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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, 1.8-mile hike. The trail generally runs at a moderately strenuous grade up the 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 forested 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. This trail runs up into the Mt. Charleston Wilderness Area.

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.

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.

Fletcher Canyon

The Hike

From the trailhead (Table 2, Waypoint 1), the trail runs north past the trailhead sign and across the toe of a ridge that overlooks Fletcher Canyon Wash. Initially, the trail runs through a Ponderosa Pine forest with an understory of white oak.

About 0.13 miles out, the trail drops into Fletcher Canyon Wash (Wpt. 2), turns west, and heads uphill, passing some interesting limestone conglomerate rocks near the junction. In this lower part of the canyon, the Ponderosa Pines give way to a Singleleaf Pinyon forest with a dense understory of mountain mahogany, manzanita, silk tassel, white oak, sagebrush, and many other shrubs.

Fletcher Canyon
Tall ponderosa pines along the trail

Approach the wash, hikers get a good view of the limestone cliffs high on the far side of the canyon. The end of the trail cuts through these cliffs in a narrow canyon, so from here you can get a good idea of how far you have to go (or how close you are getting to the end).

The trail follows the wash for a few yards, then climbs onto the bench on the north side of canyon, staying off to the right of the wash until the spring. 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.

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

About 0.37 miles out, the trail forks (Wpt. 3) and a side-trail leaves the bottom of the wash, heads east, and steeply climbs the side of the canyon. I don't yet know where the side trail goes, but the Fletcher Canyon trail stays in the bottom of the wash and continues heading west.

About 0.76 miles out, the trail touches the edge of the wash at a point where two fallen trees lie across the wash (Wpt. 4). From the polish on the wood, it appears that many people have walked across the logs. About 35 yards up the trail from this point, the trail enters the Mt. Charleston Wilderness Area (marked by two brown fiberglass posts).

Fletcher Canyon
Birding thickets along the stream (view NW)

The trail continues westward at a moderate grade, and by 1.25 miles out, the sides of the canyon have narrowed noticeably (Wpt. 5), although it is not yet "narrow," and you are getting closer to the limestone cliffs. Shortly above here (1.37 miles out), the canyon narrows a bit more and the trail crosses the wash at a point where two metal pipes drip water from a spring that is farther up the trail (Wpt. 6).

From the crossing, the trail runs quite steeply for much of the next 0.2 miles. Fortunately, the steep parts are short and interspersed by flat sections, plus the canyon is interesting, so it isn't bad. Part way up this section, the trail passes a spring that marks the entry into the narrow part of the canyon.

Fletcher Canyon
Hikers in narrower canyon (view north)

The canyon has deep, moist soils with lots of green vegetation, including wild parsley, elderberry, wild current, columbine, stinging nettle, and lots of other stuff. The area even smells like plants, which is 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.

At the top of the steep section, the canyon bends hard to the south, then bends equally hard back around to the north, making a tight S-curve (Wpt. 7) about 1.58 miles out. Here, the walls of the canyon are quite narrow, and just above here, they close down to only a few feet wide. There are a few boulders and logs to crawl over in this section, but they are easy to pass. Watch for Mt. Charleston Chipmunks in here. This high-elevation species is only found in the Spring Mountains, and there seemed to be a bunch of them among the limestone cliffs in the canyon.

Fletcher Canyon Trail

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. 8). This point is about 1.77 miles out and the end of the official trail. This point is also where a smooth water chute has been carved in the top of a limestone boulder.

Continuing around the large boulder and scrambling up the canyon to the right (north) (1.82 miles out), you quickly encounter a pour-over capped by a bunch of boulders (Wpt. 9). This is probably what is referred to elsewhere 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 what appeared to be the exit hole. However, the people and dogs below me didn't think that was a good idea, so I backed off. It also looks like the side of the canyon could be climbed as moderate 5th class, but without a rope I didn't want to try it (at least not the unprotected downclimb).

Fletcher Canyon Trail
The rock chute (view northeast)

From the fork in the canyon, you can also scramble up the left (west) fork, 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. 10). I didn't go very far up the canyon, but you should be able to follow this canyon up to the North Loop Trail near the junction with the Trail Canyon Trail. This drainage is to the west of Fletcher Canyon, but you might be able to cut back into Fletcher Canyon from here. Another hike for another day. The upper canyon is forested with Singleleaf Pinyon Pine and White Fir, and you can see Bristlecone Pine on the cliffs above the canyon. The understory includes wild rose, wild current, and other shrubs, plus columbine and a mat-plant growing on the rock walls, but it is fairly open.

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

Fletcher Canyon
Hikers below the obstacle (view north)
Fletcher Canyon
Climbing the western fork (view west)

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

Wpt. Location Easting Northing Elevation (ft) Point-to-Point (mi) Cumulative (mi) Verified
01 Trailhead 624786 4013869 6,946 0.00 0.00 GPS
02 Fletcher Canyon Wash 624835 4014014 7,009 0.13 0.13 GPS
03 Trail forks 624608 4014294 7,062 0.24 0.37 GPS
04 Two fallen trees across the wash 624102 4014508 7,228 0.39 0.76 GPS
05 Canyon narrows noticeably 623499 4014938 7,427 0.49 1.25 GPS
06 Two metal pipes 623327 4014986 7,503 0.12 1.37 GPS
07 Tight S-curve 623034 4014960 7,645 0.21 1.58 GPS
08 Canyon forks 622924 4015247 7,690 0.19 1.77 GPS
09 Pour-over capped by boulders 622929 4015286 7,774 0.05 1.82 GPS
10 Wider canyon above cliffs 622812 4015293 7,857 . . GPS

 
Note: All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
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© 2014 Jim Boone; Last updated 120901

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