Agenda Discovery Week Month

Curated for Me

Old Bristlecone Loop Trail with a Westward Exploratory

Vegas Hiking Funventures
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Endorsed by Curators:
Sep 16 8:30AM - 9:30AM

Carpool and Meeting Place

We will meet at the Santa Fe Station East Parking Garage (southeast of casino main entrance) 2nd Floor Left (2F) at 8:30 AM. Look for my yellow Mercedes Benz.

Once everyone is present and accounted for, we will arrange rides in a carpool and leave at 8:45 AM. If you live north of the Santa Fe Station, you can meet us at the Kyle Canyon Road parking lot just 1/8 mile west of Highway 95 at approximately 9 AM. You must let us know if you are meeting us there by texting Denis or Coral at the mobile numbers below. If you fail to let us know, you will be left to find us on your own or hike by yourself.


We will maintain a moderate pace. This is all about feeling good, fun and enjoying each other's company. We will allow enough time for potty breaks, photos, rest stops, snacks, lunch, and to enjoy the scenery along the way. We suggest you bring 1 liter of water for every 2 hours of hiking in summer weather, and half that in winter weather. Please read the entire description before you RSVP.


No Scrambling
Distance: 8 miles (includes westward ridge exploratory)
Elevation Gain: 1,000 feet
Time: 5-7 hours (best guess)
Upper Bristlecone Trailhead: 8,690 feet

The Hike

This is a moderate hike rated great for children, dogs are allowed. Not recommend for persons over the age of 99. (I wonder how many of you read these instructions and details?)

From the Upper Bristlecone Trailhead (Table 1, Waypoint 01), the fenced Bristlecone Trail runs up the little ridge above the paved road heading back towards the ski area. At the edge of the ski area, the trail turns southwest and starts up a canyon through a mixed forest consisting mostly of Ponderosa Pine and White Fir with some Quaking Aspen.

After about 0.68 miles out, the trail passes two short switchbacks (Wpt. 02), then continues southwest heading up the canyon beneath groves of Quaking Aspen.

At the upper end of the aspens, the Bristlecone Trail curves right, crosses the mouth of a side canyon (Wpt. 03), and continues north across a hillside. At the side canyon, the Old Bristlecone Trail turns left to head west and up the canyon.

The Old Bristlecone Trail actually makes a triangular intersection here, so there are two forks that both lead up the side canyon. However, the USFS is discouraging use of the Old Bristlecone Trail by obscuring both forks of the trail junction with lots of sticks and branches laid in the trail. Step carefully and leave the sticks the way they are. I've been told that the sticks are to help novice hikers stay on the Bristlecone Trail, but it seems that a simple sign might work better.

The Old Bristlecone Trail runs west in the bottom of the canyon. The trail generally is obvious, but parts have been washed out and there are a few logs and rocks to step around.

Heading west up the canyon, hikers can look ahead through the trees and see that the canyon bends to the right (northwest).

When the canyon bottom bends right (Wpt. 04), a faint side trail continues straight and climbs steeply up the hillside to a saddle overlooking Wallace Canyon; however, the Old Bristlecone Trail turns right to follow the main canyon.

Now running northwest, the trail remains near the bottom of the canyon until reaching a switchback (Wpt. 05) to the right. Some hikers cut the switchback (up and across the slope to the left), but it is better to practice LNT techniques and stay on the built trail.

A bit farther up the canyon bottom, the trail passes another short switchback to the left, then continues up the canyon. When it looks like the trail is cresting out on the ridge, the trail only gets steeper and climbs to the true crest (Wpt. 06) at about 9,700 feet.

Exploratory Modification: We will follow a westward use trail up the westward ridge without a name at approximately way point 6 for approximately 1 mile depending on time and terrain, then return to way point 6 and continue with the rest of the hike as posted.

Signs on the crest announce the boundary of the Mount Charleston Wilderness Area. Just to the east, a big boulder (Wpt. 07) makes a nice place to stop for lunch with a bit of a view to the east. There is some view to the west too, but generally the views are limited by the dense forest of Bristlecone Pine trees.

Continuing over the saddle (Wpt. 06), the Old Bristlecone Trail heads north. Generally staying on the west side of the ridgeline, the trail offers a few nice views to the west. The gentle grades make for easy hiking, and the good-quality trail permits sightseeing while walking.

The Old Bristlecone Trail contours across the west side of a tall knob on the ridge, then returns to the crest and intersects the Bonanza Trail (Wpt. 08). As with the Bristlecone Trail, this trail junction is obscured with sticks and branches, and thus ends the Old Bristlecone Trail.

Now on the Bonanza Trail, the hike turns right (southeast) to descend four long switchbacks back to the Bristlecone Trail (Wpt. 09). At this trail junction, hikers can choose to walk in either direction: left to the Lower Bristlecone Trailhead or right to the Upper Bristlecone Trailhead.

Turning right on the Bristlecone Trail towards the Upper Bristlecone Trailhead, the trail runs south on old Scout Canyon Road until the road ends (Wpt. 10). The built trail then continues south across hillsides, passing the Bristlecone highpoint (Wpt. 11) and the rocky ridge (Wpt. 12) with stately (if dead) bristlecone pine carcasses, to descend back to the start of the Old Bristlecone Trail (Wpt. 03). From there, the Bristlecone Trail turns east and runs back to the trailhead (Wpt. 01).


Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ...this is a pretty safe hike. The trail is strenuous, so take it easy at this elevation if you've just come up from the desert. There are places along the trail where a slip would prove fatal, but nothing out of the ordinary; watch your footing near edges. This trail is a bit long and hard for young kids. During summer, watch for thunderstorms.


Please be aware that your Meetup organizers are not tour guides and are not park rangers. Expect the same risks and take the same precautions you would take if you were hiking alone. You are solely responsible for your own safety and well-being. By signing up for and/or attending this Meetup event, you acknowledge, understand, accept, and agree that hiking and other outdoor activities can be dangerous and can cause serious bodily injury and possibly death.

The organizers of this group and current and former members cannot be held responsible or liable in any way for the actions of any participant - including you - at any event. All attendees participate at an event at their own risk and are solely responsible for any damage to their property, and/or any injury to themselves or their guests. By signing up for this event, you affirm that you understand this disclaimer, and that you knowingly and voluntarily agree not to bring any type of claim arising out of or related to this Meetup event against the organizers of this Meetup group.

Denis Murdock

How to find us:East Parking Garage 2nd Floor Left - Yellow Mercedes Benz

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