Rob D. Brodman
Locals know that when the mercury tops the century mark in Vegas, cooler temps are only a short drive away.
Perched 2 miles above the valley floor in the Spring Mountains, Mt. Charleston is a haven for hikers, nature lovers, and anyone seeking relief from the summer heat.
All three of the trails below are located within Spring Mountains National Recreation Area ― better known by its signature peak, Mt. Charleston ― about 25 miles west of Las Vegas.
Take I-15 to U.S. 95 north, then turn left at State 157/Kyle Canyon Rd. and climb 6,500 feet. For more information, contact the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest (702/515-5400).
See some of the world's oldest living organisms along the moderate 6-mile trail. Some of the pines are believed to be more than 3,000 years old; their twisted features speak of millennia spent leaning into the whistling wind. INFO: Trailhead is at the end of State 156.
Desert View Overlook
Arguably the easiest hike on the mountain, the paved trail is less than 500 feet long and gains only 150 feet in elevation yet offers panoramic views of neighboring Las Vegas and Sheep Ranges. INFO: Trailhead is marked on State 158.
Find shade while hiking to a seasonal waterfall and caves through a canopy of ponderosa pines and aspens. At only 2.4 miles round-trip, the well-maintained trail is the perfect length to stretch your legs; just watch out for the strenuous 1,000-foot climb. Don't miss a free guided hike to the falls (9-12 Jul 14; 702/515-5400). INFO: Trailhead is ¼ mile off Echo Rd., just past the fire station on State 157.
The Holiday Shoppe
Celebrate Christmas in July at the small shop brimming with collectibles in glass, ceramic, and wood. INFO: Inside the Mt. Charleston Lodge, at the end of State 157; 702/872-0701.
Mt. Charleston Lodge Restaurant & Lounge
Head straight for the dining room and fill up on buffalo, elk, or ostrich burgers in the homey stalwart that's been welcoming hungry hikers for more than 50 years. While you're there, walk out to the deck for photo-worthy views of Mt. Charleston. INFO: $$$; 1200 Old Park Rd.; 800/955-1314.
The Hotel on Mt. Charleston (from $149; 702/872-5500) is the perfect place to begin or end a day. Drive State 157 up the mountain to the hotel, then stay on the third floor for rooms with balconies overlooking the duck-filled pond and nearby canyon. Fuel up with a cappuccino and a muffin at the hotel's Bistro ($$). On early weekend evenings, catch live jazz.