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Fletcher Canyon Trail
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Mount Charleston Area, Kyle Canyon
Fletcher Canyon Trail
Fletcher Canyon
Fletcher Canyon trailhead (view north)

Overview

This trail is a pleasant, 1.9-mile (one-way) hike on a trail in the Mt. Charleston Wilderness Area that generally runs at a moderately grade up a forested canyon to a spring, then runs steeply into a deep, narrow canyon with walls that are a few feet apart and about 200 feet high. The trail ends at a fork in the canyon where water has carved an interesting chute across the top of a boulder. Above the fork, water-polished boulders and pour-overs block both canyons, but both forks can be climbed to the mountain slopes above (the left fork is easier). The entire hike runs through a deep, heavily forested canyon that is surrounded by towering limestone cliffs. Water flows seasonally.

Link to map or elevation profile.

Fletcher Canyon Trail
Starting up the wash (view northwest).

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ...stay out of the narrows if thunderstorms threaten to avoid potential flash floods. Many of the rocks in the bottom of the canyon are water-polished and quite slick, so watch your step (I almost took a header on one). If you want to drink the water, be sure to treat or filter it. Try to stay out of the stinging nettle that grows along the trail in moist areas.

While hiking, please respect the land and the other people out there, and try to Leave No Trace of your passage. Also, this hike is moderately long, so bring what you need of the 10 Essentials. This trail runs into the Mt. Charleston Wilderness Area, so pay particular attention to respecting the land

Fletcher Canyon
Wilderness boundary sign

Getting to the Trailhead

This hike is located in Kyle Canyon up in the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, about 45 minutes northwest of Las Vegas. From town, drive out Highway 95 to Kyle Canyon Road, then turn left and continue up Kyle Canyon Road to the Fletcher Canyon Trailhead parking on the left.

Fletcher Canyon

The Hike

From the trailhead (Table 1, Waypoint 01), the trail runs north past the trailhead signs and across the toe of a ridge that overlooks Fletcher Canyon Wash. Initially, the trail runs through an open Ponderosa Pine forest with an understory of silktassel and few other shrubs.

About 0.14 miles out, the trail arrives at the edge of Fletcher Canyon Wash (Wpt. 02), turns west, and heads upstream along the south side of the wash, passing some interesting limestone conglomerate rocks near the turn. In this lower part of the canyon, the Ponderosa Pines give way to a mixed forest dominated by Singleleaf Pinyon with a dense understory of Mountain Mahogany, Pointleaf Manzanita, Ashy Silktassel, Gambel Oak, Big Sagebrush, and many other shrubs.

Fletcher Canyon
Tall ponderosa pines along the trail

The trail runs along the south side of the wash, then crosses to the north side (Wpt. 03). At this point, hikers get a good view of the limestone cliffs high on the far side of the canyon. The end of the trail cuts through narrows in these cliffs, so from here hikers can get a idea of how far it is to the narrows.

Through this part of the canyon, the understory stays dense, but the overstory changes from a Pinyon-Juniper Woodland and a Ponderosa Pine-White Fir forest mixed with Pinyon Pine.

At about 0.37 miles out, the trail forks at a signed trail junction (Wpt. 04). The Eagle Nest Trail turns right, leaves the bottom of the wash, and steeply climbs the side of the canyon. The steep section seen here is the only steep part on the 2.75-mile loop trail.

Flethcer Canyon Trail
Water across trail below Fletcher Spring (view W)

The Fletcher Canyon Trail continues northwest through the forest, and at about 0.59 miles out, crosses back to the south side of the wash (Wpt. 05). The trail then quickly passes a wooden sign (Wpt. 06) announcing entry into the Mt. Charleston Wilderness Area. At about 0.73 miles out, the trail crosses back onto the north side of the wash (Wpt. 07).

The trail continues northwest at a moderate grade, and by 1.3 miles out, the limestone cliffs have narrowed noticeably, although it is not yet "narrows." Shortly, the canyon narrows a bit more and the trail crosses back to the south side of the wash (Wpt. 08). At this point, two metal pipes in the wash drip water from the seasonal spring that is a bit farther up the trail.

Fletcher Canyon
Birding thickets along the stream (view NW)

From the twin pipes, the trail runs a few more yards along the stream to what appears to be a trail junction (Wpt. 09). Here, the stream flows down out of a thicket of shrub and trees. When the stream is dry, hikers can continue up the wash, otherwise, the main trail climbs steeply along the south wall of the canyon.

