This awesome circuit begins at the North Loop Trailhead in the Mt. Charleston Wilderness. From there descend on Deer Creek Road about a quarter to a half mile to Deer Creek Picnic Area. From the Deer Creek Picnic Area parking area, ascend through Deer Creek Park and on up via the Cougar Ridge Trail to Mummy’s Knees. Then traverse over to Mummy’s Toe. Descend to Mummy Springs and then on over to Raintree. Take the North Loop Trail from Raintree toward Fletcher Peak. Take the Fletcher Peak out and back trail from the North Loop Trail to the summit of Fletcher Peak. Finally, descend from Fletcher Peak summit back to the North Loop Trailhead where you began.
This cool circuit adventure is packed with spectacular views and enchanting waypoints. Yet it is compact enough to accomplish in less than one incredible day.
Here’s what you will experience along the way:
Few adventures of this length in the Spring Mountains have so many features packed into such a brief time.
I say it’s brief, but plan to be on the trail and in the wilderness the greater part of a day. But, you can make it in a day!
Shoot for June through September or perhaps October in order to avoid having to navigate snow. Of course, if you love snow navigation in the mountains, and have proper skill, experience and equipment, go for it!
To get to this point from Las Vegas head North on I-95 taking a left at one of the last I-95 exits in the Las Vegas area, Kyle Canyon exit. Continue up Kyle Canyon road about 17 miles and a couple miles before Charleston Village take a right on Highway 158 towards Lee Canyon. You’ll wind around the hillside to the left and as the road briefly levels off before descending toward Lee Canyon, the North Loop Trailhead will appear on the left.
Here you have a choice. In this adventure I parked at the North Loop Trailhead, then ran down the road between a quarter and half mile to the Deer Creek Picnic Area parking area where I began my ascent toward Mummy’s Knees on the Cougar Ridge Trail. I later ended the circuit where my car was parked at the North Loop Trailhead.
On this stretch of Deer Creek Road there are 3 potential starting points for this circuit loop. All three are so compact (close together) that you could easily park at either the North Loop Trailhead or Deer Creek Picnic Area without measurably affecting your experience of the loop. The 3 starting points:
One important point: I recommend taking the loop in a counter clockwise direction. This means heading uphill on the Cougar Ridge Trail and ending with the downhill on the North Loop Trail. Why? Cougar Ridge Trail is much steeper, with less of a defined trail and some major loose rock slopes. This makes it more jarring with more of a chance of wiping out during a descent, but relatively secure during an ascent. On the other hand, the North Loop Trail is more gradual and stable with makes for an easier, less jarring descent. Just put yourself in neutral and glide downward. In addition, if you begin to run out of time or energy, it’s easier to skip the Fletcher Peak out-and-back (about 1 hour, approximately 800ft elevation gain) near the end of the loop.
I took choice #2 above and began the uphill stretch toward Mummy’s Knees from the Deer Creek Picnic Area in order to video document that approach. My first impression was the extensive damage of recent thunderstorms! Large tree trunks had been lifted by the water and clogged parts of Deer Creek wash and the picnic area. I imagined what it might have been like to be in that area during the thunderstorm. Dangerous! Flooding, debris cascading down the ridges on either side. I used to think that if I were in a canyon during a flash flood I would climb the surrounding ridges to get on high ground. But looking at those ridges, it was evident that during the storm rocks, mud, even large tree trunks would have been sliding down the ridges making them unsafe.
I actually have 2 videos of the thunderstorms in the preceding weeks: One where I was on Lee Peak with trails turning into streams and the other down in Las Vegas. You can see those videos on my “Water in the Desert” page. Fortunately, in neither of those instances was I in a lower mountain canyon wash like Deer Creek Picnic Area.
Whether you begin heading up Cougar Ridge Trail Road or through Deer Creek Picnic Area, both of these routes meet at the top of the picnic area on the East side of Deer Creek. Then, within about an eighth mile, at the first sharp turn to the right (just before the beginning of the residential area) head off Cougar Ridge Trail Road continuing straight where the road takes that right turn. You are now on Cougar Ridge Trail, though the trailhead is unmarked and you have to know it’s there.
