Desert National Wildlife Refuge from lower Gass Peak Trail
It's an hour drive from the Santa Fe Casino, north on 95, out Corn Creek Road, sign in at the Visitor's Center, along Mormon Well Road and, finally, several miles on Gass Peak Road. The condition of the dirt roads were okay and they gave four high clearance vehicles no problems. Twelve, then thirteen, hikers poured out of the vehicles at the trailhead for Gass Peak in the pristine landscape of the Desert National Wildlife Refuge north of Las Vegas.
The approach roads brought us to the northern side of the 7000 foot mountain where we could see the snow covered Spring Mountains to the west. We began our hike on a service road that led up a sloping ridge. A trail soon turned off of the road and we continued our climb to the main ridge by ascending and leveling off repeatedly.
Sheep Mountain Range and Hwy 95 corridor in distance.
We began with twelve hikers but halfway up to the main ridge, we turned around and noticed a newcomer! Yep, Larry had missed the meeting place and at fifteen minutes behind the eight ball, he caught up with the group that was still hiking at a fairly decent pace. Go Larry!
Nearing the main ridge, the group had spread out quite a bit. Everyone enjoyed climbing the 2100 elevation feet at their own pace. The trail was easily readable and there was a little bit of leap frogging going on. Climbing Gass Peak is a little like climbing half of Mt. Charleston except with joshua trees instead of pines. The "up" kept coming but with small segments of relief here and there. The steep sections were short and far between.
After reaching the main ridge, the trail reveals the other side of Gass Peak, the one and only Las Vegas, Nevada. The city was covered with a little haze today but it was still possible to see the buildings of the Strip. Otherwise, the weather was optimal for this hike today. There was no snow left on the mountain even though it was only two days ago that Gass Peak turned white. However, looking to our northwest, we saw that Hayford Peak of the Sheep Mountain Range still had a fading white hat.
When the summit paraphernalia came into view, we still had one last steep climb to hike. There were a couple of rocky places to climb over easily then we turned slightly to our left and approached the summit. Apparently, there is also an approach on the rocks above and to the right.
View of ridge from summit. Car park at intersection on left.
When the hiker reaches the summit of Gass Peak, the first thing he/she notices is the array of solar panels. These can be seen from the valley floor when the sun reflects off of them. The communications tower rises from the peak and there is also a utility building next to the panels. None of this stuff obstructs the view of Las Vegas below. The Spring Mountain Range was also very nice from the peak.
One more interesting bit of "stuff" would be the wind sock used to aide the maintenance crews that visit once in a while. As seen to the left, the wind sock has been blown to smithereens. Amazingly enough, it still works!
We wrote in the log book and took the required summit photo. Three fighter jets flew from the north over the peak and we received a wing waggle after one hiker made the request during their flyover. Then, after our break, we began our descent.
Dirty Dozen on Gass Peak Summit ... Plus Kay.
Five hikers decided to extend their break and stay on the peak for a few more minutes. The other eight hikers made their way easily down the ridge. We had made the climb between 2 hours and 2.5 hours. Our descent lasted only 1.25 hours. Since there was very little steepness to deal with the descent went quickly even with a few small breaks. We turned around once in a while to keep tabs on the group of five who were now making their way down.
As we hiked the final segment on the service road, the beauty of the wildlife refuge surrounded us. This is an area that anyone can come to and just be alone. If one drives further into the park, the remoteness would likely engulf the visitor. This is an area that definitely deserves more recognition ... or not. Shhh!