In this area, the canyon has deep, moist soils with lots of vegetation, including Charleston Mountain Angelica (wild parsley), Blue Elderberry (Sambucus nigra), Wax Current, Western Columbine, Stinging Nettle, and many other species. The area even smells like plants -- unusual for the desert. The spring attracts birds, so keep an eye out for Broad-tailed Hummingbirds, Canyon Wrens, Hermit Thrushes, Cassin's Finches, and other species here.

Fletcher Canyon
Hikers in narrower canyon (view north)

Continuing on the trail, the trail climbs quite steeply in three segments for much of the next 0.2 miles. Fortunately, the steep parts are interspersed by flat sections, plus the canyon is interesting so hikers can always stop and look at the rock walls (this is, take a short rest), so it isn't bad.

At the top of the steep section, the trail drops into the wash at the entrance into the narrows, which is above the spring, so except during time of melting snow, water usually does not flow here. When dry, hikers can follow the wash here; otherwise, the trail crosses onto the far hillside to pass through an area of tall, dense vegetation (sometimes referred to as Hummingbird Hollow).

Past the well-vegetated area, the canyon bends hard to the south, then bends equally hard back to the north, making a tight S-curve (Wpt. 11). Here, the walls of the canyon are quite narrow, and just above here, they close down to only a few feet wide. There may be a few boulders and logs to crawl over in this section, but they are easy to pass. Watch for Mt. Charleston Chipmunks scampering about the cliffs, a high-elevation species found only in the Spring Mountains.

Fletcher Canyon Trail

The upper canyon is forested with Ponderosa Pine and White Fir, a few Rocky Mountain Juniper, and Bristlecone Pine can be seen on the cliffs above the canyon. The understory includes Wild Rose, Wax Current, and other shrubs, plus more Western Columbine and Mat Rockspirea (a plant growing on the rock walls), but it is fairly open.

After running up the narrow canyon for about 0.2 miles from the S-curve, a big boulder mostly blocks the canyon, and just above the boulder, the canyon forks (Wpt. 12). This point is about 1.9 miles out and the end of the official trail. This is also where a smooth water chute is carved in the top of a well-polished limestone boulder.

Fletcher Canyon Trail
The rock chute (view northeast)

Continuing around the large boulder and scrambling up the canyon to the right (north), a pour-over capped by several boulders (Wpt. 13) blocks easy passage. This is probably what is referred to as Obstruction Rock. I crawled up under the rock and burrowed through a tunnel, but concluded that I would have to move a large rock that was blocking the exit hole. It also looks like the canyon wall could be climbed as moderate 5th class, but without a rope I didn't want to try it (at least not the unprotected downclimb).

From the fork in the canyon, the left (west) fork can be passed by climbing over some 3rd-class water-polished boulders to get into a higher section of narrow canyon. These narrows quickly open into a wider canyon above the cliffs and a use-trail (Wpt. 14). I've not gone very far up the canyon, but it can be followed up to the North Loop Trail or to Fletcher Peak.

After enjoying the cool of the canyon, return to the trailhead by retracing your footsteps back down the trail.

Fletcher Canyon
Hikers below the obstacle (view N)
Fletcher Canyon
On belay climbing the western fork (view W)

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 Trailhead 624786 4013869 6,947 0.00 0.00 GPS
02 Fletcher Canyon Wash 624837 4014054 7,009 0.14 0.14 GPS
03 Wash Crossing 624764 4014142 7,053 0.08 0.22 GPS
04 Trail Junction 624609 4014302 7,062 0.15 0.37 GPS
05 Wash Crossing 624294 4014361 7,203 0.22 0.59 GPS
06 Wilderness Boundary 624275 4014364 7,210 0.02 0.61 GPS
07 Wash Crossing 624159 4014496 7,263 0.12 0.73 GPS
08 Metal Pipes 623326 4014991 7,503 0.67 1.40 GPS
09 Spring 623293 4015005 7,556 0.03 1.43 GPS
10 Hummingbird Hollow 623174 4015007 7,617 0.08 1.51 GPS
11 S-Curve 623034 4014960 7,645 0.10 1.61 GPS
12 Canyon Forks 622924 4015247 7,690 0.24 1.85 GPS
13 Pour-Over 622929 4015286 7,774 0.01 1.86 GPS
14 Canyon above Cliffs 622813 4015293 7,857 . . GPS
01 Trailhead 624786 4013869 6,947 1.86 3.72 GPS

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
© 2014 Jim Boone; Last updated 120901

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