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Harris Mountain
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Spring Mountains (Mt. Charleston), Kyle Canyon Area
Harris Mountain Route
 
Harris Mountain Route
Trailhead (view NW)

Note: Trails in the Carpenter 1 Fire area are closed. Check with the Forest Service.Also, storms of August 2013 washed out the access road. It is possible that the road will reamin closed for years - or even forever.

Overview

This pleasant, 5.25-mile partial-loop climbs from the Harris Canyon trailhead to Harris Saddle, then turns east and climbs off-trail to the summit of Harris Mountain. The return trip can be done as a partial loop. The trail starts at the upper edge of the Pinyon-Juniper Woodland (Upper Sonoran Life Zone), runs up into the Pine-Fir Forest (Canadian Life Zone) at Harris Saddle, and then climbs into the Bristlecone Pine Forest (Hudsonian Life Zone) on the peak. The summit provides great views in all directions, but especially towards Las Vegas to the southeast, Mt. Charleston to the northwest, and Mt. Potosi and other desert ranges off to infinity in the southwest. The return trip retraces the approach or descends a very steep hillside. Driving up Harris Canyon Road is a bit rough, but weather permitting, a careful driver could get there in any vehicle.

Link to map or elevation profile.

Harris Mountain Route
Harris Saddle and Mt. Charleston (view NW)

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ... this is a fairly safe hike. Most of the trail to Harris Saddle is wide and secure, but the sidehill below the road is steep. The hike up the ridge is fairly steep and brushy, but there are no cliffs or other unusual obstacles. Making the return loop, the descent off the side of the ridge is quite steep, but again, there are no cliffs or other unusual hazards.

While hiking, please respect the land and the other people out there, and try to Leave No Trace of your passage. This hike runs off-trail where nobody will find you, so be sure to bring the 10 Essentials.

Harris Mountain Route
Harris Mountain (view E from Harris Saddle)

Getting to the Trailhead

This hike is located in the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area (generally called Mt. Charleston) off Harris Springs Road south of Kyle Canyon Road, about 1.5 hours northwest of Las Vegas.

From town, drive north on Highway 95 to Kyle Canyon Road, then to Harris Springs Road, and finally to the end of Harris Mountain Road and the Griffith Peak Trailhead.

Harris Mountain Route

The Hike

From the Griffith Peak trailhead (Table 2, Waypoint 01), the trail runs northwest on the old, gently graded Harris Canyon Road across the steep, west-facing slope high above Lovell Canyon. Near the trailhead, the vegetation is dominated by vegetation typical of hot, dry hillsides in the upper Pinyon-Juniper Woodland (Upper Sonoran Life Zone).

The trail follows the old, one-lane road for about 1.5 miles, where the road abruptly ends (Wpt. 02). From there, a good normal-sized hiking trail continues to Harris Saddle, the saddle between Griffith and Harris peaks. Along the upper section, the vegetation transitions to a cool, alpine-feeling Pine-Fir Forest (Canadian Life Zone).

Harris Mountain Route

Near the highpoint on the trail, just before the trail descends to the bottom of Harris Saddle, a use-trail cuts up through a bank of sagebrush to the crest of the ridge (a matter of only a few feet in elevation). At this point (Wpt. 03), the route to the summit leaves the trail and climbs onto the ridge. For details, photos, and some history about this part of the route, see the description of the Harris Saddle Trail.

The route (no trail) continues up the ridge, working through and around low-growing thickets of Quaking Aspen and avoiding thickets of Curlleaf Mountain Mahogany, Limber Pine, and one patch of Common Juniper.

Harris Mountain Route
Summit (view NW)

The route passes a small knob (Wpt. 04) and climbs onto a larger knob (Wpt. 05) where Bristlecone Pine become common (Bristlecone Pine Forest; Hudsonian Life Zone). From the top of the knob, the route descends through a shallow saddle, then starts up the broad, west face of the summit.

Working up and across the sidehill towards the northwest ridge, the route passes a limestone outcrop with coral fossils that, because of the way the rock fractured, reveals the three-dimensional nature of the corals.

Harris Mountain Route
South ridge (view S)

From the coral fossils, the route continues up and across the face to the northwest ridge, which is followed to the summit (Wpt. 06).

The summit provides grand views in all directions. To the west are Griffith and Charleston peaks. The north is Mummy Mountain. To the east is the black-and-white banded Sheep Range. To the southeast are the La Madre Range, Las Vegas, and the backside of the Red Rocks cliffs. To the south are Mt. Potosi and the Clark Range. To the southwest are the Kingston Range and other mountain ranges stretching off to the horizon.

Harris Mountain Route
Steep hillside (view S)

From the summit, either retrace your steps down the ridge to Harris Saddle, or descend the south ridge to make a loop. Following the south ridge, the routes stays more-or-less on the ridgeline until encountering a big thicket of Curlleaf Mountain Mahogany just above a broad, open saddle. The thicket is most-easily passed on the east side of the ridge.

From the broad, open saddle (Wpt. 07), the route drops off the very steep west face of the ridge. The side of the ridge is open except for a low-growing species of sagebrush, and all of the Curlleaf Mountain Mahogany thickets can be avoided. The ground surface is mostly covered with small stones (like scree), but it is not loose. Near the bottom of the canyon, the route intersects the Harris Saddle Trail just below the end of the old road (Wpt. 08), and the trail can be followed back to the trailhead (Wpt. 01).

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

Wpt. Location Time Easting Northing Elevation (ft) Point-to-Point Distance (mi) Cumulative Distance (mi) Verified
01 Trailhead 1016 626075 4009077 8,351 0.00 0.00 GPS
02 End of old road 1055 624599 4010814 8,835 1.54 1.54 GPS
03 Harris Saddle (just before) 1129 623851 4011300 9,080 0.67 2.21 GPS
04 Top of small knob 1145 624177 4011337 9,381 0.25 2.46 GPS
05 Top of larger knob 1157 624483 4011340 9,625 0.23 2.69 GPS
06 Summit 1223-1255 624845 4011417 10,018 0.32 3.01 GPS
07 Saddle 1312 625030 4010918 9,632 0.38 3.39 GPS
08 Main trail 1344 624642 4010778 8,844 0.36 3.75 GPS
01 Trailhead 1413 626075 4009077 8,351 1.50 5.25 GPS

 
Note: All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
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© 2014 Jim Boone; Last updated 130828

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