Frenchman Mountain • Range Highpoint: Frenchman Mountains
• Las Vegas Area, Clark County

Frenchman Mountain

Initial steep road up to first saddle

From first saddle, looking back at the road. Can you see my truck?

Last steeeep road to top

Fighter jet from Nellis AFB taking off, making all sorts of noise

North summit from south summit

Close up of south summit

South summit from north summit. Check out that strata!

The Las Vegas Strip and Potosi Mountain

Downtown Las Vegas and Mount Charleston

Frenchman Mountain as seen from an airplane, September 2014

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Date: January 7, 2011 • Elevation: 4,052 (4,047) feet • Prominence: 1,980 feet • Distance: 4 miles • Time: 2 hours and 45 minutes • Gain: 2,100 feet • Conditions: Cloudy and windy

Frenchman Mountain is a well-known landmark peak located northwest of Las Vegas. It is a popular hike, with many people hiking the peak at night to view the lights of Las Vegas from a high vantage point. There are a couple routes to the top, the easiest being a ridiculously steep road that comes in from the north, off of Lake Mead Boulevard.

My original hiking plans fell apart (as usual) after leaving Arizona. I drove into the desert west of Needles in California, intending to hike Old Woman Mountain, but that night the temperatures dipped into the 20s and its was breezy. The hike went well, and I got about two miles into it before turning around due to the cold and the suspicion I had got myself off-route in a rocky gully. I encountered ice covering the rock, and it was dangerous to be walking up the slopes, when in normal conditions it would be very easy. So I canceled the attempt, returned to my truck and salvaged the day with a drive and hike to a confluence, North 35, West 115, near the little town of Goffs. With no eagerness to camp another night in the bitter cold, I drove to my folks' place in Henderson. Hiking Frenchman allowed me a nice way to "salvage" my lost hikes down in the Mojave.

From Henderson, I followed Boulder Highway to Nellis Boulevard, then on Lake Mead Boulevard east toward Frenchman Mountain. This is not the best part of Las Vegas, but I was a few miles from civilization. I had no choice but to park my truck along the road, and hope no one would come by to break into it. I locked everything up and started my hike about 9:30 a.m. in cold, cloudy and breezy conditions, the temperature about 45 degrees Fahrenheit. The road starts here but is closed to vehicles now. The surrounding desert was covered in millions of small glass shards, testament to the amount of partying that has taken place here over the decades. The glass sparkled in the morning sun.

I was interested in hiking the jeep road to the top. I had driven by this way a few times in the past, marvelling how steep this road was. From below, it looks nearly vertical. In truth, it's pitched about a 20-25% grade, which is pushing it for most vehicles, but no problem for hiking. Other than being steep and loose in spots, I made great time. The road achieves a saddle 1,200 feet higher. I was mildly surprised to see graffiti on the rocks up here. At the saddle, the breezes picked up so I covered up and took a water break.

From the saddle, the road drops 300 feet, and peering across the way, the road continues up the other side, its steepness augmented by the optical effects of foreshortening. The summit towers were visible, as this is a short hike. From the low point in the road, it gains about 600 vertical feet ina third of a mile, a near 35% grade.

After this steep section, the climb is essentially over. The north summit towers are visible, and the south summit towers not too far away. I hiked to the south towers first, scampered up the rocks and tagged the highest rock, noting the stunning (and intimidating) drops to the east. Looking back, the north summit is clearly higher. I walked to the fencing surrounding the towers, scampered up the rocks, but chose not to go inside the fencing to tag the top. This meant I missed the top by about four feet, but I still count it.

I took time here to hydrate and take photos. The snow-capped Potosi and Spring Mountains were off to the west with Las Vegas below. North, I could see the bare Gass Range and the snowy Sheep (Hayford) Range. East was the amazing jumble of peaks, canyons and ravines out toward Lake Mead. I didn't stay long at top due to the cold breeze. It had taken me 1 hour, 45 minutes for the hike up including both summits and various breaks.

The hike down was just as slow as going up. I had to step carefully so as not to slip on the gravel and fall. I am happy to say I never fell, but on a few occasions I slipped and had to twist and turn to stay upright. I was back to my truck in an hour, for an overall 2 hour, 45 minute hike. No one had hassled my truck, which was good. I drove back to my parents' place where my dad and I went for prime rib steaks later in the day.

A neat highlight was watching one of the jets taking off from nearby Nellis Air Force Base. Also, a loud sonic boom occurred on my ascent. It just happened, and at first gave me quite a fright until I realized what it was.

Regarding its prominence: The summit is listed as 4,052 feet, with 1,992 feet of prominence, which would place it very near the 2,000-foot threshold. However, a study of the top map shows its key saddle is caught between two 2,040-foot and two 2,080-foot contours, meaning an "average" of 2,060 as the saddle's height. Thus, 4,052 2,060 = 1,992 feet. However, this saddle lies on the Nellis AFB, and the 2,080-foot contours are closer to one another, which suggests the actual saddle is closer to 2,080 feet than 2,040 feet. Thus, the probability of Frenchman having 2,000 feet of prominence is virtually zero. Its more realistic figure is probably about 1,980 feet.

Update (2013): Some guy has "quoted" me from this page in support of his plan to have the peak renamed for Ronald Reagan. I did not give him permission to quote me, nor do I support his quest. The quote itself is about the peak and my hike, but in the context of his page, it appears I give tacit support to his goal. This, I do not, and I find his approach underhanded and disingenuous.

(c) 2011, 2016 Scott Surgent. For entertainment purposes only. This report is not meant to replace maps, compass, gps and other common sense hiking/navigation items. Neither I nor the webhost can be held responsible for unfortunate situations that may arise based on these trip reports. Conditions (physical and legal) change over time! Some of these hikes are major mountaineering or backpacking endeavors that require skill, proper gear, proper fitness and general experience.