The Mountains of Nevada •
Black Mountain • McCullough Mountains
• Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area
• Las Vegas Area, Clark County

Black Mountain

A little farther in

Higher up, the plants get a little thicker up here

Some joshua trees, yucca and creosote

South view from summit

There's my mom

Me and my mommy

Southeast view into El Dorado Valley

Northeast view into Henderson and the hills near Lake Mead

Descending, looking toward the homes in Anthem

A cool joshua tree

Date: January 26, 2014 • Elevation: 5,092 feet • Prominence: 1,632 feet • Distance: 5 miles • Time: 3 hours and 45 minutes • Gain: 2,100 feet • Conditions: High clouds, cool • Teammates: Gail Surgent, Marie & Julie


In Nevada this weekend visiting my parents, I climbed Spirit Mountain yesterday with Scott Peavy, while my father drove me down there and acted as our base-camp manager. Today, Sunday, it would be my mother's turn with her kid. Along with two of her hiking club pals, the four of us hiked the trail up Black Mountain.

I had not planned for this peak before leaving, but I looked over some websites and saw this hike mentioned in a few places. It looked fun and logistically simple, something easy to do a day after the arduous hike on Spirit Mountain. I mentioned it to my mother, and she said she's hiked it a few times with her hiking club. So it was deal: we'd hike it together.

Black Mountain is the highest peak of the north half of the McCullough Range, which is the big range that parallels east of Interstate-15 for most of the way into Nevada past the state line. We came to it via a series of local roads, all relatively new, entering via the community of Anthem-Sun City. Along the way, we picked up my mother's hiking friends, Marie and her daughter, Julie.

We parked at the small (and new) parking lot and trailhead. The initial quarter-mile is along an asphalt path that follows a natural drainage emanating down from the mountain. Looking up, Black Mountain is about 2.5 miles distant, and 2,000 feet higher. The slopes are covered in black volcanic boulders, while the plants are limited to creosote, barrel cactus, some cholla, and a few Joshua trees.

We followed the asphalt path to a right turn, then up a slope to a small building near a flood-control dam. Here, the asphalt ends, and we followed a path a few more yards to another concrete barrier. The actual trail starts beyond this concrete barrier, marked by a sign mentioning the Black Mountain Trail.

The initial mile of trail is pitched at a lenient grade. We hiked at our own paces. Julie had gone ahead, I was second, and my mother and Marie behind me. The day was slightly overcast and cool, but warming fast as the sun rose. The trail makes long pushes directly uphill, then switchbacks when the grade steepens. The last mile or so is much steeper, the trail forced to switchback heavily, and requiring some scampering up easy rock slopes in places.

The last two hundred feet was the steepest, and I nearly caught up to Julie here. She was on the summit, and a minute later, so was I. Marie and my mother were about five minutes behind. I snapped some photographs in various directions, but the high clouds caused the sun to glare more than I preferred. Soon, Marie and my mom were on the summit.

The views are excellent, with myriads of mountains and desert valleys in all directions. The four of us stayed up here about 10 minutes. Soon, some more hikers were joining us. We started down and again, went at our own paces. I got a bit ahead, but always kept an eye to be sure everyone was managing the steep parts fine. When we were lower down on the easier slopes, I walked my own pace back to the trailhead, and within 10 minutes, everyone was back.

My ascent time was one hour, forty-five minutes, and one hour, thirty-five minutes for the descent. My mother is 72 and kept a pace very close to mine. A lot more people were on the trail now, including lots of small kids and people with dogs. We piled into my mom's car and left, dropping off Marie and Julie, then on home and later, another high-cholesterol, high-fat meal of prime rib. I deserved it.

(c) 2014 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. WHA