No-Sweat Summer Trails

Looking to stay cool while still getting in some hiking? Here are some suggestions

With temperatures flirting with the 110-degree mark, locals are getting the itch to escape to cooler climates—or maybe even just stay indoors. But for those who still want to experience the great outdoors while staying relatively close to home and out of the blazing sun, opportunities do exist. Here are some hikes that are good for getting your heart rate up but not your body temperature.

Waterfall hike: Big Falls, Spring Mountains

While it won’t be the plunging 100-foot gusher it is in the spring, Big Falls still offers a misty breather for a midsummer day’s hike. “Since this was a big snow year, it will still be flowing,” says local hiking expert Branch Whitney, who recommends the trek on his website You’ll start at the Mary Jane Falls trailhead, where Ponderosa pines dot the landscape and offer some shade. With a scenic view of Kyle Canyon, the trail follows around to the canyon head, where huge limestone cliffs surround you. Once you hit the waterfall drainage, it’s just a short distance to your destination.

Distance: 3.5 miles total

Difficulty: moderate

Getting there: Take U.S. Highway 95 north to Nevada State Highway 157. Go west onto 157, veering onto Echo Drive. Turn left at the sign for Mary Jane Falls to a gravel road that leads you to the parking lot.

Think-winter hike: Bristlecone Trail, Mount Charleston

Cool down as you picture yourself doing figure eights around the ski area’s bristlecone pine, white fir and Rocky Mountain juniper trees on this hike. Bruce Grubbs, author of Best Easy Day Hikes Las Vegas (Falcon, 2009), recommends this one because Mount Charleston, at 11,916 feet, is 20 degrees cooler than the Valley. Follow the trail up the canyon and pass a small, sputtering spring, continuing up the canyon through Aspen groves. “Mount Charleston is just gorgeous, with 100-mile views and alpine terrain,” Grubbs says. “And in the summer it’s chilly, and you’re looking down at a desert frying in the heat.”

Distance: Six-mile loop

Difficulty: moderate

Getting there: Take Highway 95 north to Nevada State Highway 156. Turn left onto Highway 156 and drive west past the ski area to the parking lot.

Get-out-of-town hike: Kanarra Creek, southern Utah

Pack your waders, neoprene socks or water shoes because you’re getting wet. Whitney recommends a day trip to Kanarra Creek, a canyon that sits north of the Kolob section of Zion National Park, which starts you out on an open access road, then leads you into a narrow slot canyon. You’ll stay cool in the shade and wade through runoff from two waterfalls. “The water there is so cold we’ve had to stop and warm our feet in the sun,” Whitney says. One of the falls has a rope to climb up, leading you a short distance to a swimming hole with a rock slide covered in cushiony moss.

Distance: 3.5 miles

Difficult: moderate

Getting there: Drive north on Interstate 15 for about 155 miles (about a 2½-mile drive), and head for the center of tiny Kanarraville, Utah. Park at the library and hike down the road to the streambed.

Moonlight hike: Lone Mountain

No need to bake in the daylight hours; trek over to Lone Mountain on the northwest side of Las Vegas. The trail is simple to follow with just a headlamp and the light of the moon. It packs a workout into a short distance, as the ascent maxes out at 600 feet above the Valley floor in the distance of just half a mile. Once you’re at the top, take in the panoramic view of the city.

Distance: One mile

Difficulty: moderate

Getting there: Take Interstate 215 to the Lone Mountain exit and go east. Turn right and arrive at 4445 N. Jensen St. Park at the south lot.

Sunrise hike: Las Vegas Overlook

Not quite as high as Mount Charleston but not as low as Lake Mead, Las Vegas Overlook in Red Rock Canyon makes for the perfect view of the entire city, as well as the canyon. Arrive at the overlook by about 5 a.m. to catch the sunrise overlooking the fossilized sand dunes, and be thankful you set your alarm early because you get to stroll back down in the afternoon shade.

Distance: 4.5 miles total

Difficulty: easy

Getting there: Take Charleston Boulevard west. About one mile past the turnoff for Red Rock Canyon, there’s a parking lot at a horseback riding stable on the left side of the road.

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