On the other hand, if you continued up Cougar Ridge Trail Road through the residential area, at the top of the area where the road “t”s (a dilapidated cabin on the hill above to your right), you could take a left at the “t”, then round the first corner to the right, take another slight right and just before the road takes a harder right with a dramatic uphill climb, continue straight off-road and you’re on the Cougar Ridge Trail. This is the route I documented in the video on this page.
On this post stormy day, Cougar Ridge Trail appeared and disappeared many many times before arriving at the junction with Mummy Springs Trail. No worries. Keep the big picture in mind: Deer Creek Wash is below to your left. There’s a tall ridge to your right which you will skirt for about a half mile before taking a right and ascending to the center of that ridge (Cougar Ridge). The trail will actually appear when it’s time to ascend to the center of the ridge. Once you top the ridge just continue along the center of the ridge (drop-offs to your right and left make the center clear). Again the trail will disappear and reappear, but is much more obvious than it was on the lower section where you started.
Big Picture: You’re basically skirting the left (West) side of Deer Creek Wash all the way up to Mummy’s knees at which point you will have ascended as high as you can go and have arrived at a huge cliff drop-off. On the way, Deer Creek Wash will flow over the ledge which is Mummy Springs (just above Mummy Springs Trail). But it’s still the same wash and continues above Mummy Springs to Mummy’s Knees.
Cougar Ridge Trail will “T” at Mummy Springs Trail. As you’re nearing Mummy Springs Trail, notice the high ridge to your left. That is the ridge just above the North Loop Trail. You can also see Mummy’s Toe, and at the base of Mummy’s Toe is Raintree. Just reference to help you know where everything connects.
At the “T” at the summit of Cougar Ridge Trail if you turn left you will round a corner and end up at Mummy Springs. But you’re going to turn right and switchback upward above Mummy Springs (Deer Creek Wash appears again below you to the left — after about 3-4 switchbacks).
The good switchbacks will end above Mummy Springs and now you continue to ascend some fainter and far steeper switchbacks — basically a kind of controlled ascent up a steep avalanche slope. Watch for cairns which will affirm you’re still on the correct route. After a half mile of this…feels like a mile or more…you are faced with a 15ft ledge you can only summit with a class 3 climb. Class 3 means you need to use both hands and feet. It’s not a tough ledge at that point…much easier than it looks from below or above. You’ll see! And, it’s the only class 3 section on the entire loop.
At the top of the class 3 ledge you have a choice. If you angled to your left and skirted the top of the ledge you would soon find yourself on the Mummy’s Toe Trail which is on your return route today. Instead, continue upward beyond the class 3 ledge. More steep switchbacks, but all class 2 (no hands needed)! It’s another mile to Mummy’s Knees. On this stretch turn around often to see the spectacular view opening up behind you.
Watch for a blue sky horizon ahead. That horizon is the ridge summit of Mummy’s Knees. You’ll know you have arrived because you’re suddenly on top of the world looking across Kyle Canyon to Charleston Peak, Griffith Peak and the ridgeline between.
Take time to enjoy Mummy’s Knees! It’s one of the most beautiful places on earth. There’s a gray limestone base, Bristlecone Pines sculptured into a multitude of amazing designs, on a sunny day the sky is a brilliant blue. Kyle Canyon with all its peaks and ridges is to the South, Angel Peak, Gass Peak and the Sheep Range are to the Northeast, the majestic cliffs of Mummy Mountain to the East, and your next destination, Mummy’s Toe to the East. You’ll probably be the only person on Mummy’s Knees, having that place all to yourself! In fact, you may feel no other human has ever stood there. The next stretch gets even better!
One more quick note: Notice on the slide show a fallen Bristlecone Pine tree. I took a picture because it was interesting. When I later lightened it up with Photoshop, I noticed a creature with feathers living in the opening of that log!
This stretch gets more beautiful and amazing with every step. It’s pure wilderness and the one stretch where you will find no trails (about a quarter to a half mile). This makes it magical. Navigation is easy and it’s all class 2 (no hands needed). The key is simple: Set your sites on Mummy’s Toe and hug the upper edge of the cliff to your right. During this stretch you feel as if you are on untouched ground. You’ll also feel as if you are approaching a sudden drop-off between you and Mummy’s Toe. Trust the edge of the ledge. As you progress a way will open up before you.
