weather icon Clear
RJ App
Vegas News, Alerts, ePaper

Free hikes offer education in nature, wildlife

Sixteen hikers and one guide took a stroll through the ocean during a recent trip to Mount Charleston.

Well, the ocean cleared away centuries before their hiking boots met Fletcher Canyon Trail, but clues to the area’s geology remained.

Guide and U.S. Forest Service naturalist Richard Covey held up a rock smoothed to silky perfection.

“This place is like a natural gravel factory,” he said. “It got down here by gravity and another force: water.”

Covey then dug into his backpack and presented rocks with fossils imbedded.

“This is evidence of a seabed,” he said to the group, which ranged from a boisterous 5-year-old to a man in a “Grandpa is the name, spoiling is the game” T-shirt.

The 3.6-mile trek was one of many free, interpretive hikes the U.S. Forest Service offers in the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area.

Last year, 2,050 people participated in 125 hikes and programs at trailheads, campgrounds, picnic areas and fields of the recreation area, said Bob Loudon, partnership coordinator for the U.S. Forest Service.

“The naturalist takes them out and shows them the plants and animals and stories about how the mountain works,” he said. “It’s a unique environment in the desert, and this is an understanding of how this forest is up on this place in the middle of the desert.”

This is the third year of the program, and new to the schedule is a program at the historic Kyle Canyon guard station.

Programs range from activities that don’t require hiking to jaunts on trails. Hikes have a specific theme, such as geology, erosion, plants, wildlife and more and depend on the most prominent traits of the respective trails.

Programs aren’t limited to daytime fun.

Night hikes are offered for a chance to learn about nocturnal animals and how they have adapted to twilight survival. Hikers also learn about astrology and how one can use the stars to navigate and even tell what time of year it is.

The programs offer glimpses on species and practices unique to the mountain and are appropriate for all ages.

On the recent Fletcher Canyon Trail, Alexander Smith, 5, fidgeted during informational breaks until Covey pointed out a fragrant ponderosa tree.

Alexander’s excitement for the activity made him a little bossy.

“Smell it,” he said to Covey.
“O K,” joked the guide. “It smells like an Orange Danish.”

Covey led the group on the moderate trail at a leisurely pace. He answered how, what and why questions before they were posed.

A family from California joined the hike during its Las Vegas vacation.

Mount Charleston resident Lynn Thomas joined as a part of her regular exercise.

“I just love the mountains and the forest,” she said. “I wouldn’t even imagine living in the city anymore.”

For upcoming hikes and additional information, call 839-5566 or visit

Contact Centennial and Paradise View reporter Maggie Lillis at mlillis@viewnews.com or 477-3839.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.