birdandhike.com logo
Home | Wilderness | Hiking | Mt. Charleston
Bonanza Trail
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Spring Mountains (Mt. Charleston), Lee Canyon
Bonanza Trail
Bonanza Trail
Hiker on Bristlecone Trail; Bonanza Trail in background (view W)

Overview

This strenuous, 15-mile trail runs along the crest of the Spring Mountains, connecting the Bristlecone Trail (Lee Canyon) with the Bonanza Peak Trail (Cold Creek). Starting at either end, the trail runs west to the crest of the mountains, follows the crest, passes west of McFarland Peak, and then picks up the crest again before dropping eastward to the other trailhead. Much of the trail is forested with ponderosa pine, white fir, and aspen at lower elevations, and bristlecone pine at higher elevations. From the crest, there are spectacular views north and south along the Spring Mountains crest, and view east and west of the deserts and mountain ranges in the distance. This one-way hike requires shuttling vehicles or making other arrangements at the two trailheads. Water is available at Wood Spring (southwest of Bonanza Peak) during the spring and early summer, otherwise the trail is dry.

Link to map.

Bonanza Trail
Bonanza Trail at Bristlecone Trail (view N)

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, this is a pretty safe hike. There are some rocky spots where a slip could prove hazardous, but this is a good, safe trail. The trail is strenuous, so take it easy at these elevations if you've just come up from the desert. There is little water along this trail, and unless you are hiking during the spring or early summer, don't rely on getting water at Wood Spring.

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.

Please stay on the trail and don't cut the switchbacks. Cutting switchbacks damages the trail and the vegetation and it makes trail conditions worse for everyone.

Bonanza Trail
Bristlecone Trail sign (view NW); Bonanza Trail in the background

Getting to the Trailhead

This hike is located in the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, northwest of Las Vegas. Because this is a point-to-point trail, there are two trailheads: the Upper Bristlecone Trailhead or Lower Bristlecone Trailhead in Lee Canyon, and the Bonanza Trailhead above Cold Creek.

To get to Upper Bristlecone Trailhead, head out to the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area and drive to the end of Lee Canyon Road. For the Bonanza Trailhead, head out to the end of Cold Creek Road.

Bonanza Trail
Bonanza Trail sign

The Hike

This hike is described starting from Lee Canyon. Hiking in this direction mostly puts the sun at your back and gives you an 1,100-ft elevation advantage. The Lee Canyon trailhead (8,668 ft) is higher than the Cold Creek trailhead (7,550 ft), but the trail can be walked in either direction.

From the Upper Bristlecone Trailhead in Lee Canyon (Table 1, Waypoint 01), hike up the Bristlecone Trail as it angles back along the road heading towards the ski lifts. At the edge of the ski area, the trail turns to the southwest and runs up the canyon through a mixed pine, fir, and aspen forest. For details on this part of the hike, see the description of the Bristlecone Trail.

About 2 miles out the Bristlecone trail, the trail reaches a junction (Wpt. 02) where the Bonanza Trail forks off to the left (west), while the Bristlecone Trail continues to straight (east). The Bonanza Trail runs uphill for about a mile, passing four switchbacks on a forested slope, to a saddle (Wpt. 03) on the crest of the Spring Mountains with views through the trees down into the Pahrump Valley.

Bonanza Trail
Wilderness register box - not functional

At the saddle (Wpt. 03), the trail turns north and climbs many log waterbars act like big wooden stairs on a strenuous section, but they pass in 5 minutes or so.

The trail generally runs north with a few short, steep sections, but mostly the grade is leisurely. There are great views in all directions from the crest, but the ancient bristlecone forest is so thick that it tends to obscure the expansive views familiar to desert hikers.

Along the ridgeline, the trail runs over hills, around knobs, and across saddles for about 2.5 miles to the base of McFarland Peak (Wpt. 04).

