This adventure begins at the upper end of Lovell Canyon Road, ascends to The Wilson Ridge South High Point, then takes The Wilson Ridge for a couple miles North toward Harris Mountain. Then, descends a ridge into the base of Lovell Canyon, crosses the canyon and ascends to connect with The Lovell Canyon Trail. Finally, return to The Lovell Canyon Trailhead and then back to the upper end of Lovell Canyon Road via Lovell Summit Road.
Navigating along the summit of The Wilson Ridge is like straddling the dividing line between two worlds. To the East toward Kyle Canyon the landscape on the ridge is barren. Apparently there was a fire that ascending the ridge from Kyle Canyon and stopped abruptly when it reached the summit of the ridge. To the West, there is a beautiful forest, untouched by the fire. The dividing line along the summit of the ridge is very distinct and continues along most of The Wilson Ridge. It appears the majority of trees on the ridge are pines and mountain mahogany. In fact, the skeletons of burned mountain mahogany line the upper East side of the ridge, while living mountain mahogany line the West side.
Incidentally, Sexton Ridge, on the West side of Lovell Canyon, has a similar look and feel with the East side of the ridge (toward Lovell Canyon) burned out and the West side forested.
Hiking along The Wilson Ridge is like being on a mountaintop for the entire length of the ridge. There are non-stop 360 degree views of a huge slice of Southern Nevada and beyond. A short list includes Potosi Mountain, The Rainbow Mountains Upper Crest Ridgeline along with White Rock Mountain, Bridge Mountain, Rainbow Mountain and Mt. Wilson, all to the South. The La Madre Mountains are to the East, along with Frenchman Mountain and The Muddy Mountains in the distance. To the Northeast are Angel Peak, Gass Peak and The Sheep Range. To the North are Fletcher Peak, Mummy Mountain, Harris Mountain and Griffith Peak. To the West is Sexton Ridge on the West side of Lovell Canyon. Below is the entire length of Lovell Canyon from Potosi Mountain to Griffith Peak and Harris Mountain.
On this day, the temperature in Las Vegas was predicted to rise to 98 degrees! However, starting at 6am, the temperature at the upper end of Lovell Canyon Road was just 56 degrees. I don’t believe the temperature I experienced at any point exceeded 70 degrees. By the time I descended back to the start point on Lovell Canyon Road it was about 6pm and the temperature was still around 70 degrees. What a shocker, upon arrival back in Las Vegas, to open the car door to 98 degrees! My experience of temperature and elevation is that for every 1000ft ascent, the temperature drops about 5 degrees. It may not be wise to venture along the Wilson Ridge when the Las Vegas temperature rises much above 100 degrees.
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.
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)!
Proceed 12 miles up the well-paved road until the pavement ends and an unpaved road branches off to your left 1/4th mile from the official Lovell Canyon Trailhead which will be on the right. There is ample parking across from the trailhead which will be on your right.
Starting at the parking area on the upper end of Lovell Canyon Road where Lovell Summit Road heads off to the left, cross Lovell Canyon Road to find two square red boulders. Pass between the boulders, angle to the left through the underbrush. There is a faint pathway. After about 50ft, begin to ascend the ridge to the right (East). As you work your way up the ridge, you’ll arrive at a couple high points. At the second high point, when you can see The Wilson Ridge South High Point to the East (see the slides on this page), notice a long ridge at first descending a bit, then ascending to that high point in the distance. Follow that ridge!
There is a lot of brush to navigate on the lower 25% of the ridge toward The Wilson Ridge South High Point. It may be wise to wear long pants, or the lower leggings I rigged up (see the video) in order to navigate the brush without facing “death by a thousand cuts”. I won’t dwell on the approach ridge here as the link just above focuses on the approach to The Wilson Ridge South High Point. However, just know that along the upper 75% of the approach ridge, it’s much easier to weave around the thinning brush!
Upon summiting The Wilson Ridge South High Point, pause to take in the spectacular view noted above! You’re now at about 8,500ft, similar to the elevation of La Madre Mountain. You ascended about 3,000ft from the upper end of Lovell Canyon Road. This is just 1,000ft less than the ascent from the South Climb Trailhead to Griffith Peak. It’s pretty significant, and in this case, since you had no trails to aid your ascent, you’ve probably exerted an amount of energy similar to ascending Griffith Peak — perhaps a lot more energy!
Now, look to the North along The Wilson Ridgeline toward it’s high point at Harris Mountain. You’ll notice the distinct vegetation line: Arid on the East side of the ridge; forested on the West Side. Navigating this line along the summit of Wilson Ridge is not as easy as it looks from above. That wide-open arid region on the East side is not so wide open, but choked by the intertwined skeletons of burned mountain mahogany trees. The forested West side of the ridge is even more of a navigation challenge. However, just follow the line along the top of The Wilson Ridge. It’s generally not too difficult to weave around the obstacles.
You’ll eventually pass through a beautiful upper meadow populated by wildflowers. Continue onward to the point where the last section of forest on the West side of the ridge ends. From that point onward to the summit of Harris Mountain, both sides of the ridge are barren. The Harris Mountain Road crossing is so close, you can almost touch it!
At the end of the forested section, you will see a large brown rocky bluff followed by three ridges descending into Lovell Canyon. I believe all three ridges will take you down into Lovell Canyon. The first of the three appeared to be the most gradual descent so I took that ridge after attempting the second ridge and coming up against some vertical drop-offs on that ridge. Upon later viewing the second ridge from the first ridge (see the video), that second ridge, though steeper, would have worked. The vertical drop-offs could have been navigated. However, the first ridge was still easier.
Near the base of the first ridge as it nears the base of Lovell Canyon, thick brush again emerges. I found some relief from the barrier brush by winding downward through a narrow wash that widened as it approached the base of Lovell Canyon.
Last Winter had been very wet and snowy. So, upon arrival at the base of Lovell Canyon, I was met for the first time by an actual stream flowing with strength. The entire base of Lovell Canyon was blanketed with fields of wildflowers, thanks to all the water. Pretty amazing!
The further I winded my way down Lovell Canyon, the thicker the brush became, and the wider the stream. So, I ascended the far side of the canyon knowing that The Lovell Canyon Trail must pass above. Sure enough, within about a half mile, the trail appeared. It was an easy and welcome stretch along the nice, brush-free trail back to The Lovell Canyon Trailhead at the campground on Lovell Summit Road, then down the final quarter-mile to the start point at the upper end of Lovell Canyon Road.
What an adventure! Two great canyons (Kyle Canyon and Lovell Canyon) and the Wilson Ridgeline between! Total wilderness immersion. Did not see a solitary soul the entire day along this huge loop.
Next adventure will be to Harris Mountain summit along the remaining Northern stretch of The Wilson Ridge, thus completing the ridge from The Wilson Ridge South High Point to Harris Mountain. Another adventure will be to take The Wilson Ridge South from that high point to where it crosses Rocky Gap Road, descend Rocky Gap Road to Lovell Canyon Road, then return to the parking area at the upper end of Lovell Canyon road: Another great Wilson Ridge loop.