Trail Report: Bristlecone Trail

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Trail Details

  • Time on Trail: 2hrs 45min
  • City / State: Mt Charleston Wilderness, Spring Mountains /
  • Distance: 2.87 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation: +/- +689/-671ft.
  • Categories:   ,


The Bristlecone Trail is a 6 mile loop that delivers awesome views and less traffic than many of the trails in Mt Charleston. There is more tree cover too which makes for a more enjoyable trip during the hot summer months.

This trip on the Bristlecone Trail was a bit more difficult and the challenge of finding the trail under all the snow that is still on the ground make it a bit more interesting. We made it to the top of the ridge and then retraced our steps rather than continuing on the full loop. The other half of the loop is more exposed and the winds were picking up.

Trail Description

The trailhead is a great place for a few pics before you even take your first step. The backside of Mummy Mountain is in view as is the ski runs.

Once on the trail, you will meander through ponderosa pines and aspen as you make your way up the wash. But on this trip, there was still a significant amount of snow on the ground. The trail switches up the left side of the wash which was not an option for us. Instead, we stayed in the wash and avoided much of the snow.

The downside to this approach is that we were forced to head straight up the hillside when we reached the back of the canyon. The switchbacks make this ascent more gradual. This weekend, it was a march straight up the right side.

I had my 2 year old son Nate in a backpack and it made the climb a bit awkward but certainly not impossible. He loved it even when I would slip a bit! Once on the top of the ridgeline you can see for miles in almost all directions. Perfect photo backdrops.

We spent about 20 minutes on top of the ridge, but the weather was moving in and the wind was getting pretty strong. Temps dropped quickly so we headed back down into the wash for a little more protection.

The trees along the trail are awesome. Some of the ponderosa pines are massive. Aspens dot the landscape too. Great colors in summer and fall. We retraced our steps back down the wash to the trailhead and then made our way to the Upper Lodge for lunch.

Trail Photos

Trail Notes

No horses this time, but last hike on the Bristlecone Trail rewarded us with a wild horse sighting. In fact, we saw three wild horses grazing just below the ridgeline. We were within 50 yards of them before we even noticed them!

The full loop of the trail is a good workout. We usually start at the Ski Run parking lot and end below the campground. Drop you car here and walk up the road to begin your hike. It’s nice to do the second half of the hike on the old jeep trail section. It’s more open and you can pick up the pace.

This was the first trip to Mt Charleston for my brother-in-law Luke and his wife Jenny. They came in from Wyoming. They live at the foot of the Big Horn Mountains so this was nothing new to them but they were surprised to see such an environment just an hour away from the 2 million people in Las Vegas. It’s a well kept secret and we should keep it that way!

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I'm the founder of Vestor Logic, the digital strategy and web design firm that created Trail Sherpa, ParksFolio, and Modern Steader. I'm a day hiker, top chef in camp, doting husband, and father to two headlamp wearing boys. My work in digital media brings those experiences to life.