Gass Peak • Range Highpoint: Las Vegas Mountains
• Central Clark County

Date Climbed
April 5, 2009

Elevation
6,943 feet

Distance
6 miles

Time
4 hours

Gain
2,000 feet

Conditions
Gorgeous & clear

Prominence
2,023 feet

Click on the thumbnail to see a full-size version


Mileage sign at
Desert NWR


Gass Peak rises
behind Gass Peak Road


Gass Peak, 8 AM


The initial road hike


Now on the ridges


Nearing the main ridge


Gass Summit


Towers at the summit,
Charleston behind


Las Vegas, Nevada!


Panorama view looking
back at Gass Peak Road


Panorama showing summit
and the Spring Range


Rough idea of route

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Summitpost


Gass Peak is the highest point of the Las Vegas Mountains, located north of Las Vegas. Unfortunately, the Las Vegas Mountains blend in with the gigantic Sheep Mountains that rise behind it, and although Gass Peak has significant height and prominence, it can be invisible from most vantage points in Las Vegas especially if the day is hazy. Gass Peak (and significant portions of the Las Vegas Mountains) is located in the Desert National Wildlife Range, the biggest such refuge in the country, home to the bighorn sheep. The Nellis Air Force Range borders the range on the south, granting the range a few miles of buffer desert between it and the homes to the south. There is no official maintained trail to the summit, but enough people have hiked to Gass Peak over the years to beat in a decent, if rough, path all the way to the summit.

I was interested in Gass Peak primarily for its status as a 2,000-foot prominence mountain. I drove up from Phoenix to visit my parents in Henderson, arriving the day before. The drive, as usual, was uneventful. The weather was cool and very dry, perfect conditions for a desert hike, yet too early to deal with the snow and mud on the higher summits. Gass Peak comes in just below 7,000 feet of elevation, high enough for it to be cool, but too low to support forests of larger pine or fir trees. Instead, most of the range is covered in low brush and cactus, transitioning to scrubbier plants and grasses higher up.

I left Henderson early and followed US-95 northbound out of Las Vegas, exiting the highway at Corn Creek Road, a couple miles north of the Paiute Indian Reservation signs. The exit is not a developed highway exit with ramps and bridges. Instead, it's a simple, non-descript "exit" that would be very easy to whiz past, unless you were specifically looking for this exit. I followed Corn Creek Road (dirt and gravel) four miles east to the Desert National Wildlife Range buildings, and signed myself into the register. It was still early but already, a few cars were parked here.

Past the Corn Creek buildings, I turned right (south) onto Alamo Road, then less than a half-mile later, left onto Mormon Well Road for four more miles to yet another junction, with Gass Peak Road. Turning right, I followed Gass Peak Road about eight miles southeast and east through the foothills, steadily griding my way up the road to the "trailhead", a wide area near a junction with a smaller road that veers sharply south toward the range. This last road is not shown on the topographical map (it does show up on Google-earth), and is closed to vehicles. The drive in took about an hour from US-95. Only Mormon Well Road was slow-going and rough, while Gass Peak Road was smoother by comparison. All roads would need a high-clearance vehicle, but I did not use 4-wheel drive at any point.

From the parking area, the summit of Gass Peak is visible in the distance to the southwest, and essentially so is the whole route. The first third of the hike follows this last road, which is open to hikers. The remainder of the route is along use-paths and generally high along the ridges. I was the only person at the trailhead, and the temperatures were cool, about 50 degrees. The day was crystal clear and dry, and simply beautiful. I had million-doillar views of the snow-clad Spring Mountains and Mount Charleston to the west, and of the bigger Sheep Peaks immediately north. The elevation here is roughly 4,900 feet, high enough to support a healthy grove of joshua trees. I suited up, locked the vehicle and started my hike a little before 8 a.m.

I followed the road south a few hundred yards to a split. I took the right fork, where I could see the road wiggling up some ridges to top out on a foothill not far ahead. Walking the road went quickly, although the road became quite steep at the end. Then it ends, just like that. WHy it was ever built in the first place is beyond me. I stopped here to take a break, and my GPS placed me about 5,550 feet elevation. I figured it took me about 30 minutes to hike here, covering about a mile, maybe a little more just by eyeballing my truck from this vantage point.

From here, the remainder of the hike follows a series of ridges to the summit. After my break, I started hiking on a southwesterly bearing along the lower ridge, following a decent foot-path and making good time. In general terms, the route goes southwest, then bears left up another ridge to top out on the range crest, high enough to start getting some views down the south side of the range into Las Vegas. I made good time (for me) and not bad given I hadnít hiked much in the past month. The route reaches a saddle along this range crest, and I took another break here. The summit was about another mile away and 700 feet higher. The day was warming up: when it was still I was actually kind of warm, but mostly I had a steady breeze that would cool me off quickly. The humidity was in the single digits and the nearest cloud was about two states over.

From the crest saddle, the route continues up more hills, but now they are more steep and abrupt, and for the most part the scant trail sidehills these points. I just kept trudging forward and upward, eventually coming to a point where the route was on the main spine of the range, some lower summits now hiding Gass Peak. The path was still pretty solid and easy to follow. It generally stays right (north) below the various sub-summits and gets a little thin and sloppy for a few hundred feet, the only time I had a little bit of concern about what a fall might do to me.

Finally the trail comes to some rock outcrops in the saddle just below the summit, its towers and buildings now visible again. Here, I gingerly picked my way past these obstacles, using the hands as needed, and the butt once or twice. The final approach to the top follows an easy slope and some small rock bands, but nothing severe at all, and in no time, I was on top of Gass Peak. It was 10:30 a.m., and I had covered three miles with a little over 2,000 feet of gain to get here. I took a well-deserved break amid the towers and solar-panels, and admired the wonderful views in all directions. The view down onto Las Vegas was very impressive, as were the surrounding Spring and Sheep ranges, plus all sorts of other peaks, valleys and desert plains, with horizons in some cases over 100 miles distant. I had not seen another person the entire way up, so I relaxed, having the peak all to myself for the time being.

Ah, but all good things must end: I started the trek down and made excellent time, stopping periodically to look back for photographs. I took another break back where the road had topped out on the lower foothill. The walk down the road proved to be the most trouble, ironically: its steepness meant I slipped and scooted more than I would have liked. I was back to my truck a bit after noon, a 4-hour hike including breaks. I took some time to relax back at my truck, changing into more comfortable clothes before starting my drive out. I stopped back at the Refuge headquarters to walk around a bit. The drive back to my parentsí place took a little over an hour. I felt great, and after a shower and brief rest, celebrated Las Vegas-style: a buffet meal for three (with my ma and pa) at the Fiesta for $25. I got my monthís worth of cholesterol all at once.

Overall, Gass Peak was a nice outing, an easy half-day hike for a fairly major summit, with reasonably easy road access (no passenger vehicles, mind you). The views down onto Vegas are outstanding, probably better than those from Charleston (too far up) or Potosi (too far away). I had a thoroughly pleasant hike and agree with the consensus that it is a hidden little gem amid the giants that surround little Gass and hog all the attention.

(c) 2009 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.