At the base of McFarland Peak (Wpt. 04), USGS topo maps show that the trail turns south and heads down a series of switchbacks on the west side of the ridge before making a big loop to the north side of McFarland Peak. This is no longer the case; the trail has been re-routed and shortened.

Bonanza Trail
Bonanza Trail starts up hillside

Now, when the trail on the crest gets to the base of McFarland Peak (Wpt. 04), it continues running northwest more-or-less on the contour (slight downgrade) until just before reaching the steep main gully on the southwest side of McFarland Peak (Wpt. 05). The trail then runs steeply down towards the gully, drops down 6 short switchbacks, and crosses the gully. The trail then runs west at a gentle grade towards the top of the main west ridge on McFarland Peak (Wpt. 06).

As a side note, the route up the southwestern gully on McFarland Peak starts from the uppermost of the 6 switchbacks (Wpt. 05). When hiking north on the Bonanza trail, this is the first downhill switchback you get to under McFarland Peak. At the corner of the uppermost switchback, a faint use-trail heads up and northward across the slope and into the gully, passing just above a peculiar rocky outcrop about 20 feet from the main trail.

Bonanza Trail

From the west ridge of McFarland Peak (Wpt. 06), there are great views to the north and south. From this point (or from the top of a knob a few yards west of the trail), you can look north to see Wood Spring, the southwest side of Bonanza Peak, and parts of the trail getting there. You can also see Mt. Sterling far to the north and Mt. Charleston far to the south. The imposing west face of McFarland Peak and the route up it can be seen to the east, and Pahrump, Death Valley, and the Sierra Nevada Mountains can be seen to the west.

From the west ridge (Wpt. 06), the trail turns north to descend the steep northwest side of the ridge at a fairly steep grade. A couple of switchbacks are followed be a long descent across the hillside. After traversing below some steep cliffs (Wpt. 07), the trail descends a long series of short switchbacks until rejoining the old trail low in the canyon.

Bonanza TrailTrail passes 4 switchback while climbing this hillside

The trail then resumes a fairly easy grade as it contours (about 8,700 ft) around to the northeast and into the gully (Wpt. 08) that runs down from the northeast side of McFarland Peak. The trail crosses the wash at a point where, relatively speaking, the woods feel deep and dark with large ponderosa pine, white fir, bristlecone pine, and a few juniper shrubs (common juniper).

From the bottom of the canyon (Wpt. 08), the trail runs west at a fairly easy grade before climbing onto a ridge (Wpt. 09) below a prominent knob. Just before the ridge, the USGS topo map show an odd loop heading up the hillside and them back down, but the trail has been re-routed here and generally follows the contour across the hillside.

The trail follows the ridge uphill before angling into the drainage below Wood Spring. After climbing a few short switchbacks and a fairly steep section of trail on the east side of the wash, the trail arrives at Wood Spring (Wpt. 10). Wood Spring is on the uphill (right) edge of the trail. The water is captured in a small metal box with a pipe coming out of the side, and water flows out of the pipe and onto the trail. Early in the year, at least, drinking water is available here, but the metal box is open, so be sure to treat or filter the water.

Bonanza Trail

A few yards past the spring, a short trail forks off to the southwest (left) and leads to a small campsite that can be seen from the junction (it is big enough for a small tent of two). This is steep country, so if you are inclined to camp near the spring, this is the place to do it.

After the fork in the trail, the main trail turns northeast and runs directly up a forested hillside before starting a long series of fairly easy switchbacks that lead, eventually, to a point (Wpt. 11) high on the side of the southeast ridge of Bonanza Peak. The trail then cuts across the south-facing slopes heading for the west ridge (Wpt. 12) of Bonanza Peak. There are some nice, high, and exposed sections of trail on the side of the peak with good views to the southwest.

The trail crosses onto the north side of the west ridge (Wpt. 12), and passes a large, open, relatively flat area that would be a good campsite for big groups (no water). The trail continues up the west side of Bonanza Peak, passing below the summit at an elevation above 10,200 feet.

