birdandhike.com logo
Home | Wilderness | Hiking | Mt. Charleston
Cathedral Rock Trail
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Spring Mountains (Mt. Charleston), Kyle Canyon
Cathedral Rock
Cathedral Rock Trail
Start of the trail (view W)

Overview

This is a moderately strenuous, 1.5-mile hike to the top of Cathedral Rock, a rocky promontory with great views overlooking Kyle Canyon. Much of the trail follows an old road up an avalanche chute along the east side of Cathedral Rock to a saddle behind the summit. From there, the trail climbs a few short switchbacks to the summit overlook. Views from the top are spectacular: you can see straight down to the trailhead and the lodge, and you can see off to the other peaks in the area.

Link to map.

Cathedral Rock Trail
Overlooking the Lower Trailhead parking (view E)

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ...this trail passes through an avalanche chute that could be dangerous during winter. The trail is strenuous, so take it easy at this elevation. There are no railings at the top, so be careful near the edge, as a slip would result in certain death. Watch your kids and pets carefully.

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 is short, be sure to bring what you need of the 10 Essentials. This hike goes into the Mt. Charleston Wilderness Area, so pay particular attention to respecting the land.

Cathedral Rock Trail

Getting to the Trailhead

This hike is located in Kyle Canyon up in the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, about 1 hour northwest of Las Vegas. From town, drive out to the Spring Mountains Visitor Center, then continue up the road to the Cathedral Rock Trailhead.

Cathedral Rock Trail
Cathedral Rock - South Loop junction (view SE)

The Hike

From the trailhead (Table 1; Waypoint 01), the trail runs up and left about 200 yards to a fork (Wpt. 02). At the fork, the Cathedral Rock Trail turns right, while the South Loop Trail continues straight.

Both trails pass through a forest of ponderosa pines and white fir with an open understory of wax currents and a few other shrubs, plus some grasses, thistles, and a few forbs. In the trees, views are short but overlook the parking area and picnic area.

To the right, the Cathedral Rock Trail runs about 100 yards to another fork (Wpt. 03). Here, the Cathedral Rock Trail turns left, while the Echo Trail turns right.

Cathedral Rock
Cathedral Rock - South Loop junction (view NW)

From the fork, the Cathedral Rock Trail follows an old road as it zig-zags up and across an avalanche chute. Repeated avalanches prevent most conifer trees from growing here, thus opening the forest and allowing quaking aspen to grow (they bend under the snow). There are several species of shrubs and lots of spring wildflowers here, too.

The trail runs up under the Echo Cliffs, tall limestone cliffs that lie just east of Cathedral Rock. In a wooded section about halfway up the trail (Wpt. 04), a short detour to the south (left) takes you to a seasonal waterfall (Wpt. 10). The main trail continues up, following the old road through wooded and open areas with great views down the canyon and of the steep east face of Cathedral Rock.

Cathedral Rock Trail
Trail sign (view S)

The trail (old road) circles around the top of Mazie Canyon and approaches a saddle on the south side of Cathedral Rock. The trail forks (Wpt. 05), with a narrow trail going right towards Cathedral Rock and the old road continuing up and to the left. It is easy to get confused here because it looks like the route should continue up the old road; historically there has been no trail sign.

The narrow trail to the right leads to the summit of Cathedral Rock, dropping down a bit and running north for a few yards to the saddle. During periods of spring snow melt, water from Little Falls Creek pours out of a pipe below the trail and cascades down the hillside into Mazie Canyon.

Cathedral Rock Trail
Cathedral Rock - Echo Trail junction (view W)

From the saddle, the trail climbs a few steep switchbacks where Ponderosa pine provide a bit of shade. Before long, the trail pops out onto the summit (Wpt. 06).

Views from the summit are spectacular. Adventuresome hikers can work their way out to the edge of the cliff and look straight down about 1,000 feet to the Lodge and parking areas. Be careful and watch your children here, as it is 1,000 feet straight down. Also, be careful not to kick rocks off the summit because you might hit someone below (or even hit your own car).

