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Raintree (North Loop Trail)
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Spring Mountains (Mt. Charleston), Kyle Canyon
Raintree
 
Raintree
Raintree (view N)

Overview

This is a fairly strenuous, 2.7-mile section of the North Loop Trail that runs through forests and along ridgelines to the Raintree, the fabled old bristlecone pine that is thought to be the largest and oldest (some 3,000 years) tree in the Spring Mountains. If the Raintree isn't enough for one hike, there are grand views of Las Vegas, Kyle Canyon, and the surrounding mountains from many points along the trail. A short (0.3 miles) side trail also leads to Mummy Spring, a beautiful mountain spring that is full of wildflowers in the spring and summer.

From the Raintree, either return to the Deer Creek Road trailhead, or continue hiking west and follow the Trail Canyon Trail back to civilization, then car shuttle back to the Deer Creek trailhead.

Link to map.

Raintree
Raintree and Mummy's Toes (view W)

This old tree has stood here proudly for some 3,000 years. However, with so many visitors, it is starting to show signs of human use. Please do not climb on the tree, camp beneath the tree, or even spend too much time standing beneath the tree. We are causing dirt around the roots to erode away, and just walking around the tree compacts the soil so that rain water can't infiltrate like it used to.

This trail starts at the upper edge of the Transition Life Zone (Yellow Pine Forest), climbs through the Canadian Life Zone (Pine-Fir Forest), and ends in the Hudsonian Life Zone (Bristlecone Pine Forest). While hiking, keep an eye on the shrubs and trees as you hike the trail and watch the species mix change as you climb higher in elevation.

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ...this trail is strenuous, so take it easy at this elevation if you've just come up from the desert (the high point in the trail is over 10,000 feet and the air is thin). Other than that, the trail is safe and easy to follow, but it can be hot. There is no water, so bring plenty.

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.

Raintree
Hikers at the Raintree (view NW)

Getting to the Trailhead

The trailhead is located up in the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area (generally referred to as Mt. Charleston) on Deer Creek Road between Kyle and Lee Canyons, about 1 hour northwest of Las Vegas. From town, drive out to the North Loop Trailhead.

Raintree
Raintree (view N)

The Hike

From the trailhead (Table 2, Waypoint 1), the trail runs into the forest on a clearly marked and well-maintained trail. Initially, the trail is fairly gentle and passes through a forest of tall ponderosa pines and white fir, with an open understory of mountain mahogany and wax currents. The trail gradually steepens and climbs onto a flat ridgetop that I refer to as "the viewpoint" (Wpt. 2) with some good campsites and grand views of the Sheep Range, Las Vegas, and other points to the east.

Raintree
Raintree at dusk (view S)

From the viewpoint, the trail switchbacks steeply up a forested hillside towards a highpoint (Wpt. 3) on the ridge east of the Mummy's Toes. From the highpoint, the trail runs east along the ridge through a bristlecone pine forest to the toe of Mummy Mountain and the junction with the Mummy Spring Trail (Wpt. 4). This trail junction is watched over by the 3,000-year-old Raintree.

Enjoy your visit with the Raintree, but be careful not to cause erosion or soil compaction around its roots. Without care, the tree won't survive to see 4,000 years. For example, eat your picnic lunch on the hillside across from the Raintree where you can get a good view of the Raintree, Mummy's Toes, and Kyle Canyon.

When ready to leave, either hike back down the North Loop Trail to the Deer Creek trailhead, or continue west and down towards the trail junction with the Trail Canyon Trail. It is 1.4 miles to the trail junction, and another 1.9 miles down Trail Canyon to the pavement.

Raintree

The user-created log structure at the base of the Raintree has been reduced to protect the tree from the threat of fire. If the big pile of logs caught fire, it could kill the Raintree. As hikers, we should also try to reduce our concentrated use of the area because erosion around the base of the tree is exposing roots and reducing the water holding capacity of the soil. When camping in the area, be sure to practice Leave No Trace techniques by pitching tents and camping in open areas away from all of the trees, but especially away from the Raintree.

Raintree
Group picnic beneath the Raintree (view W)
Raintree
Hiker beneath the Raintree (view W)
Raintree
Base of the Raintree
Raintree
Trunk of the Raintree
Raintree
Raintree bark
Raintree
Ancient Raintree heartwood
Raintree
Beetle galleries on ancient Raintree heartwood
Raintree
Looking up into the Raintree
Raintree
Lying on the ground looking up into the Raintree
Raintree
Lying on the ground looking up into the Raintree
Raintree
All that remains of historic trail junction sign: "Charleston Pk 8"
Raintree
North Loop - Mummy Spring trail junction (view W)

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

Wpt. Location Easting Northing Elevation (ft) Point-to-Point Distance Cumulative Distance Verified
01 North Loop (Deer Creek Road) Trailhead 624679 4018903 8,439 0.00 0.00 GPS
02 Viewpoint 623635 4018053 9,331 1.43 1.43 GPS
03 Highpoint 623420 4017531 10,023 0.72 2.15 GPS
04 Raintree (Mummy Spring Trail junction) 622786 4017247 9,968 0.47 2.62 GPS
05 North Loop Trail at Trail Canyon Trail 621573 4016349 9,307 1.38 4.00 GPS
06 Trail Canyon Trailhead 620616 4014255 7,824 1.93 5.93 GPS

 
Note: All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
Thanks for coming to visit!
© 2014 Jim Boone; Last updated 120610

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