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Windy Peak Route
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Windy Peak Route
Windy Peak Route
Trailhead (Wpt. 01; view N)

Overview

This fairly strenuous, 5.2-mile round-trip hike is located on the west side of the Red Rock Canyon escarpment. The access is from Highway 160 near the town of Mountain Springs. The hike starts near the edge of the Rainbow Mountain Wilderness Area and heads east to the crest of the Spring Mountains Range, entirely within the Pinyon-Juniper Woodland zone. Following the limestone crest north to a highpoint, the route turns east and descends to the sandstone escarpment. After bit of easy 3rd-class scrambling on slickrock sandstone, the route climbs past ponderosa pines to the summit. Views from the summit include the La Madre Range to the north, Las Vegas and every mountain range to the east, to Mt. Potosi in the south. Back along the route, there are also great views of Telescope Peak, Mt. Charleston, and other mountain ranges off to the west.

Link to map or elevation profile.

Windy Peak Route
Communications facility on the skyline (view NE)

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ...this hike is fairly safe, but there is a bit of easy 3rd-class scrambling on slickrock sandstone and falling hazards out on the end of the sandstone (i.e., at the top of the escarpment).

While hiking, please respect the land and the other people out there, and try to Leave No Trace of your passage. Also, this hike is in a remote area, so be sure to bring the 10 Essentials. This route is in designated Wilderness, so please pay particular attention to respecting the land.

Windy Peak Route
Rehabilitated road (view NE)

Getting to the Trailhead

This hike is located in Red Rock Canyon NCA, but over on the west side of the sandstone escarpment.

From the Red Rock Visitor Center area, drive west then south on West Charleston Blvd. (Hwy 159) past Blue Diamond Town to Highway 160. Turn right onto Highway 160 and drive west 9.5 miles to the Mountain Springs Trailhead, which is just before the town of Mountain Springs.

Windy Peak Route
Old road on ridge leading towards the crest (view E)

The Hike

From the trailhead (Table 2, Waypoint 01), the route runs north following the right of two parallel dirt roads. The dirt road climbs steeply towards a communications tower in the distance, passing one road intersection (Wpt. 02; stay straight) along the way. Just before the communications facility, a gate blocks the road, so technically hikers could drive to this point and park on the side of the road.

From the communications facility (Wpt. 03), the route follows the dirt road eastward along the ridgeline. Just past the facility, the route enters the Rainbow Mountain Wilderness Area, and people have worked to convert the old road to a trail.

Windy Peak Route
Windy Peak (Wpt. 04; view E from crest)

Vegetation on the west side of the mountains is a fairly dense forest of singleleaf pinyon pine and Utah juniper with a variety of shrub species including blackbrush, banana yucca, mormon tea, sagebrush, turpentinebroom, narrowleaf goldenbush (Ericameria linearifolia), silver cholla, and Utah agave.

The old road, and eventually an obvious use-trail, leads up and east towards the crest of the Spring Mountain Range (Wpt. 04). The use-trail reaches the crest at a flat spot on the ridge. From this point, and for the first time during the hike, the view to the east includes the goal: Windy Peak.

Note that when hiking back down from the peak, this flat spot on the ridge is not obvious, so take a good look at the area and notice the cairn before that makes the turn down the west side of the ridge.

Windy Peak Route

Turning north and continuing along the ridgeline, which is the crest of the Spring Mountains, the route climbs towards a highpoint. Before getting there, however, many cairns announce trail junctions (Wpt. 05 and Wpt. 06) to the left. At the first, the Windy Peak route continues straight up the hillside, and at the second, the Windy Peak route bends to the right to climb nearly due east. The trails turning left eventually converge and run north to Mountain Spring Peak and points beyond.

From the second trail junction (Wpt. 06), the Windy Peak route runs across south-facing sideslopes below highest point on the ridge, gaining the highpoint of the route (Wpt. 07) just south of the peaklet.

Windy Peak Route

From this highpoint (Wpt. 07), the route follows use-trails, faint in places, southeast as it descends along Windy Peak Ridge. The use-trail runs out to the edge of the gray limestone and continues onto yellowish sandstone. The point of contact between the two types of rock marks the world famous Keystone Thrust Fault. Geologists come from all over the world to see this classic thrust fault, so enjoy the moment hiking across it (but don't delay too long lest it thrusts again).

