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Frenchman Mountain
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Frenchman Mountain
Frenchman Mountain
Topography of Frenchman Mountain (view E from Lone Mtn)

Overview

Frenchman Mountain is the highest peak in the craggy mountain range that forms the eastern border of the Las Vegas Valley. The range is composed of two peaks: Sunrise Mountain to the north and Frenchman Mountain to the south, which are separated by Lake Mead Blvd. From the perspective of town, Frenchman Mountain has two peaks: a northern lower summit (3,942 ft, actually twin peaks) and a southern true summit (4,052 ft, also twin peaklets).

Heading south from Lake Mead Blvd, the route climbs 1,300 ft to a saddle between the twin northern lower summits, drops 260 ft into the main saddle between the northern and southern summits, and then finally climbs 700 ft onto the true summit, for a total distance of 2.2 miles and 2,000 feet of elevation gain.

Link to map or elevation profile.

Frenchman MountainHikers at trailhead (view S)

As might be expected for a high point overlooking a big city, there are many communications towers on the summit. There also is a dirt service road to the top. The road is closed to private vehicles, and it is the steepest dirt road that I have ever seen, so it is just as well to hike it. The road even has switchbacks that are too tight to turn around a long-wheel-base vehicle, so drivers have to pull forward up one leg, then back up the next, drive forward on the third, back up, and so on.

Because there is a road to the top, it would seem that hiking this peak would be easy, but this is the steepest, and most consistently steep, road that I have ever seen. Views of Las Vegas to the west, Lake Mead to the east, and peaks on the far horizons are worth the effort.

Frenchman Mountain
Road runs south towards the mountains (view S)

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ...there are no special hazards on this hike. Slipping on the steep road is a constant hazard, but that would be true for hiking on any steep trail, so trekking poles are a good idea. Watch your footing on the summit, as the east face is abrupt and steep.

While hiking, please respect the land and the other people out there, and try to Leave No Trace of your passage. Also, even though this hike isn't too long, be sure to bring what you need of the 10 Essentials.

Frenchman Mountain
The road gets steep (view SW)

Getting to the Trailhead

This hike is located in the Lake Mead region, about 20 minutes east of downtown Las Vegas.

From downtown, drive out towards Lake Mead on Lake Mead Blvd (not to be confused with Lake Mead Parkway in Henderson). Lake Mead Blvd passes Hollywood Blvd (the last stop light), leaves town, and runs up the canyon between Sunrise Mountain on the left and Frenchman Mountain on the right. About 2.1 miles past Hollywood Blvd, an obvious dirt road (Table 1, Site 0810) to the right leads steeply up the side of Frenchman Mountain and into a canyon. Park by the gate at the start of the dirt road. Lock your car. Park here; this is the trailhead.

Frenchman Mountain
Passing the old gate (view SW)

The Hike

From the trailhead (Table 2, Waypoint 01), the hike passes the cable fence and gate to run south on the dirt road. After about 200 yards, the road begins to climb steeply up and across the north face of the mountain aiming for the main canyon on this side of the mountain.

At about 0.43 miles out, the road levels out briefly at a landing, then drops slightly into the canyon. The road continues steeply up the canyon, and at 0.88 miles out, switchbacks twice on the west side of the canyon. Near the top of the canyon (0.99 miles out), the road switchbacks eight more times before climbing onto the first saddle (Wpt. 02; 1.27 miles out), which lies between twin false summits (Point 3,942 on the west side and Point 3,858 on the east). Note that Point 3,858 is not visible from town, so this looks like one peak.

From the first saddle, the road drops 260 vertical feet into the main saddle (Wpt. 03; 1.56 miles out) that separates the true and false summits. There are good views of the runways at Nellis Air Force Base in this area and a nice view west into Las Vegas.

Frenchman Mountain
Approaching the first landing (view SW)

From the main saddle, the route continues south along the road and climbs very steeply up the north face of the north summit. The road actually gets steeper higher up, and from below, parts of the road look so steep that a safety rope might be needed! It turns out to be an optical illusion; but it is steep.

The terrain eventually becomes too steep for the road, and another six switchbacks near the summit somewhat ease the grade. The road eventually climbs to a second landing, this time on a broad ridgeline, and the climb is essentially over.

From the landing, it can be seen that the summit is formed of two peaklets and both are covered with communications towers. The northern peaklet (4,052 ft) is a bit higher than the southern peaklet (4,045 ft).

Frenchman Mountain
Hikers on the first landing (view SW)

From the landing, the road continues south 80 yards to a fork (Wpt. 04; 2.12 miles out) below the north summit (the true summit). At the fork, the route turns hard to the left and switchbacks twice up to the summit (Wpt. 05; 2.21 miles out). The actual summit is fenced off, so continue past the propane tanks and scramble onto the ridgeline, which comes abruptly.

Watch for tripping hazards such as loose wires and torn down fencing around the summit, and don't disturb the equipment. There is a summit cairn on the ridgeline outside (south of) the fence. About 10 feet below the cairn, on the west side (not on the ridgeline), a summit register is partially hidden by stones. After signing the register, block it in carefully to ensure that high winds don't carry it away.

The summit area is not pristine wilderness, but the views of town to the west and of the Lake Mead region to the east are spectacular and well worth the effort to get here. Distant peaks on the far horizons add to the view. Plus, this peak is such a landmark that from anywhere in town, you can point at the peak and brag to everyone about your ascent.

The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
Looking ahead to the switchbacks (view SW)

After enjoying the view and perhaps some lunch, consider continuing to the south summit. From the north summit, descend the road to the fork (Wpt. 04), then continue south 0.11 miles to the end of the road. Outside the fence, a use-trail switchbacks up the steep rocky slope (0.06 miles) to the ridgeline. As before, the ridgeline comes abruptly. On this peaklet, the actual summit is outside the fence.

