A perfect silence
Living and working downtown can, at times, be challenging. The parking, the panhandlers, the sirens and madmen screams—to stay centered you have to occasionally escape the green-felt jungle and sit, legs crossed, on a red rock. (My personal rule is at least once a month.) There are, of course, plenty of places within a few hundred miles to do so: Red Rock Canyon, Valley of Fire, Zion, Joshua Tree, Sedona. Add to the list the lesser-known and more convenient Kraft Mountain, which borders Red Rock.
Kraft Mountain is a straight shot from downtown Las Vegas. Take Charleston Boulevard west or Summerlin Parkway to the 215 to Charleston. Turn right on Calico Basin Road (before the Red Rock scenic loop) and follow it past the popular picnic and boardwalk area to the large gravel parking lot at its end. From neon to nature in 30 minutes—yet another thing I love about Vegas—and no entrance free. No parking meters, either.
On a recent Sunday afternoon, my friend Frank and I spilled out of his car, noticing a five- to ten-degree drop in temperature from the central valley, and accessed the trailhead at the near end of the lot. My phone read, “No Service.” I was bummed and then relieved; after all, the goal was to get away from everyday distractions. The Kraft Mountain Loop, which circles the base of the craggy mass, can be hiked clockwise or counterclockwise. For no particular reason, we decided on counterclockwise and started east on narrow, coral-pink path.
Bungalow-sized boulders are a distinctive feature of the loop and Frank and I encountered them immediately. Two young men were bouldering, safety mats beneath them. We weaved through the field of rocks, which was dabbed with creosote, and rounded a soft bend. Barely recognizable, the Strip appeared (meekly) in a pass.
Desert washes are a double-edged sword: They teem with life, but can be deadly during a flash flood. The sky was clear … and yet we started up the gravelly wash (or small canyon) on the backside of the mountain with some trepidation. We had no idea what lurked behind the boulders, under the willows, on top of the pour-overs. (Hiking up the wash requires some scrambling and climbing.) Nothing nefarious it turned out—wrens, lizards, dragonflies, striped sandstone and standing water.
It was one of the greenest and most beautifully sculpted washes I’ve encountered in Southern Nevada.
One of the challenges of hiking the loop counterclockwise, Frank and I discovered, is finding the left turn that leads back around the mountain. The wash is walled off. There are no obvious trails. Finally we spotted a cairn and started up a flight of natural stairs, which led to a mountain pass marked with gray limestone. The saddle was carpeted with yuccas and barrel cactuses and afforded breathtaking views of Red Rock and Calico Basin.
I tiptoed and Frank limped (he had an ingrown nail) down the pass on an uneven trail. The ground leveled off. Shadows stretched across the brush. Finally, after we closed the three-and-a-half-mile loop, the parking lot came into focus. No sirens. No shirtless, sunburned sages prophesizing World War III. No one hitting us up for change. Just open space … and silence.
Off the Ranch highlights worthy businesses, events and activities outside of downtown Las Vegas. To submit a suggestion, email Matthew O’Brien at email@example.com