From the floor of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, the sheer, red-and-tan-striped sandstone of Mt. Wilson’s east face appears unclimbable. But if you can handle class 3 terrain—meaning plenty of handholds accompanying holy-crap dropoffs—you’ll have the mountain to yourself. (Bonus: You’ll also earn an eagle-eye view of the Strip lighting up the night from a campsite below the summit.) The route sneaks around to the south via First Creek Canyon, and is a true navigational challenge.
DO IT Walk First Creek Trail toward the canyon and take the left fork at 1.4 miles. Watch for Indian paintbrush in late spring and Joshua trees and bighorn sheep year-round. The path eventually divides into many social trails—stay as near to the creek as possible, scrambling over boulders and up chimneys to the back of the canyon. Keep to the right as the canyon splits. When the steep north wall ends, leave the wash on a social trail and walk northeast up sandstone slabs to the summit. Pitch a tent in a small, flat site just south and slightly downhill from the summit (pack water). Allow seven to 10 hours round-trip.
CLIMBING MAGAZINE RECOMMENDS Pack a light rack and tackle a monster day on the 17 pitches of Inti Watana to Resolution Arete.
GET THERE From the Strip, take Charleston Blvd. 20 miles east to the signed First Creek trailhead on the west side of the road.
GUIDEBOOK Hiking Las Vegas: 60 Hikes Within 60 Minutes of the Strip, by Branch Whitney ($8, huntingtonpress.com)
MAP USGS quad Blue Diamond
PERMITS None for camping above 5,000 feet; leave a message at the Red Rock Late Exit Line for overnight stays (702-515- 5050).
CONTACT (702) 515-5050; blm.gov/nv/st/en.html
TRIP DATA backpacker.com/hikes/mtwilson
ELEVATION 7,070 feet
GAIN 3,420 feet
ROUTE First Creek Canyon
DRIVE 40 minutes