Quick note: As I looked at the limestone rocks beneath my feet I noticed a nautilus fossil! That’s an ocean creature from around 450 million years ago when the ground you are walking on was an ancient ocean floor and there was one single land mass on earth, Pangea. Now that ancient ocean floor is elevated to around 11,000ft! Curiously, this was the very week the new Web Telescope began transmitting images from the edge of the universe. One image was the Cartwheel Galaxy, one of the newest galaxies at the edge of the expanding universe. How old is that galaxy? You guessed it…450 million years. This means the Cartwheel Galaxy was just coming to birth when that little nautilus creature was swimming the oceans. Everything is connected!
The ridgeline will begin to descend. Watch for beautiful limestone pillars that look as if they were laid, rock slab upon rock slab, by a master stone mason. That ridgeline will continue to descend as before you, larger than life, is Mummy’s Toe. You’re seeing Mummy’s Toe from a rarely seen perspective. Take memorable pictures. You won’t see many, if any such images anywhere else…except on this website.
As you continue to descend the ridgeline you reach a saddle at the base of Mummy’s Toe and a very good trail appears. This is the main Mummy’s Toe Trail. Note a cairn on this trail that marks your descent route back to the class 3 ledge you encountered earlier. But for now, continue up the trail to Mummy’s Toe. On Mummy’s Toe you’re on top of the world! I’ve described the points of interest earlier on this page. You might see others on the Mummy’s Toe Trail and on Mummy’s Toe. My first visit there was a Meetup group of 20 or more hikers covering the summit. Today I saw no one. In fact, from the beginning down in Deer Creek Picnic Area until my descent from Mummy’s Toe to arrival at Mummy Springs I saw only 4 people.
This stretch back to the class 3 scramble has a rather nice trail. At this point, it’s a welcome rest from wilderness navigation and avalanche slopes. When you reach that cairn I spoke about in the last section, descend to the upper edge of a cliff line. Here the trail takes a left and skirts the edge of the cliff line. This is the same cliff line that will take you to the class 3 scramble, which is the passage downward over the cliff at a low, tame section. There are a few cairns to mark the class 3 scramble. Descend at the cairns, then retrace your way back down to Mummy Springs Trail. Near Mummy Springs you’ll see that familiar “T” you saw earlier, where the Cougar Ridge Trail meets the Mummy Springs Trail. This time continue on the Mummy Springs Trail around the corner to Mummy Springs.
They call it “Mummy Springs”, but it’s really just a rock ledge that is wet year-round. No flowing water. However, if you should be there from late November through Spring, the water builds up and freezes in layers until it becomes a huge cascading ice fall. Pretty amazing! I have a slide show picture of it somewhere on this site but was unable to find it just now!
You’re now on the Mummy Springs Trail and it’s only about a quarter to a half mile to Raintree. Raintree is an ancient majestic bristlecone pine nearly 3,000 years old. Think about it…when it was a sapling, the world was in the Classical Greek era! I’m amazed every time I stand beneath it’s huge canopy, and plan a unique adventure every year that includes Raintree.
Take a left at Raintree. Now you’re on the North Loop Trail. In about an eighth mile there is a large log that has been sawn in two…one end on either side of the trail. This is the unmarked beginning of the Fletcher Peak out-and-back trail. Take a right here, if you still have enough time and energy, and head up to Fletcher Peak. It looks like a longer stretch than it really is, and the entire out-and-back is under one hour, even walking.
Fletcher Peak does not get as much press among hikers as some of the other taller peaks in the Mt. Charleston Wilderness, but it has its own unique character and views. Unlike many of the other peaks it is forested and you might see a deer or two near or on the summit. As long as you’re on the North Loop Trail so close to Fletcher Peak, it’s definitely worth the trip. As you ascend toward the summit turn around to see a full spectacular view of Mummy’s Toe where you recently stood.
From Fletcher Peak Summit, descend back to the North Loop Trail and take a right. You will at first rise to a high point and then descend to the trailhead. Some great routes to note along the way:
Then, there’s the final descent back to the North Loop Trailhead where you began this adventure. Bristlecone Pines begin to disappear below the plateau, but the forest is beautiful and unexpected in this region where the lowlands just a few miles distant are barren desert landscape.
Congratulations for completing this amazing loop today. You will never forget it!