Spring Wildflowers At Kyle Canyon! ~ Mt Charleston
Mt Charleston is only about a 45 minute drive from downtown Las Vegas. Mt Charleston is a busy ski resort in the winter, while during spring and summer the mountain turns into a hiking, biking and camping paradise. Mt Charleston is over 11,000 feet above sea level, so there are a variety of natural environments to be found as a visitor travels up the mountain. Starting at about 5,000 feet up, the temperature starts to drop. When it is over 100ºF in the Las Vegas valley, it is about 20ºF cooler on the mountain. Since the humidity here in the high Mojave Desert is usually less than 10%, a 20ºF difference in temperature really feels very nice! Below the mile high level is where the high desert terrain can be found and this is where the spring season wildflower blooms flourish in a unique dry wash canyon environment!
Springtime in the Desert Southwest is wildflower season. It does pay to get off the beaten path this time of year just to see the colorful show, especially if the previous winter brought plenty of rainfall. Winter rain is what triggers massive wildflower blooms, even in places in the desert that can go years without boasting a single colorful flower. Wide canyons and mountain meadows are the some of the best places to look for extensive wildflower blooms and these terrain features can be found in Kyle Canyon on the way up to the top of Mt Charleston.
Most of the dirt roads in Southern Nevada are freshly grated after the winter rain and snow season ends, so even a high ground clearance passenger car can handle the maintained dirt roads. In order to take on the rougher dirt trails, driving a high ground clearance 4×4 is the only choice. When driving the dirt roads in any desert wilderness area, help can be a long distance away, so it is best to make sure that the vehicle can reliably perform the task at hand before going on an off-road venture.
Kyle Canyon Road runs from U.S. Highway 95 at the base of the mountain all the way up to the small town of Mt Charleston near the summit. There are many dirt side roads to explore along Kyle Canyon Road before reaching the mile high level. I chose to take a scenic drive on the dirt roads that run straight up through Kyle Canyon at about the 4,000 foot elevation. In this area, the high desert landscape changes to lush green juniper and pine forests uphill toward the end of the tour, before turning back where the dirt road enters a residential area.
Mapping systems do not identify all of the dirt roads in Kyle Canyon, so giving directions is nearly impossible. The dirt road that is called Harris Springs Road (County Road 532E) is the one to look for and the road that parallels this route up the canyon is a good choice for spotting wildflower blooms too. There actually is a dirt road that can be found in this area that goes well into the Red Rock National Conservation Area too, which is another good area for spring season wildflower blooms.
During my tour of Kyle Canyon in the spring season there were plenty of wildflowers blooming and the summer heat had not yet turned the foliage brown. Only a few cactus flowers are seen in upper Kyle Canyon, because cactus do not flourish in high elevations that have freezing winter temperatures. Even so, there were plenty of interesting Joshua Tree, Yucca and Purple Sage blooms along the way. Globe Mallow is one of the most popular wildflowers of the west and a few big orange color patches can be seen throughout this canyon. Plenty of other colorful desert wildflower blooms await to be admired in this vast picturesque canyon too. Wildflowers of every color dot the landscape, so be sure to bring along a good camera to take the pleasant memories back home!
Las Vegas visitors will be happy to know that 4×4 SUV and ATV rentals are easy to find in this city. Even though the weather is relatively cool during spring, always pack a two day supply of water and non perishable food when venturing off-road into the desert expanse, just in case the unexpected occurs. The dirt roads in Kyle Canyon are easy to navigate, because when lost, all that a driver has to do is follow the dirt roads downhill to find civilization. Springtime is when the desert wildflower blooms occur and this is the best time to do a little side road tour on the dirt Jeep trails of Kyle Canyon!