Schaeffer Springs Loop and Griffith Shadow Loop.

Which direction to take on the Lovell Canyon Loop? 

  • Clockwise (left): More uphill on the back side of the loop. Most direct access to Griffith Shadow Loop if your plan is to make this a much larger adventure. After that first left turn, keep to your right all the way around the loop if you want to stay on the loop.
  • Counterclockwise (right): More downhill on the back side of the loop. Most direct access to Schaefer Springs Loop if you want to add this beautiful 1.6-mile loop to your adventure. After that first right turn, keep to your left all the way around the loop if you want to stay on the loop.

The video on this page takes the loop in a counterclockwise direction.

Descent into the Lovell Canyon Main Wash

The loop in a counterclockwise direction fairly quickly descends into the Lovell Canyon main wash. You suddenly emerge into a very different terrain. When the previous year has had a lot of rain, the wash is filled with waist-high plants in bloom from Spring through Fall. The backdrop of upper Lovell Canyon with Griffith Peak, Harris Mountain and the saddle between make the suddenly expansive view spectacular!

Trail Choices at the Wash

These are the main trail choices at the wash:

  1. Continue to the left around the Lovell Canyon Loop for additional access to the Schaeffer Springs Loop and Griffith Shadow Loop.
  2. Take a right onto the Griffith Shadow Loop in its counterclockwise direction. I don’t recommend this as you’re likely to get lost when the Griffith Shadow Loop suddenly disappears in around a half-mile.

Actually, if you took a right you’d not only be starting out on the Griffith Shadow Loop but also the Schaefer Springs Loop (un-marked here), both in their counterclockwise direction. And, you’d be more likely to get lost on both those counterclockwise loops!

Important Reference Point

You’ll notice that at the point the loop trail descends into the main wash, there is a rocky ridgeline. This is the Eastern ridgeline of Handy Peak (above). In fact, the Lovell Canyon Loop used to be called the Handy Peak Loop because it circles around Handy Peak.

Where the rocky ridgeline meets the Lovell Canyon Wash, it creates a unique rocky reference point in the wash. If, in the future, you ever find yourself wandering off-trail above in the wash, having lost the Griffith Shadow Loop or having descended from Sexton Ridge or the Wilson Ridge, just continue down the main wash to this rocky point where you will be able to reconnect with the Lovell Canyon trail system. 

Schaefer Springs Loop Divide

The video continues around the Lovell Canyon Loop, keeping to the left as it ascends from the Lovell Canyon wash. In .1 mile the Schaefer Springs Loop branches off in its clockwise direction to the right. If you intend to take the Schaefer Springs loop this is a good point to start that loop.

Continuing on the Lovell Canyon Loop

However, let’s assume you’re staying with the Lovell Canyon Loop and continuing up the hill. You’re actually ascending along the North side of Handy Peak. It’s a healthy ascent, but not very long. Soon you’ll be at the highest point on the Lovell Canyon Loop, at the Northwest edge of Handy Peak. Congratulations! There’s more downhill than uphill from this point all the way back to the Lovell Canyon Trailhead.

Notice the tall Junipers and Pines have disappeared at this elevation, giving way to the more low-lying Manzanita and Ashy Silk Tassel shrubs. From this point to the higher elevations above, all the way to Griffith Peak and Harris Mountain, it’s the burn area from the 2013 Carpenter Fire. The taller trees were burned in this fire, giving way to the low lying shrubs.

Final Trail Division

At this highest point on the Lovell Canyon Loop, there’s another trail division and sign. The Griffith Shadow Loop branches off to the right in its clockwise direction. You’re most likely to successfully circle that entire loop in the clockwise direction. 

Descending Back to the Lovell Canyon Trailhead

However, let’s assume that on this day, you want to stay on the Lovell Canyon Loop and return to the Lovell Canyon Trailhead (direction of the video on this page). As the trail winds downward along the loop you get a new perspective of Lovell Canyon. You’re now looking down the canyon. Notice especially the Wilson Ridgeline across Lovell Canyon.

In about a mile you’ll be back at that first trail divide, heading downward off the Lovell Canyon Loop, onto the Lovell Canyon Trail and ultimately to the trailhead where you started this adventure. Well done!

Lovell Canyon Trail & Loop | Lovell Canyon, Nevada
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Lovell Canyon Trail & Loop | Lovell Canyon, Nevada
Lovell Canyon trail quickly ascends and then follows a ridge on the Western side of Lovell Canyon with many grand views up the canyon to Griffith Peak, Harris Mountain and their approach ridges on either side of the canyon. Lovell Canyon Trail branches into Lovell Canyon Loop which makes a large circuit around Handy Peak. Lovell Canyon Loop descends into Lovell Canyon's main wash. In addition it provides access to Schaefer Springs Loop and Griffith Shadow Loop.
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