Vegetation on the east side of the mountains is a sparse forest of singleleaf pinyon pine and Utah juniper with few shrub species including blackbrush, banana yucca, and mormon tea. This east side of the mountain must get less rain that the west side.

Windy Peak Route
Descending summit ridge (view E)

On the sandstone, the use-trail drops into a notch on the ridge, then climbs steeply onto the sandstone ridge. Several possibilities present, but a shallow crack seems to be the easiest (3rd-class) way to climb this steepest part of the route.

The route continues across slickrock sandstone, winding among boulders and ponderosa pine, as it stays on the east side of the ridgeline. There are plenty of cairns, but none are needed because it is just a matter of winding towards the summit.

At the top of the mountain, the true summit is a sloping slab of red sandstone marked with a cairn. Unfortunately, the true summit isn't the best place to lie around and contemplate the mysteries of the universe, so people congregate on a sub-summit about 100 ft southeast of the true summit. The summit register, safeguarded in an old ammo can, is located on the sub-summit, but apparently it migrates from the true summit to the false summit from time to time.

Windy Peak Route

On the top of the sandstone, vegetation includes a few ponderosa pines, a species usually found higher in the mountains. There must be enough water down in the rocks for these trees to survive. There are also singleleaf pinyon pine and Utah juniper on the summit, plus scrub live oak, manzanita, and skunk bush; these too usually are associated with wetter areas. Rare in the Red Rocks area, there are at least two pancake pricklypear in the summit area, plus grizzlybear pricklypear, and Heermann's buckwheat, blackbrush, and lots of colorful lichens.

When ready to depart, follow your footprints back to the trailhead.

Windy Peak Route
Hiking out the limestone ridge (view SE)
Windy Peak Route
Hiking out the sandstone ridge (view S)
Windy Peak Route
Approaching sandstone saddle (view SE)
Windy Peak Route
Scrambling onto the sandstone (Wpt 08; view SE)
Windy Peak Route
Slickrock along summit ridge (view SE)
Windy Peak Route
Slickrock along summit ridge (view SE)
Windy Peak Route
Sloping summit slab (red sandstone) isn't the best place to relax, but it has a great view of Black Velvet Peak (view N).
Windy Peak Route
As seen from the true summit, the false summit offers plenty of room to spread out, nap, eat lunch, and enjoy the view.
Windy Peak Route
Hollow Rock Peak (ridge) and Mt. Potosi (view S)
Windy Peak Route
False summit (view N)
Windy Peak Route
Cottonwood Valley and Las Vegas (view E)
Windy Peak Route
False summit and Keystone Thrust
Windy Peak Route
Hikers relaxing (view S towards Mt. Potosi)
Windy Peak Route
Summit register can (view N)
Windy Peak Route
Natural "rock art" on the sandstone ridgeline (view NE)
Windy Peak Route
Great view of the Keystone Thrust (view N)

Table 2. Hiking Coordinates and Distances based on GPS Data (NAD27; UTM Zone 11S). Download Hiking GPS Waypoints (*.gpx) file.

Wpt. Location Easting Northing Elevation (ft) Point-to-Point Distance (mi) Cumulative Distance (mi) Verified
01 Trailhead 635267 3986363 5,470 0.00 0.00 GPS
02 Fork in Road 635394 3986528 5,524 0.19 0.19 GPS
03 Communication Tower 635563 3986773 5,652 0.20 0.39 GPS
04 Crest of the Range 636370 3986956 6,012 0.68 1.07 GPS
05 Trail Junction 636623 3987573 6,246 0.46 1.53 GPS
06 Trail Junction 636648 3987586 6,336 0.02 1.55 GPS
07 High Point 636757 3987561 6,378 0.08 1.63 GPS
08 Saddle before Sandstone 637677 3987417 6,085 0.66 2.29 GPS
09 Sub-summit 637935 3987199 6,238 0.28 2.57 GPS
10 Summit 637917 3987224 6,181 0.02 2.59 GPS

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 131024

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