After enjoying the view from the south summit, retrace your steps to the trailhead. Be sure to stop to rest on the way down because hiking down is harder on your knees than hiking up.

The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
From the landing, the road drops into the canyon (view SW)
The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
Lowpoint in the canyon (view SW)
The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
Starting towards the first saddle (view SW)
The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
The road gets steep again (view SW)
The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
Hikers at the first of the lower switchbacks (view W)
The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
Hikers past the second lower switchback (view S)
The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
Hikers past the 2nd upper switchback (view SW)
The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
Hikers past the 4th upper switchback (view SW)
The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
Hikers past the 6th upper switchback (view SW)
The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
Hikers past the 8th upper switchback (view SW)
The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
Steep road leading onto the first saddle (view S)
The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
Hikers on the first saddle; summit in background (view S)
The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
Hikers starting down towards main saddle (view S)
The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
Looking ahead to the summit switchbacks (view S)
The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
Hikers winding down towards main saddle (view S)
The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
Hikers descending towards main saddle (view S)
The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
Near main saddle, gap in the hills towards Las Vegas (view W)
The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
Las Vegas (view W)
The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
Hikers at the main saddle (view S towards summit)
The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
Starting climb towards the summit (view S)
The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
Steep, rocky road (view S)
The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
Steep, rocky road (view S)
The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
How steep can a road get? This steep! (view SW)
The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
Hikers starting into the summit switchbacks (view S)
The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment. The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
Hikers resting at a flat-ish spot (view S)
The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
Very steep road (view SW)
The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
Hikers approaching last of the upper switchbacks (view S)
The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
Hikers past the last of the upper switchbacks (view S)
The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
Hikers at landing atop summit switchbacks (view S)
The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
Past the landing, the road forks (view SE)
The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
Hikers at fork, starting towards summit (view N)
The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
Approaching north summit (view E)
The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
Water and propane on the north summit (view SE)
The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
Road ends at a fence; hikers scramble back and right (view N)
The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
Hiker at summit cairn (register is below her feet; view S)
The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
Summit (view E, looking over the edge of the cliff)
The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
Summit (view N past end of the fence)
Frenchman Mountain
Summit (view SW across Las Vegas)
The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
Summit register buried under rocks (view E)
The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
Festive summit register container (view SE)

Continuing Towards South Peaklet

The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
Descent towards fork in the road (view S)
The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
Beyond fork, hikers heading towards south summit (view S)
The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
Hikers at end of road at south summit (view S)
The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
Hikers on use-trail leading to south summit (view N)
The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
Hikers on south summit (view N)
The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
Actual south summit is outside the fence (view S)
Frenchman Mountain
South Summit (view NE)
Frenchman Mountain
South Summit (view E)
Frenchman Mountain
South Summit (view SW)
The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
Hikers returning towards the fork in the road (view N)

Descending to the Trailhead

The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
Hiker descending into the summit switchbacks (view NE)
The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
Hikers nearing the second saddle (view NE)
The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
Descending into the upper switchbacks (view N
The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
Hiker descending towards first landing (view NE)
The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
Hiker at first landing, descending towards trailhead (view NE)
The road forks (Wpt. 04) near the summit. The summit has two peaks with communication towers on both, but the northern peaklet is a bit higher. At the fork, turn left and head back north to the summit (Wpt. 05), Watch for loose wires, torn down fencing, and don't disturb the equipment.
Hikers arriving at the trailhead (view N)

Photos from 2002 (before the fence)

Frenchman Mountain
Hikers and comm. equipment on the summit (view S)
Frenchman Mountain
Equipment on the summit (view N)
Frenchman Mountain Frenchman Mountain
frenchman mountain
Signing the summit register in the rain (view S)
Frenchman Mountain
Summit (view W to Las Vegas)
Frenchman Mountain
Hauling out garbage (view N)
frenchman mountain
Frenchman Mtn Rd (view N from below upper switchbacks)

Trailhead Photos

Frenchman Mountain
Frenchman Mountain Trailhead (view S)
Frenchman Mountain
Frenchman Mountain Trailhead (view S)
Frenchman Mountain
Trailhead and service road-trail (view S)
Frenchman Mountain
Don't drive into this gate! (view S)
Frenchman Mountain
Frenchman Mountain Trailhead (view S)
more to come ...

Table 1. Highway Coordinates Based on GPS Data (NAD27; UTM Zone 11S). Download Highway GPS Waypoints (*.gpx) file.

Site # Location Latitude (°N) Longitude (°W) UTM Easting UTM Northing Elevation (feet) Verified
0810 Lake Mead Blvd trailhead 36.2023 114.9885 680842 4008065 2,420 Yes

Table 2. Hiking Coordinates Based on GPS Data (NAD27; UTM Zone 11S). Download Hiking GPS Waypoints (*.gpx) file.

Wpt. Location UTM Easting UTM Northing Elevation (ft) Point-to-Point Distance (mi) Cumulative Distance (mi) Verified
01 Frenchman Trailhead 680855 4008044 2,184 0.00 0.00 GPS
02 First Saddle 680327 4006545 3,496 1.27 1.27 GPS
03 Second Saddle 680308 4006095 3,234 0.29 1.56 GPS
04 Fork in the Road 680117 4005433 3,879 0.56 2.12 GPS
05 North Summit 680156 4005477 3,967 0.09 2.21 GPS
06 South Summit 680087 4005222 3,972 0.26 2.47 GPS
01 Frenchman Trailhead 680855 4008044 2,184 2.29 4.76 GPS

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
© 2015 Jim Boone; Last updated 150423

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