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Hiking Las Vegas Blog
Mack's North Peak Finally Done Right
History (skip if not interested)
Mack's North Peak (9,820 feet) or Mack's Peak North is on the north end of the ridge that runs north to south. On the southern end of the ridge stands the much more popular Mack's Peak (10,033 feet). Both of these peaks are in the Mt. Charleston area, which is 35 west of Las Vegas, NV.
Mack's North Peak was probably first done in 2003. When I did it I found no evidence of anyone being there before: no cairns, no paths, and no sign in book.
The original route started from the north via Cold Creek Road. It was a long and bumpy ride on Forest Service road 571, a gravel road which needs a 4WD vehicle to reach the trailhead which is unmarked.
The route started off easy following the road and quickly turned into a trail. Once the trail reaches a highpoint you head south along a ridge. There's nothing to exciting until you get to the wall. This is serious Class 4 climb. There are ways to avoid the Class 4 parts of the wall.
The descent off of the west side was very steep. Once beyond the steep section there were some loose sections that are not good. It was a long descent after that and pretty uneventful.
Mileage: 5 miles - up and back
Elevation gain: 2,987 feet
Time: ~ 6 hours - up and back (this depends on how well you know the route)
Problems with this route:
Long drive to the trailhead requiring a 4WD vehicle.
Ascent hard to follow and is boring until the Wall
Descent is very steep, then very loose, then long
The Good Route
After many years and several hikes to the summit, there's now a good route to Mack's North Peak. It starts off of Mack's Canyon road, a much shorter drive and does not need a 4WD vehicle to reach the trailhead. A HCV is needed.
Though the trailhead is not marked officially, it's marked by big boulders that block an old gravel road.
The hike follows the blocked gravel road and then enters a drainage as it heads toward the summit. This part of the route is easy. Once the drainage ends (marked by cairns) the route heads NW about 100 yards up a slope to a very distinguished white ridge, a great landmark. From the ridge it's about 150 yards of ascent via a hiker's path.
Now here is where the route use to have problems. There's a long traverse that needs to be done to get around to the north side of the mountain and then to the steep wall. Thanks to the 52 Peak Club there’s now a great path that traverses to the north side that is easy to follow. This is the key. If you don't follow the path it's a longer and loose traverse. Believe me I have tried several routes traversing to the north side and they are all terrible.
There are numerous cairns to help hikers find this path and keep them on the path. Once on the north side the route meets up with the original route that comes in from the north. There's a path all the way to the wall, though faint in spots.
Alternative to the Steep Wall
Although this climb might looks steep in the photo, it's at the most Class 3 and it's well cairn. Moving to the left is the steeper part of the wall as seen in the second photo in this article. Only experienced hikers should climb that part of the wall.
Advantages of this route:
Shorter drive to the trailhead and no 4WD vehicle needed (HCV is needed)
Ascent easier to follow and very scenic
Descent is very fast and not very loose. You basically retrace your steps minus the steep section of the wall.
Less than half the elevation gain as the northern route
Seven of us made it to the peak in just over two hours and we were not hiking fast.
Hopefully this new route will have members of the 52 Peak Club looking forward to this hike instead of dreading it.
Mileage: ~4.5 miles - up and back
Elevation gain: 1,407 feet
Time: ~ 5 hours - up and back
Branch Whitney is the author of Hiking Las Vegas and creator of the 52 Peak Club where members hike to the best 52 Peaks around Las Vegas, NV