Trails Of Nevada: Mary Jane Falls Mount Charleston - MODERATE to STRENEOUS
On a cold day in January, we knew it would be a chilly task to take on the 2.5 mile course to Mary Jane Falls. What we weren’t expecting was how as hikers not familiar to the area, the snow which had fallen would easily deceive us on our path toward the falls.
Temperatures at the Mary Jane Falls Trailhead area approximately 20 degrees cooler than when you enter Lee Canyon at the bottom. For us that meant on the overcast day temperatures were in the 30s and 40s throughout our hike based on continued altitude change and shade cast by the tops of the mountains.
We dressed in layers, but the crazy thing about layers is that as you walk your body heats up and makes for a very confusing hike for your body so I especially found myself adding and removing layers as we went along our trek.
The cold air can prove difficult on hikers suffering from altitude change so I recommend short bursts of walking followed by rest periods and breaks for water.
We ascended the mountain following the footsteps of others in the snow and icy pathways. This seemed like the perfect answer for finding the way to the falls, however we learned as snow became deeper and more difficult to traverse that there are many paths people take and not all happen to lead to the falls. Signage is sparse along the path and following the flow proved to be the harder of the paths.
We climbed over difficult terrain including what we now assume to be a wash path with overturned trees and uneven footings. With so much snow, it was hard to know what exactly we were stepping on so it was important to make sure we had gained footing before each step. Numerous downed trees created obstacles to crawl under or climb over in addition to the steep grade change.
By the time we had reached a certain point footprints became less and less visible as the snow became more and more deep and made us feel like the trek to the top would be to dangerous to pass in the current conditions. We opted to return down the harsh grade with care only to discover around half way down the path another route to the top which looked much more moderate. The path was clear and though appeared to be the beginning of a steep climb upward, there were no major obstacles along the way.
By the time we had discovered this path it was a bit late in the day to start the climb upward toward the falls. We encountered another hiker which had taken that path and they said from the split to the top was about 45 minutes up some pretty intense switch backs. As the sun sets at around 4:30 and it was nearing 3:30 already it was wise for us to pass on the trek and instead return to the car.
In total we hiked approximately 3.7 miles on the strenuous path we choose for the day. We ascended in altitude over 1500 feet throughout the hike and took about 2 hours to do so.
While the regular path would be considered moderate, the path we took was one that would be considered strenuous for the obstacles encountered, slick conditions and overall depth of snow. I would not recommend the path we took to a hiker with little to no experience.
Tips For This Hike:
Wear Warm Clothes During Winter Months - Make sure to pack layers for the climb to the top and consider both a hat or beanie and gloves especially in the afternoons closer to sun down.
Walking Stick - This is a hike where, especially on the strenuous route, a hiking stick can be instrumental in hiking upward and being able to grab the ground to help you gain footing.
Check The Weather - Remembering that the altitude soars well over that of the bowl of the Las Vegas valley, it is important to make sure when you are traveling to avoid icy conditions by checking the weather in advance. This will also help with finding road closures on the mountain.
Take A Snack - Your body reacts differently to cold and warm conditions, make sure you take a snack and additional fluids to help your body maintain strength in the cold.