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Bonanza Peak Trail
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Spring Mountains (Mt. Charleston), Cold Creek Area
Bonanza Peak
Bonanza Peak
Bonanza Peak trailhead sign (view west).

Overview

This is a strenuous, 4-mile (one-way) hike that starts at the Bonanza Trailhead above Cold Creek, climbs many switchbacks to the crest of the Spring Mountains, then heads south along the crest to the summit. Most of the trail is forested with bristlecone pines, so there is plenty of shade. There are great views to the east and the west from many places along this scenic trail.

Link to map.

Bonanza Peak Trail
Departing the trailhead (view SW)

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, this is a short trail to a high-elevation place, so take it easy if you've just come up from the desert. This trail probably is a bit much for young children. There are some nice rocky overlooks on the ridgeline, but watch you step near the edge. The access road is rough and requires a high-clearance vehicle, but not 4-wheel drive.

While hiking, please respect the land and the other people out there, and try to Leave No Trace of your passage. Also, this is a long hike, so be sure to bring the 10 Essentials.

Bonanza Peak Trail
Edge of old burn area (view NW)

Getting to the Trailhead

This hike is located above Cold Creek in the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, about 2 hours northwest of Las Vegas. From town, drive north on Highway 95 to Cold Creek Road, then turn left onto Cold Creek Road and drive west to the Bonanza Trailhead at the end of the road.

Bonanza Peak
Pines about 1,500 vertical feet up the trail (view N)

The Hike

From the trailhead (Table 2, Waypoint 01), the trail runs south around the south side of an open area (sometimes a grassy meadow). When the trail enters the trees, it becomes clearly marked and is easy to follow. The problem here is that there is an old Boy Scout Camp on the north side of the open area, and you could get confused and walk west up the old road past the camp rather than hike south and up the trail.

Bonanza Peak
Mixed Ponderosa Pine, White Fir, and Bristlecone Pine forest near the crest (view N).

After the trail enters the forest, it makes a big loop and curves around towards the north. The trail then steepens and starts switchbacking up the side of a ridge. The trail eventually gains the top of the ridge and follows it westward before cutting south across the slopes to the Bonanza Saddle. Most of the 4 miles to the saddle is done on switchbacks, perhaps 80 of them, but they generally run at an easy grade. There are two steep, but relatively short sections of the trail lower down, but after you get to where the bend of a switchback touches the burn area north of the trail (Wpt. 02), the going is pretty easy for the rest of the way to Bonanza Saddle (Wpt. 03).

Bonanza Peak Trail
McFarland Peak (view S)

From Bonanza Saddle (Wpt. 3), the trail runs south along the west side of the ridge towards the summit. However, there is no trail to the summit, there is no obvious place to leave the trail and head for the summit, and you could even hike past the summit and start down the other side of the mountain before realizing that you had gone too far.

Finding the cutoff point (Wpt. 04), however, is easy. All the way from the trailhead, every switchback leads uphill. The trail runs uphill and down, but all of the switchbacks head uphill. Close to the cutoff, the trail passes below a long band of 15- to 20-ft-high limestone cliffs to the east.

Bonanza Peak
Bonanza Saddle (view north)

The trail tops a little rise that is just a few yards west of, and almost even with, a saddle on the ridgeline (the trail does not go over the saddle). The trail then runs downhill at a slight grade for about 50 feet to a switchback heading downhill (the first downhill switchback on the entire trail). Backtrack the 50 feet to the highpoint (the highest point on the entire Bonanza Trail; Wpt. 4), and walk out to the saddle on the ridgeline. Note: if you continue heading south on the trail for a few hundred yards, you will eventually come to another downhill switchback, a cairn, and a faint use-trail heading up towards the summit. This alternative route works, but it is not as easy as walking up from the saddle.

From the highpoint on the trail, walk east 10 yards onto the saddle, then follow the ridgeline south for about 0.25 miles to the summit (Wpt. 05). The summit is marked with a cairn and a register.

To get back to the trailhead, retrace your steps down the ridge to the trail, then follow the trail back to the parking area. Be sure to enjoy the views on the way down.

Bonanza Peak Trail
Bonanza Saddle (view W)
Bonanza Peak Trail
Bonanza Saddle (view W)
Bonanza Peak Trail
Near Bonanza Saddle (view W)
Bonanza Peak Trail
Near Bonanza Saddle (view NE)
Bonanza Peak Trail
Near Bonanza Saddle (view N)
Bonanza Peak Trail
Bristlecone forest south of the saddle (view south)
Bonanza Peak Trail
Cutoff to the summit (view S)
Bonanza Peak Trail
Bonanza Peak Summit
Bonanza Peak Trail
Leave-no-trace campsite on summit
Bonanza Peak Trail
Sunset from the summit

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 Bonanza Trailhead 613006 4026888 7,553 0.00 0.00 Yes
02 Burn Area 611728 4026451 9,013 1.79 1.79 GPS
03 Bonanza Saddle 611679 4025509 9,803 1.19 2.98 GPS
04 Highest Point on Bonanza Trail 612378 4024663 10,355 0.86 3.84 GPS
05 Bonanza Peak 612465 4024347 10,397 0.23 4.07 GPS

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
© 2014 Jim Boone; Last updated 120602

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