We call this the Mormon Trail because it begins in the vicinity of the prominent, multi-spired Mormon Temple at the end of Bonanza Rd. This is not the easiest route to the summit, but it offers fine views of the city from everywhere on the trail. You can turn around anywhere and still have a satisfying hike.
We have not yet reached the summit on this trail and can only describe the first 2/3rds of it. Given the many false turns and deteriorating trail quality of the Mormon Trail, the nearby Pack Trail is probably a better route to follow if you intend to reach the summit. Or hike the Summit Access Road for the easiest route.
The Mormon Trail is very well-defined, well designed and well-trodden at the beginning, but it becomes much more rugged and harder to follow the higher it goes. Judging from trail wear, lots of people start this trail, but most don't go far.
The first 1/3rd of the trail, gaining about 700 feet of elevation, shows evidence of careful design and significant construction. We suspect that this portion was built to serve prospectors in the early part of the 20th Century, perhaps as a pack trail (although we haven't seen any evidence of mining). Reaching the summit was apparently not the goal of this trail.
The second third of the trail is more rugged and harder to follow, but there is evidence of intelligent design. We suspect that this portion of the trail was blazed in the mid-20th Century with the aim of reaching the summit.
The condition of final third is unknown, since we have not completed it. It looks difficult.
The elevation gain, from trailhead to summit, is about 2000'. The hike to the summit probably takes about 4 hours one-way.
This trail starts near the eastern end of Bonanza Rd., a major east-west thoroughfare in Las Vegas. The trail begins in an area of rocky desert behind a prominent Mormon Temple (photo) which is visible from anywhere in eastern Las Vegas.
To reach the trailhead quickly from I-15, take Exit 45A/Lake Mead Blvd East, just north of Downtown Las Vegas. Follow Lake Mead Blvd. for about 6 miles east to Hollywood Blvd. Turn right (south) on Hollywood Blvd. and drive about 1.4 miles to Bonanza Rd. Turn left (east) on Bonanza and drive about 1/2 miles until the road ends at the mountainside.
There is plenty of parking among the trash piles at the end of Bonanza, just beyond the Mormon Temple and Los Feliz Ave. (The parking seems safe, since there are homes nearby, but you should probably not leave valuables in your car.)
If you have a regular car, park at the end of Bonanza. If you have a high-clearance vehicle, you may be able to get a little closer to the trailhead, but the distance is only about 0.1 mile.
You can reach the end of Bonanza on the city bus, although we don't know the route number.
From the end of Bonanza, hike along the 4WD road that heads up the embankment on the left. Follow this road for about 0.1 mi along the base of the mountain until the road dips into a shallow ravine. The hiking trail starts on the hillside to the right, moving diagonally up the slope. (The trail is obvious as soon as you have walked past the trailhead and look back.)
The trail is very obvious and well-trodden at first, but once you reach the first crest, you need to watch the trail more carefully to avoid wandering off it. Watch for a number of false turns, where people have wandered off the trail and created there own trails, which lead to dead ends.
About 45-60 minutes into the hike, when the slope of the mountain is on your right, the trail dips down into a ravine and is obscured. Should you go up the ravine or across it? In this case, you should continue across it. You will find clear evidence of the trail on the top of the next rise.
About 10 minutes later, the trail seems to return to the same ravine higher up. We call this the "Great Trap." As it reaches the ravine, the good trail stops. There is a dry waterfall on your right and a steep slope straight ahead. If you try to continue up the steep slope, you will find plenty of evidence of people trying to find the trail, and even an errant cairn, but no trace of the excellent trail you just left. In this case, when you reach the dead-end, you should stop, turn around, and backtrack about 100 yards to a hidden turn-off that you missed. (You'll see it now that you are looking for it.)
At this point, about 1/3 of the way up the mountain, the trail appears to have lost 80% of its hikers. It is marked intermittantly by cairns and dark blue circles spray-painted on the rocks. Pay careful attention to the markers and trail wear, and also look for landmarks to help you descend by the same route.
About 45 minutes later, about 2/3rds of the way up the mountain, you will reach another crest, a cairn in the middle of the trail and more confusion. The main trail now appears to be heading downhill now, which is probably another fruitless route. Careful attention at the crest reveals another trail heading upward, toward a rocky spine. It is marked by dark blue dots and trail wear, but the terrain ahead looks very difficult.
This is where we quit! We were hiking on 105-degree weather, and didn't care to continue. It took us 2 hours to reach this point from our car. If you continue further on the trail, post your info here.
No climbing equipment needed.
There is no water or shade anywhere on the mountain, so prepare accordingly.
Since you are facing the city, cell phones should work fine from anywhere on the trail.
Do not attempt this trail at night, or put yourself in the position of having to hike down at night. Even with a flashlight and all the ambient light of Las Vegas, you are bound to lose the trail. (It is hard enough to find the trail during the day.)
Avoid this trail in the summer. Summer daytime temperatures are almost always above 100F. You could probably do it if you carry a lot of water (We tried!), but it isn't pleasant.
If you happen to wander off the trail and lose it completely, you'll still survive. You can scramble over rocks to get down, without any climbing equipment, but the rocks here are very sharp (due to a peculiar atmospheric corrosion), and your hands will be bloody by the time to get down.
Slipping and falling on the sharp rocks is a moderate concern. It is probably best not to hike alone, and to bring a cell phone in case of accidents. (In the worst case, the police could probably helicopter you down.)
The area around the trailhead is sort of place where dead bodies used to be dumped on a regular basis. In one celebrated case in the early 1990s, a couple camping near the base of the mountain was murdered for thrills by drugged out teens. Nowadays, however, there is more upscale housing closing in on the mountainside, and we don't feel that there is any significant danger in parking or hiking here during the day. (At night, however, the base of the mountain tends to be a party place for Yahoos in pickup trucks.) Once you start hiking up the trail, you are unlikely to encounter anyone.