Cathedral Rock

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 36.25159°N / 115.70596°W
Additional Information Route Type: Well-maintained Hiking Trail
Additional Information Time Required: Less than two hours
Additional Information Difficulty: Moderate
Sign the Climber's Log


Trail Length: 1.4 miles each way.
Elevation Gain: 1000'
Summit Elevation: 8600' (not 11919')

This is a short side hike at the base of Mt. Charleston which leads to a prominent cliff overlooking Kyle Canyon and the small community of vacation homes there. Unless you are prepared for the killer Mount Charleston hike (and most people aren't), this trail is the first one to try in the Spring Mountains. The climb up takes less than an hour for strong hikers, about one and a half hours for most people, and two hours for with young children in tow. The downhill return takes about half that time.

The trail is well-planned and maintained and is very heavily used on the weekends. There are a lot of people with dogs and children: The dogs and children handle it fine, but many of the adults appear to be laboring. Although the hike is short, it is rigorous, climbing quickly from 7600' to 8600'. It is a continuous "up" with no breaks, and the high elevation slows down most lowlanders. (Most of your typical smokin', drinkin', eatin' Las Vegans probably wouldn't make it to the top.)

At the top, you get a grand view of Kyle Canyon. In the distance, you can see some of the salt flats northwest of Las Vegas, but you can't see any of Las Vegas itself. In the other direction (west), you see Charleston Peak, still far away and about 4-6 times the duration and difficulty of this hike.

This trail can be part of an entertaining all-day outing with kids. Bring your picnic supplies and get to the Cathedral Rock picnic area early in the morning (to get the best spot). Then just let the kids loose. The cool forest here is quite a change from Las Vegas.

PLEASE ADOPT THIS PAGE! Although I wrote this page, I no longer live in Nevada so can't maintain it. I'm eager to turn this trail over to a qualified hiker who is experienced with it. Glenn Campbell 7/13/2014


Follow the driving instructions for the South Loop Trail. What is described there as the "false" trailhead for the South Loop Trail is one of two real trailheads for Cathedral Rock. At this trailhead along the highway there are pit toilets and a stairway leading up an embankment. The only problem with this trailhead is parking, which fills up quickly in the summer. There are marked parking spaces for about 10 cars, and 10 more cars can park along the shoulder of the road beyond the trailhead. On summer weekends you might not find a place.

An alternative trailhead (actually the primary one) is inside the Cathedral Rock Picnic Area, where the parking fee is $6.00. This is a very nice picnic area in the woods, and if you plan to spend some time here, the fee is definitely worth the price. The road entrance to the picnic area is just beyond the first trailhead on the main highway, and the second trailhead is clearly marked about 0.1 mile beyond the toll booth. (Don't confuse the Cathedral Rock trailhead with the adjacent one for the Mt. Charleston South Loop. Both are clearly marked -- if you read the signs.) The picnic area is open 8am to 8pm in the summer, so you need to leave yourself plenty of time to get back to your car before the gate is locked (i.e. don't start the hike after 4:00 pm).

Route Description

The trails from the two trailheads merge within about 0.3 mile.

Here is the official Forest Service description...
The trail begins in Mazie Canyon amid ponderosa and white fir, but soon enters a stand of aspen. This is one of the most colorful areas in the summer when the wildflowers are blooming and the butterflies are all about. In the winter it is a major avalanche path where only aspen and brush survive the repeated snowslides. About halfway up the trail is a waterfall just off the trail to the left. There is a short, old road leading to it. Although three falls flow down early in the season, there is usually only a trickle by the end of the summer. As the trail ascends out of the canyon toward the back of Cathedral Rock one gets a view of the avalanche chute below. When the trail reaches the saddle keep to the right. The trail climbs a few short, steep switchbacks before reaching the summit. On top is a spectacular view of Kyle Canyon several hundred feet below. Closely supervise small children and watch your footing. As you descend, please stay on the trail. The vertical cliffs below are dangerous and have claimed lives.

Essential Gear

Be prepared for cooler and windier conditions at the top than you find at the trailhead. Temperatures at the trailhead are about 20-30 degrees F below the current temperature in Las Vegas. Also be prepared for harsh sun, which burns the skin more quickly at this altitude.

For comfort, you need about a quart of liquid per person, which some urban hikers neglect to bring.


The trail is snow-free roughly May through November.

In winter, this trail is covered with snow and ice. Hikers continue to use this trail in winter (as evidenced by their footprints), but whether you can do it without special equipment depends on the condition of the snow. Most people shouldn't try until Spring.

The trail can be passible in April but is usually is very muddy with some patches of snow.

The weather near the summit can be very windy and cold in the Spring and Fall. Bring appropriate warm clothing.

Cathedral Rock Links

Additions and CorrectionsPost an Addition or Correction

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horalka - Aug 13, 2004 7:08 am - Hasn't voted

Route Comment

We just came back from our trip to southern Nevada - beginning of July 2004. We spent two nights in Mt. Charleston area (camped in the Kyle campground - very nice man who runs the camp). It was during the week and parking at the "false" trail head for Mt. Charleston- south loop was not a problem. There was only couple of cars. Also we met only two people and they were already going back from the summit on the south loop, so weekdays are definitely better if you like to feel more secluded.
But because we camped in the desert for the rest of the week we came back from Red Rock Canyon to camp here for the last night, it is definitely much cooler. That was on Saturday. We spent the day in Red Rock and came back to camp and put in at least one more hike - the Cathedral rock. The trail head to this one is couple feet away from the Charleston Peak - south loop. We decided to park at the "false" trail head again, because it was already 6pm and the Cathedral Rock picknic area closes at 8pm in summer. Also who wants to pay $5 for just been couple feet closer? Well the parking was full and there were cars parked in the right shoulder so we parked there too (I read in the Mt. Charleston-South loop trail page that they tolerate it and also, you are in the middle of woods.....!!!!). By the time we came back, before 8pm, there were not many cars left and only ours was in the shoulder with nice fat parking ticket for $50. So beware of this, maybe it is only on weekends, but they don't tolerate it anymore.

T. White

T. White - Aug 12, 2019 1:30 am - Hasn't voted

Picnic Area

The gated picnic area is now only open on summer weekends at 10:30, too late to be of use to most Griffith/Charleston summitters.

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