Frenchman Mountain is the broad, prominent peak forming the eastern boundary of the Las Vegas Valley. It is a rocky, treeless ridge visible from everywhere in Las Vegas. It is due east of downtown Las Vegas and several major east-west streets end there, including Washington and Bonanza. Frenchman Mountain is often mistakenly referred to as Sunrise Mountain (which is a separate mountain to the north, on the other side of Lake Mead Blvd.). The chief interest in climbing the mountain is the fabulous view it offers of Las Vegas. (Arguably, only the Stratosphere Tower offers a better one.) From the summit, you can see Lake Mead on the other side.
The mountain rises about 1500' to 2000' above the surrounding desert. The summit can be reached by several trails, most of which deteriorate into rock scrambles near the summit.
At the top, there are two summits approximately the same height, about 1/4 mile apart. Both are capped by radio installations, at least one of which is a radio repeater for Metro police.
The only foolproof route to the summit is a dirt access road
on the back (east) side. At least two other trails approach from the city side (west), but they become very rugged and hard to follow near the summit. Probably the best route from the west is the Pack Trail
which is less rugged and easier to follow than the nearby Mormon Trail
The dirt road climbs about 1500 feet of vertical elevation and takes 1-1/2 hours to hike up, while the trails on the west climb 2000 feet and could easily take 4 hours one-way. If your main goal is to reach the summit, hike up the dirt road. If you just want a good view of the city and don't care if you reach the top, you can try the western routes.
The two trails from the west begin in an area of rocky desert behind a prominent, gold-spired Mormon Temple (photo
) which is visible from anywhere in eastern Las Vegas.
The mountain is on public [BLM] land, and no permits are required to hike. Posted signs on Lake Mead Blvd. indicate that camping is not allowed on the mountain or the area immediately it (but the likelihood of running into anyone who might object is very low).
Be aware though, that just recently on the summit they have now put signs to stay out of the fenced area, where the highest point resides. If there is a summit register within this area, if you sign it then you are admitting that you just trespassed. They could have a security camera up there too, stay safe and don't take the risk!
NOTE: This is something new within the last year.
No Trespassing sign on the summit.
When To Climb
Technically, the mountain can be climbed any time of year, but summer should be avoided due to 100+ temperatures. There is no water or shade anywhere on the mountain. (However, you can still hike the dirt road in the evening.)
In the winter, snow is rare, and does not stay on the ground for long. The biggest weather concern is wind, which is the major form of bad weather in Las Vegas. Cold wind can make the hike very uncomfortable. Consult a wind forecast if possible, such as this one
Being adjacent to the city, the base of Frenchman Mountain can be a beer-drinkin' party place at night. It is also a traditional dumping ground, both for trash and occasional dead bodies.
In recent years, however, upscale housing has moved closer to the western slope of the mountain, pushing out many of the partyers and dead bodies. We feel reasonably safe parking and hiking anywhere around the base of the mountain, but we do avoid leaving valuables in our car.
Once you start hiking on the mountain itself, you are unlikely to encounter anyone, since the mountain is rarely climbed by locals (who prefer to smoke, drink and gamble). It is remarkable that such a prominent landmark is so neglected.