The Mountains of Nevada •
Frenchman Mountain • Highpoint: Frenchman Mountains
• Clark County

Frenchman Mountain as seen from an airplane

Crazy steep road at the start

Looking back down to the highway below

Second crazy steep road segment

On the high ridge, a jet from nearby Nellis buzzes the range

Small towers on one peak

Looking back now

Now on the far peak looking back

Southeast view: the Strip & Potosi Mountain

East view: Mount Charleston

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 notable peak northeast 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.

I had not intended to hike the mountain this weekend, nor even be here. I was supposed to be in the desert near Needles hiking some peaks down there. However, I backed off one peak, Old Woman Mountain, due to ice, of all things. It had been freezing cold the last few days and frankly, I had a lousy night's sleep in my truck due to the cold.

I hoped to salvage my day by hiking nearby Clipper Mountain, along Interstate-40 about 40 miles west of Needles. The problem here was not ice, but where to park my truck. Parking it along the interstate is not a good idea (or legal). I spent about two hours exploring ways to the peak, but decided to cancel this hike too.

As a consolation, I was able to visit a lat-long confluence at 35 N, 115 W, near the town of Goffs. Now, so close to where my folks live, I decided to drive up and see them. They were surprised to see me, but welcoming. Which was good because I'm their kid. Frenchman Mountain now became my objective.

The next day, I drove Boulder Highway to Nellis Boulevard, then on Lake Mead Boulevard east toward Frenchman Mountain. This is not the best part of Las Vegas. 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 hiking at 9:30 a.m. in cold, cloudy and breezy conditions, the temperature about 45 degrees Fahrenheit. The surrounding ground was covered in millions of small glass shards, testament to the amount of partying that has taken place here over the decades.

I was interested in hiking the jeep road to the top. I had driven this way a few times in the past, marvelling at the steepness of this road. From below, it looks nearly vertical. In truth, it's pitched at about a 20-25% grade, which is plenty steep for most vehicles, but no problem for hiking (the road is gated closed anyway). 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 this far. 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, the road gains 600 vertical feet in a third of a mile, a near 35% grade.

After this second 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 drink 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 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 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.

I was happy to tag the summits of Frenchman Mountain, given that my plans had fallen through completely beforehand. I had decent weather, and was fortunate that the glass-breaking ne'er-do-wells were hard at their lousy jobs on ths workday. The views were as advertized, and I understand why it is such a popular peak for Vegas-area hikers.

(c) 2011, 2019 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