Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Hiking Bristlecone Loop

Sunday morning, Jeff and I got up bright and early. Well, early for us on a weekend. :) We met some friends and headed to Mt Charleston for a morning of hiking.

Bristlecone Loop
Gorgeous morning for a hike!

We parked in the Lower Bristlecone Loop parking lot and started our hike from there. In total there were 8 humans and 5 dogs in our little hiking party.

The Sallie-girl came along with us, and she had a total blast walking along the trail with us without her leash. She played a little with the other dogs, but she was so good staying near us and not running off to explore places and things that she shouldn't.

I'd forgotten to charge my watch, so I left it at home. I wasn't planning on running, so I wasn't too concerned about time or distance. I'm guessing we did about 5.5-6 miles, and it took us roughly 3 hours. If I'm remembering correctly.

More on how Sallie, Jeff, and I survived the hike in a bit, but first, let's talk about the actual trail.

Bristlecone Loop is pretty easy to find. From Las Vegas, you travel north on US-95 for a few miles outside of the city. From there you'll take Lee Canyon Rd. It's a left-hand turn, and I'm pretty sure that it's well-marked. Don't take Kyle Canyon Road. That's the first Mt Charleston sign you'll see, but you'll end up on the wrong side of the mountain.

We weren't really paying attention to the odometer, so I'm not sure how many miles you drive once you're on Lee Canyon road, but you'll pass a few campsites and at least one other trailhead, Sawmill. There's a good sign for the Bristlecone Lower Loop parking lot.

Starting from the lower loop is a little less popular; I think most people only do the upper trail.

I don't think we passed anyone else while on the lower trail, but if we had, and we'd been running, it would've be relatively easy to pass.

The lower trail is nice and wide, but it is ALL UPHILL! It's not too crazy, but it will definitely wind you - even if you're just walking/hiking. There are some sections with some pretty big rocks. Easy to stub your toes, but also pretty easy to avoid.

Hiking in Mt Charleston
Not one of the rocks to avoid, but I made Jeff climb to the top. :)

The slow, steady incline continues for about 3 miles.

Bristlecone Loop Trail | Mt Charleston, NV

And continued for maybe another half mile or a mile.

But shortly after this sign, the trail switched from the nice wide lower trail to a single track trail for the rest of the loop.

This part of the loop is a bit more technical. Since it's a single track, it seems there are a lot more obstacles to watch out for - tree roots, rocks, uneven ground. I don't think I'd recommend running this trail to a novice trail runner, but I could see how an intermediate or advanced trail runner would love it. My only warning to those running it would be is to remember that it is a single-track trail, and it's relatively popular. You'll likely need to slow down to pass others who are out walking/hiking the trail. We didn't see any runners Sunday morning, but we definitely passed a quite a few other hiking parties.

Hiking Bristlecone Loop | Mt Charleston, NV

The last half mile or so is a very nice, easy, well-groomed section of the trail - complete with a handrail.

Upper Bristlecone Trail, Mt Charleston

Once you see this handrail, you know you're coming to the end.

The term loop is a little deceiving, as the trail ends at the Upper Bristlecone Trailhead parking lot.

Upper Bristlecone Trailhead | Spring Mountains, NV

From there, it's about another mile, I'm guessing, to get back down to the lower trailhead. You can just walk/run along the road OR try and cut over the switch-backy road.

It was such a beautiful morning for hiking! At 8000 feet, it's much cooler on this trail than it was down in the Vegas valley. I was perfectly comfortable in a long-sleeved shirt, but I'd have probably been OK in short-sleeves as well.

I didn't run a single step on this hike. I'm still trying to take it easy after my trail running on May 24th, and I didn't want to aggravate my little injury.

When I'm pain-free and no longer worried about this injury I'd like to try my hand at running this loop.

Even though I didn't run at all, I had a great time! It was simply gorgeous. Jeff was right there by my side, and Sallie was simply being so good. Perfection!!

Unfortunately, neither Sallie nor Jeff were quite prepared for a 6-mile hike.

Probably about 4 miles in, Sallie had to be carried for a little bit. Her little legs were shaking, and she was having a difficult time walking.

Hiking Bristlecone Loop, Spring Mountain National Recreation Area

Poor girl! Jeff didn't carry her the entire way down, but a good while anyway. Once we got home, she barely moved the rest of the day.

Jeff was in pretty rough shape after we got home as well. The hike really irritated his hips and feet. Two days later, he's starting to feel a bit better, but he's still a bit sore. He did do some crazy running down the trail, so I blame that. lol.

Bristlecone Loop | Enjoying the Course
One of the other dogs in our group simply had to be in our family pic.

This is our first time hiking this trail, and I would definitely recommend it. 
  • It's cooler in the summer than down in the valley
  • It's relatively easy to find
  • It's not too technical for the average (or even novice) hiker
  • Novices should maybe stick to hiking, but more advanced runners could easily run
  • It's gorgeous!
  • No entrance or parking fees
Have you ever hiked (or ran) Bristlecone Loop?
What's your favorite hiking (or running) trail?

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  1. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful! I hope Sallie (Jeff too) is feeling recovered. It's a good the hiking isn't bothering your injury so you can still enjoy some fun :)

    1. It was so beautiful. Sometimes, I like hiking over running because I notice the beauty more instead of focusing so much on not tripping. LOL.

      Sallie and Jeff and both doing much better. :)

  2. That is gorgeous! I just love hiking, although I rarely ever do it! I'm sure it made it even better since Jeff and Sallie got to come along. I hope they're feeling better now!