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Hiking Las Vegas Blog
For years hikers would descend a very loose slope from the summit of North Sister. This was dangerous due to hikers accidentally knocking down loose rocks. Last year (2015), I found a safer way to descend. It's not perfect, but it is better.
In a nutshell the new descent follows a rocky ridge down about 60 yards from the summit and then descends a class 3 down climb into the loose slope as the original route. This new descent avoids the top half of the slope making it much safer. Caution still must be used since the second half of the descent travels down the same loose slope.
Below is a video showing the descent. The descent is used for both the normal route (Old Mill Trailhead) or the route from Mack's Canyon road.
Old Mills Trailhead
Old Mills Picnic Area is still closed. You can't park there. You can park at a large gravel pulloff about 0.25 miles before the turnoff to Old Mills. It's on the south side of SR 156. See photo below. This is legal and there's plenty of room. There are trespassing signs, but they only apply if you hike south into the woods. Old Mills TH is north and west from where you park.
The start of the trail has changed slightly. In my write up (VIP Section) I state you walk about a half mile along pavement to where the pavement ends. The pavement has been extended, but the unsigned trail is pretty obvious. See the below photo.
If you park outside of Old Mills Picnic area, you are going to walk more than a half mile, but it really doesn't matter since this is a round trip hike.
The route is in good shape. Although the path you take from the main trail is faint for the first 25 yards it becomes easy to follow all the way to the saddle. From the saddle to the ridge the path is very faint, but direction of travel is obvious. Once on the ridge the path is easy to follow to the class 3 climb that lies just below the summit of South Sister.
I learned one trick as we follow the cairned route from South Sister to North Sister. Once past the exposed traverse, which is just beyond the arch, veer right instead of left. This is shorter and avoids a down-climb.
This is one of my favorite routes in Mt. Charleston and now it's safer. I prefer starting at Old Mills rather than Mack's Canyon road for three reasons:
Find out more information about the 52 Peak Club here.
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