Bristlecone Pines on Mt. Charleston


In early May a few years back, I drove from Las Vegas to the North Loop Trailhead on Mount Charleston. In less than 30 miles I had gained almost 6,000 feet of elevation. It was downright cool at the Trailhead.

I originally planned to hike to the Raintree (a 3,000-year old Bristlecone Pine) but eventually ran into too much snow. After 2 1/2 miles I left the snow-covered Trail and hiked to the top of a ridge at 10,100 feet above sea level. The vistas were spectacular, including the summit of Mt. Charleston, Mummy Mountain, Griffith Peak and the Cathedral Rock Recreation Area. The views back toward Las Vegas and the Mojave Desert were obscured in haze though.

10,000 feet provides a harsh climate, even for Bristlecone Pines

Bristlecone Pines

Bristlecone Pines were just about the only large vegetation growing above 9,000 feet. As I dropped elevation returning to the Trailhead, they were replaced by Ponderosa Pine and White Fir, providing a nice transition.

On the return drive, I stopped several times to take photos of the flora at different elevations. At 6,000 feet there were Joshua Trees to see and various wildflowers in bloom. Around 5,000 feet Yucca and cactus were in bloom. Below 3,500 feet the vegetation was sparse and pretty well dominated by sand. But, it was truly an amazing variety of flowers and trees to see in the same day.

Mt. Charleston Plateau

Into the Wilderness

Bristlecone Pine cone

Root system of a high altitude Ponderosa Pine

Globe Mallow

Yucca Plant

Joshua Tree

A scenic trail indeed

The trail

Beavertail Cactus

White and yellow desert daisies

Categories: Desert Southwest OutingsTags: , , ,


  1. I so enjoyed this dynamic look at all the different plants and trees in their different altitudinal places, John. I just always love Joshua Trees, so what a treat that is not only where it is featured in the foreground, but also in the plateau overlook. I was also fascinated by the bristlecone pine, the trunks in the first photo were so beautiful, and the needles and pinecone, too. Great seeing the ponderosa pine roots, as well. Thanks for taking us here, it must’ve been a challenging hike.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: