Peak 5356 and Summerlin Peak (west of Las Vegas)

Pics by Harlan W. S.
March 4, 2006

This hike involves ~2850' cumulative elevation gain (most within 0.6 miles), and 7.1 miles round trip.

This set of peaks is at the far eastern end of La Madre range. These are the sharp, close-by peaks that one sees west of Sun City Summerlin. To get to the parking spot, travel west on Cheyenne just past the 215 exit. Cheyenne then bears north and turns into "Cliff Shadows". Bear left onto a small paved road just south of the two-building "professional center" and continue on the dirt road, till just before the dirt road turns north to loop around the drainage ditch (see second map below, or this link). As of my conversation with BLM March 3, 2006, this is the last legal place to park -- more on that paradox at the end of this page.

The first part of this hike is described in detail at Branch Whitney's site, with one caveat. Access has changed in the last few years, so you can't drive your car in as far as described in the older guides, and his instructions are best used west of the 3100' contour on the GPS map below (he may update this information). The latest information on land ownership is available at the Clark County Assessors web site; as of 3/2006, this parcel of land was described in this link, which has a map and aerial photo of the environs. The parcel of land immediately to the north is private property, owned by the Catalyst Group, who plan to build the ultra high-end Puercos de Plomo condominiums.

The initial trip WSW up the ridge is a real thigh-burner, with substantial parts at a 45 angle. The ridge contains numerous fossils of tabulate and rose corals, and there is even a snail fossil near the top of the 1st peak. The cross-over to Summerlin Peak requires a little elevation loss, but if you aim for the sheep paths and more level spots, you will do less side-hilling (than if you try to contour around the hill without losing elevation). Peak 5356 is actually the much nicer destination. The crest to 5356 from Summerlin Peak (5082' elevation) is airy, with delightful views west to the higher Madre Mountains. The descent is of moderate slope and can be nearly free of loose talus, if you are careful to pick the correct ridge route. In most cases, stay out of the washes when possible; they are full of boulders, brush, and hidden dryfalls.

WARNING: This is a cool-weather hike. There is absolutely no water and precious little shade. If you choose the western descent, it is absolutely imperative that you take the turn at the northernmost part of the red GPS track below; do NOT enter the first canyon on your right. Though that 1st canyon looks initially inviting, it is treacherously steep. WARNING AGAIN: this hike goes over some steep terrain, very close to cliffs. If you stay on the mapped route, the terrain is class 2; but if you wander, it becomes extremely dangerous. If you find yourself doing sustained class 3, you are off the track.

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GPS trace, with parking near Cliff Shadows.

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I printed out this sign and stuck it in back of my windshield, to keep mistaken officers from ticketing my car.

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View E from the first ridge. We followed the obvious wash in to the base of the ridge.

 

 

 

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1/3 way up ridge, view S. Summerlin Peak is the lump at L.

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This part of the ridge is very steep, but very frictional, all class 2.

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View E down Cheyenne Blvd., from cross-over.

 

 

 

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Top of Summerlin Peak. Bridge Point and Bridge are right above Alda's hat; Damsel is the double-horned peak to right.

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View west to Madre, East Madre and Gottlieb, from ridge east of 5354.

 

 

 

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View SE toward city. Can you see Alda?

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On Woody Peak.

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Can you see Alda? Just left of the sharp peak, in the distance, is Black Mt.; just right, is McCullough.

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Can you see Alda?

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On Peak 5354, view WNW, to snow-covered Charleston (L) and Mummy (R).

 

 

 

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The city, on descent.

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On the way down, try to stay on the ridges or edges of washes. The washes suddenly open up into boulder- and brush-filled foot hazards with dryfalls.

 

 

 

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West back through last wash. In the end, it is easiest to enter this steep-sided wash. There are a few dryfalls, but they are easy down-climbs.

 

 

 

 

 

BLM, Gunfire, Litterers, and the New Red Rock Protection Zone.

This region was added to the Red Rock conservation area ca. 2003, as part of a new "Protection Zone" to curb development and protect Red Rock. There are very inconspicuous brown signs that proclaim "No Motor Vehicles" at the west end of the "Park" on the map above. I've talked with some very nice and helpful people at BLM, but only after being misdirected many times to "law enforcement" folks who insisted I come down to the field office to fill out paperwork (back when I just wanted to ask question about access).

In theory, I can see why the BLM has posted this land for "No Motor Vehicles". For years, people have driven in here, dumped garbage, had beer parties and bonfires, and shot up everything. But they still do -- there are fresh casings everywhere, and fresh tire tracks. When we were last there, a van parked near the base of the Summerlin ridge. Then a fancy silver 4x4 parked and the passengers got out and began randomly shooting high-powered rifles. When we came by, they marched over to us (rifle at the ready), as to let us know they were watching (if they hadn't, I would have photographed their license plate). When we left, they promptly resumed shooting. When we were on the ridge earlier, we heard automatic weapons fire.

BLM has ticketed some people who happened to exit the off-limits roads when a trooper came by, but I've seen no indication their efforts are effective in lessening the car traffic, dirt bikes, garbage dumping, and gunfire. The vandals simply come on the weekend, or in the evening. I'm sure that if you were to drive in to a hike, or to pick up trash, BLM might come and give you a ticket. Think about it: who would you rather ticket, four vandals with high-powered rifles, or a few unarmed hikers?

I have absolutely no objection to rifle practice. I do have objections to people who shoot randomly at mountains that might contain hikers, and to "marksmen" who leave their spent ammo, target garbage, and beer cans behind.

Now for the piece de resistance: the city plans to use land BLM sales money to build a park with trails in this area. There will be a paved parking lot and a network of trails. If the recent city works are any indication, expect 1) the area will be closed off to hikers for some time; 2) the renovations will cost a LOT of money and will involve firms with good political ties; 3) few people will use the trails to nowhere; and 4) vandals will continue to drive in to dump garbage and shoot high-powered rifles.

If BLM managers really want this area to be accessible to hikers but not motor vehicles, they should scrape off a dirt parking lot, and put a fence from one side of the arroyo to the other. The fence must have thick posts closely spaced, or the first guy who wants to unload a broken refrigerator will rip it down. Ranchers know how to build such a fence, and could probably do it for 10k. There should be warning signs that violators will be arrested. A little law enforcement would initially be helpful. And of course, they could put a passway through, big enough for a human.