Griffith Peak

Griffith Peak 11,060′

Spring Mountains, Nevada

Total Time: 5 hours

Roundtrip Mileage: 10.9 miles

Elevation Gain: 3,600′

Trailhead: South Loop Trail

Griffith Peak in the Spring Mountains outside of Las Vegas is the third highest mountain in Southern Nevada. A part of the Mount Charleston massif, the peak is on the southeast end of the long summit ridgeline. The day after Thanksgiving I was hoping to finally bag Mount Charleston with Griffith Peak and Mummy Mountain along the way, which had been on my short list for many years. Unfortunately, bellies full of turkey and lack of acclimatization would keep us from completing the full loop, but Griffith Peak on its own made for a solid ~11 mile day. We left Vegas shortly after sunrise driving up Mount Charleston to the South Loop Trailhead. Our packs were loaded with enough water for the planned 16 mile day, and we started up the trail. Echo Cliffs rose directly ahead, guarding the lower slopes of Griffith Peak.

Cathedral Rock near the trailhead.
Across the canyon to Mummy Mountain.
Echo Cliffs.
View east down canyon.

The weather was perfect for late fall, and the views across the canyon to Mummy Mountain were impressive. We took a short break as the trail entered a small gully that split the eastern and western Echo Cliffs, spotting small caves in the rock face above. As the trail entered the cooler canyon, it began to switchback more aggressively, working up above the level of the cliff bands to a flat area near the top with fantastic views to the north. The striated summit of Charleston was partially in view for the first time all day, although the true high point was still obscured. While our initial pace was respectable, we began to slow considerably as we neared 10,000′, the ridgeline above never seeming to get closer. The last series of switchbacks to make the ridgeline were even steeper, and we reached the saddle below Griffith Peak about 2.5 hours from starting out.

Entering the wilderness area.
Northeast from the ridgeline.
Southwest from the ridgeline.

Although the 2 mph pace wasn’t bad, it meant that we’d be cutting it close to finishing in the dark, with the summit of Charleston still another 3+ miles away, and another 8+ miles for the descent. I intended to tag Griffith Peak either way, featured on the LVMC 50 Classic Peaks List, and Holly and I spent a good 15 minutes weighing the options- completing the loop, doing only Griffith, or Holly heading down alone while I did the loop solo. In the end, since she wanted to summit Charleston, it just made sense to come back and do it another time, and we headed off towards Griffith Peak together. The half mile spur trail to the summit went fast, and we were quickly on the bald summit rocks, breaking 11,000′ for the first time since Mount Davis in September. I was surprised to find you could actually see the Las Vegas strip in the distance, as well as the long ridgeline to Mount Charleston and across to Mummy Mountain.

Mummy Mountain to the north.
West to Mount Charleston.
Summit shot.

I was also both surprised and delighted to see the snowy outline of the Sierras in the distance just past the recognizable profile of Telescope Peak in Death Valley. I had assumed the Sierras were too far to spot reliably, and I was happy to get a glimpse of my favorite range in snow. Now with plenty of time, we spent a good 30 minutes on the summit with the mild temperatures, and had a small lunch before dropping back to the saddle. As we descended, we passed a surprising number of people on the way up, most either not realizing how far Mount Charleston, or just planning to turn around when they were feeling tired. It was easy hiking back through Echo Cliffs, and we made it to the trailhead around 2:30. We headed to the lodge on Mount Charleston to have a post-hike cocktail, then drove back into Vegas to shower and change before heading out for a sushi dinner that night.

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