Cathedral Rock Trail
Trail sign (view S)

When ready to leave, retrace your steps back to the trailhead. Please stay on the trail and don't cut the switchbacks on the way down. This damages the trail and the vegetation, and makes the trail and scenery worse for everyone.

Hikers might consider extending the hike by following the old road west to the seasonal stream that feeds Little Falls (Wpts. 11-13).

Upper Cathedral Rock Trailhead
Hiker on old road below Echo Rocks (view S)
Cathedral Rock Trail
Avalanche chute between Cathedral Rock and Echo Rocks
Cathedral Rock Trail
Avalanche chute and Echo Rocks
Cathedral Rock Trail
View down across avalanche chute
Cathedral Rock Trail
Hiking across avalanche chute
Cathedral Rock Trail
Lots of quaking aspen
Cathedral Rock Trail
Turnoff to seasonal waterfall
Cathedral Rock Trail
Turnoff to seasonal waterfall
Cathedral Rock Trail
A nice bench with a view
Cathedral Rock Trail
Lower seasonal waterfall
Cathedral Rock Trail
Lower seasonal waterfall
Cathedral Rock Trail
Upper seasonal waterfall
Cathedral Rock Trail Cathedral Rock Trail
Cathedral Rock Trail Cathedral Rock Trail
Cathedral Rock Trail
Cathedral Rock summit from behind (view N)
Cathedral Rock Trail
Turn off old road
Cathedral Rock Trail
Trail leaves old road
Cathedral Rock Trail
Water piped from Little Falls Creek
Cathedral Rock Trail Cathedral Rock Trail
Cathedral Rock Trail
Steep trail near the end
Cathedral Rock Trail
Near the end of the trail
Cathedral Rock Trail
Summit overlook
Cathedral Rock Trail
Standing on the edge
Cathedral Rock Trail
Relaxing comfortably at the overlook
Cathedral Rock Trail
Old trailhead parking (view straight down)
Cathedral Rock Trail
Mt. Charleston Fire Station and town (view NE)
Cathedral Rock Trail
Looking down on town (view NW)
Cathedral Rock Trail
Mummy Mountain and Coxcomb Ridge
Cathedral Rock Trail
Cathedral Rock Trail Cathedral Rock Trail
Cathedral Rock from Echo Cliffs
Cathedral Rock Trail
Cathedral Rock with Mt. Charleston Peak in the background
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 Cathedral Rock Trailhead 621731 4013026 7,713 0.00 0.00 GPS
02 Cathedral-South Loop Trail Junction 621802 4012928 7,716 0.10 0.10 GPS
03 Cathedral-Echo Trail Junction 621724 4012921 7,728 0.05 0.16 GPS
04 Trail Junction, Waterfall 621485 4012413 8,183 0.63 0.79 GPS
05 Trail Junction, Upper Little Falls Creek 621224 4012692 8,433 0.43 1.22 GPS
06 Cathedral Rock Summit Overlook 621397 4012887 8,585 0.27 1.49 GPS
01 Cathedral Rock Trailhead 621731 4013026 7,713 1.49 2.98 GPS
. . . . . . . .
04 Trail Junction, Waterfall 621485 4012413 8,183 0.00 0.00
10 Base of Waterfall 621512 4012357 8,223 0.06 0.06 GPS
. . . . . . . .
05 Trail Junction, Upper Little Falls Creek 621224 4012692 8,433 0.00 0.00
11 Trail Junction 621206 4012764 8,432 0.05 0.05 GPS
12 Campsite 620820 4012869 8,435 0.27 0.32 GPS
13 Little Falls Creek, End of Trail 620755 4012795 8,447 0.06 0.38 GPS

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
© 2014 Jim Boone; Last updated 130602

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

 

Google Ads