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A Favorite Vegas Escape: Cathedral Rock Trailhead

Updated: Sep 10, 2019

One of the greatest things about living in Las Vegas is the fact that it offers the perfect balance of city life and outdoor options. Because, let’s face it, sometimes, when the everyday grind of work, and responsibilities feel like they’ve been weighing you down, or the continuous frustration of freeways and bad drivers starts to pick at your patience, an escape to the outdoors is exactly what is needed.

Having grown up in Lake Tahoe, there is no place like a forest covered mountain to revive the soul, and a simple 45-minute drive from the city offers just that at Mt. Charleston. One of my favorite outdoor retreats that the mountain has to offer: a hike to the top of Cathedral Rock.

For those who have not tried this trail before, Cathedral Rock Trail (located in the Kyle Canyon side of Mt. Charleston) is just under 3 miles roundtrip and includes an elevation climb of about 970 feet. This moderate trail is a gravel path and begins winding through patches of aspens and evergreens, which makes for a beautiful setting. Upon hitting higher elevation, the aspens disappear but the pine trees remain. The trail grade becomes steeper and makes its way across a slope at an elevation of 8,000 feet and overlooks the aspens you started amongst. The last quarter mile of the trail is steeper, with a cluster of rocky stair way switchbacks that leads to the top of Cathedral Rock and a view that makes it all worthwhile.

Add a perfect overcast day with some light rain and you’ve got yourself the ultimate city escape. Luckily that’s exactly what was in store for us this morning when we set out for our morning hike.

The scenic drive along Kyle Canyon Road to the parking lot at the base of the trail is always relaxing and pretty mellow when you head out early and beat the rush of visitors looking to escape the city’s heat. If you hit the trails early enough you tend to have them to share with only a handful of fellow nature lovers and hiking enthusiasts, as oppose to the louder crowds that roll along later in the morning.

We started at the base of the trail with a sighting of wild horses which were enjoying the morning weather while searching for some breakfast. As the trail begins to wind upward, the first mile and a half is always my favorite as the gravel path is lined with aspen trees. With a little breeze in the air the sound of aspen leaves lightly fluttering instantly calms the mind and I can’t help but stop and take some photos with the morning light peeking through.

The entire hike offers great views and for me, plenty to enjoy photographing. The weather this morning created a light mist and a visible haze on the horizon and made for amazing contrast for taking photos – mother nature’s natural photo filter.

In addition to the trail’s base visitors of wild horses, a family of deer, a number of chipmunks, a large number of swallows cruising the air streams, and a few dive-bombing humming birds made for a busy morning for the forest locals.

The hike typically takes us only about an hour with stops for photographs, and nice long scenic viewing rest stop at the top, but first thing in the morning, it’s guaranteed to make you work up an appetite.

After a decent morning hike and a growing hunger, the Mt. Charleston Lodge makes for the most logical breakfast stop to continue to enjoy the mountain air. One of our favorite restaurants in the Las Vegas area; the menu is simple, the staff is welcoming, the food is delicious, and you can’t beat the views.

All of this, enjoyed with my best friend/husband. Sometimes the best medicine truly is the great outdoors with great company. You can’t ask for a better morning outing when you live in the city.

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