Bonanza Trail

To summit Bonanza Peak (10,400 ft), follow the trail for a few more short switchbacks until it arrives at the first place with views across a little saddle (Wpt. 13) over the crest of the mountain to the northeast. Leave the trail at this point, walk onto the saddle, and then follow the ridgeline 0.24 miles south to the summit (Wpt. 14).

From the little saddle (Wpt. 13) on the ridge below the summit, the trail begins a moderate descent towards Bonanza Saddle (Wpt. 15), the major saddle on the ridge above the Bonanza trailhead. There are great views to the northwest along this section of the trail. From Bonanza Saddle, the trail descends perhaps 80, mostly moderately graded, switchbacks to the Bonanza Peak Trailhead (Wpt. 16). For details of this part of the route, see the description of the Bonanza Peak Trail.

Bonanza Trail
Saddle: Bonanza trail reaches the crest (view N)
Bonanza Trail
At the saddle, Old Bristlecone Trail continues S on the ridgetop
Bonanza Trail
Survey marker near the saddle
Bonanza Trail
From the saddle, the Bonanza Trail runs N along the ridgeline
Bonanza Trail
Wooden stairs on ridgeline
Bonanza Trail
Trail near the crest (view N)
Bonanza Trail
Mummy Mountain (view SE)
Bonanza Trail
Trail near the crest (view N)
Bonanza Trail
McFarland Peak (view N)
Bonanza Trail
Mt. Charleston (view S)
Bonanza Trail
Mt. Charleston (view S from toe of McFarland Peak)
Bonanza Trail
McFarland Peak (view SE)
Bonanza Trail
Canyon northwest of McFarland Peak (view S)
Bonanza Trail
Wood Spring at edge of trail (view N)
Bonanza Trail
McFarland Peak and Mt. Charleston (view S)
Bonanza Trail
Bonanza Peak summit (view S)
Bonanza Trail Bonanza Trail
Bonanza Trail Bonanza Trail
Bonanza Trail Bonanza Trail
Bonanza Trail Bonanza Trail
Bonanza Trail Bonanza Trail
Bonanza Trail Bonanza Trail
Bonanza Trail Bonanza Trail
Bonanza Trail
Wood Spring along Bonanza Trail
Bonanza Trail
Wood Spring along Bonanza Trail
Bonanza Trail more to come ...

Table 1. 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 Bristlecone Trailhead 618772 4018550 8,684 0.00 0.00 GPS
02 Trail Junction 617096 4019063 9,267 2.50 2.50 GPS
03 Saddle on Crest of Spring Mts 616561 4019086 9,756 0.67 3.17 GPS
04 Base of McFarland Peak 614661 4021707 9,751 2.38 5.55 GPS
05 SW side McFarland Peak 614080 4021919 9,532 0.46 6.01 GPS
06 West Ridge of McFarland Peak 613462 4021948 9,381 0.53 6.54 GPS
07 Top of 6 switchbacks 613411 4022547 9,100 0.56 7.10 GPS
08 Wash North of McFarland Peak 613424 4023176 8,652 0.72 7.82 GPS
09 Ridge below Wood Spring 612818 4023216 8,831 0.48 8.30 GPS
10 Wood Spring 612661 4023561 9,039 0.27 8.57 GPS
11 S Ridge of Bonanza Peak 612892 4023965 9,586 0.76 9.33 GPS
12 W Ridge of Bonanza Peak 612153 4024325 10,116 0.92 10.25 GPS
13 Bonanza Peak Cutoff 612377 4024662 10,230 0.30 10.55 GPS
14 Bonanza Peak 612465 4024346 10,397 . . GPS
15 Bonanza Saddle 611678 4025508 9,803 1.10 11.65 GPS
16 Bonanza Trailhead 613021 4026870 7,513 3.42 15.07 GPS

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
© 2014 Jim Boone; Last updated 140204

Hiking Around Mt Charleston Hiking Around Las Vegas Glossary Copyright, Conditions, Disclaimer Home

 

Google Ads