Mary Jane Falls, Nevada

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Mary Jane Falls in October 2016

Something like eight years ago or so, my father and I drove up the road to Mount Charleston near Las Vegas. It was a very beautiful drive, though being December, there was snow surrounding us. I knew there were waterfalls in the area, but there would be absolutely no way to see the falls.

So after heading to Las Vegas to visit a close friend of mine, he mentioned that it had just rained in the mountains the day before. It seemed like an ideal time to check out Mary Jane Falls now that one could actually walk to the falls without snow blocking the way.

The drive is still beautiful, and the hike was equally as beautiful. It’s not as easy of a hike as some might lead you to believe. The first half or so of the 1.5-mile (one-way) hike is on relatively level ground…it’s the second half that’s uphill switchbacks that you begin to feel the effects of the altitude change. (You’re going from 2000 to 7500′ along the drive.)

Luckily, it’s not a long hike, so just when you’re about ready to give up, you realize you’re at the falls. Now early October probably isn’t the best time to hope the falls will be wildly flowing… Even with rain in the mountains, we’re talking about a moderate trickle. It might not look like there’s any water in the photo here, but there’s actually more than appears. The wind was blowing just enough at times that where the water would fall would vary.

I would absolutely consider visiting again in late spring. I could also see visiting in the summer just to escape the heat, and in the fall, the changing colors of the trees are equally as stunning.

Directions:

  1. Take US-95 north out of Las Vegas.
  2. Turn left on NV-157, which is clearly marked as heading toward Mt. Charleston.
  3. Drive along Mt. Charleston until you’re nearing the peak. (If you go to far, you have to turn around at some point.)
  4. Turn right onto Echo Road. Drive to the end of Echo Road to a parking area.
  5. Take a left and turn onto the dirt road that leads to the parking area for Mary Jane Falls. (You can also walk from the previous parking area mentioned.)
  6. Follow the trail to the falls. About halfway, you do have to veer to the right and start going up the switchbacks.

Accessibility: 4/10 (moderate/strenuous)
Height: ~100′ (?)
Hike: ~3 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Mary Jane Falls?

Kings Canyon Falls, Nevada

I love finding waterfalls in geographic locations that don’t necessarily conjure up the thought of waterfalls. I’ve mentioned before that Nevada is one of those places for me. There are waterfalls for those who look, though! There are a number in the area near Las Vegas (including First Creek and Lost Creek Falls), and one of my followers let me know about waterfalls in Lamoille Canyon near Elko (which I have added to my list of places to visit). If you live in the Reno/Carson City area, there are a few waterfalls near the cities, including the previously mentioned Hunter Creek Falls. In Carson City, there is also Kings Canyon Falls, a small, but beautiful and easy-to-visit waterfall.

It’s a very easy drive outside of Carson City’s downtown area (though you are still officially in Carson City based on boundaries). At the parking area, you hike up mildly steep switchbacks for just over 1/4 of a mile to reach the falls. After hiking almost 6 miles round trip in warmer conditions to see Hunter Creek Falls earlier that day, the short hike in the cool shade of the evening was very enjoyable. (I was a bit cold, actually!) It’s not a big waterfall, about 30′ or so, but it’s worth a detour. In late May, there was water flowing, though it might dry up as it gets warmer in July and August. When it’s flowing, though, I’m guessing it’s rather popular, as there were a surprising number of people hiking to the falls.

Directions:

  1. In Carson City, the main road running north/south is NV-529.
  2. The road that leads to the falls starts of as West King Street, but it doesn’t directly connect with NV-529. You first have to turn on a street running parallel to it (W Musser if coming from the north or W 2nd Street if coming from the south would work), and then you turn left or right on a road such as S Curry Street to get to West King Street. (Convoluted, I know…) Then turn heading west onto West King Street. (It helps to look at a map or have a GPS here.)
  3. Just keep going west along W King Street. It turns into Kings Canyon Road (which is also numbered as National Forest Road 39). You don’t keep driving on this road until it ends, but instead stop at the parking area for the falls, just under 3 miles from NV-529. This area is rather large, and there is signage indicating you’re in the correct area. (You shouldn’t be driving very far along dirt road…It’s mostly paved.)
  4. Hike to the falls. There was a dirt path with switchbacks that led up to the falls. (There may be another route that also leads to the falls.)

Accessibility: 7/10 (easy/moderate, mildly steep, but short!)
Height: 30′
Length of Hike: 0.5 miles round-trip

Kings Canyon Falls in late May 2013

Where in the World is Kings Canyon Falls?

Hunter Creek Falls, Nevada

Hunter Creek Falls in late-May 2013

I’ve always been interested in waterfalls in unexpected places. Nevada just seems like one of those places where you aren’t going to find many waterfalls…and I guess that’s relatively true. And yet there are a few rather scenic falls scattered throughout the state.

I’m guessing Reno’s a pretty dry place. So I was surprised to find out that there was a waterfall right near Reno. After reading some of the reviews, I was initially concerned. It sounded like this was a strenuous 5.6 mile round-trip hike in unforgiving terrain. Well, that really wasn’t the case. I’ve experienced much more difficult hikes, and this probably ranks somewhere in the middle.

If you’re going to attempt this hike, two things REALLY help: sunscreen and water.  It’s bizarre. The first 2/3 of the hike are out in the open sun. The final 1/3 of the hike is like entering a different, forested world. Without sunscreen, I would be in pain tonight, and yet I’m rather content. And having a significant amount of water available made this hike MUCH more enjoyable. To avoid any intense heat, start earlier in the day. It got to about 80 degrees (on May 31), and it was manageable.

At 2.8 miles or so one way, the hike does seem long. There is an up-down-up-down nature to the trail, but it’s never extremely steep. Some of the trail is composed of large stones, which might cause the most difficulty along the whole hike. But at no point are you suddenly climbing steep switchbacks. The elevation gain/loss is spread out over the trail.  

Once you get to the final 1/3, enjoy the shaded, wonderful-scented scenery. It is a truly different feeling. At the end of May, wildflowers litter the whole trail from beginning to end. And at the end of the trail is Hunter Creek Falls! Now, it’s taller than it appears in some photos (about 30 feet or so), though its not huge. It’s still worthwhile in the end!

Directions:

  1. Caughlin Parkway can be accessed from South McCarran Boulevard at two different locations. I entered at the southern “entrance.”
  2. Continue along Caughlin Parkway to Plateau Road. (If you entered Caughlin from the southern portion, Plateau Road will be on your left.)
  3. Continue along Plateau Road to Woodchuck Circle on your left.
  4. Continue along Woodchuck Circle until you reach the end of the road. (It appears there is a continuation of the road under construction, but that was closed off, so you really only have one option.) There will be a sign for the “Michael D. Thompson Trailhead”, and you will be in the right place.
  5. Put on your sunscreen, grab your water/hat/camera, and start hiking. If in doubt, just stay in sight/listening distance of the creek.

Accessibility: 3/10 (moderate/strenuous, by no means the worst ever, just long)
Height: 30′
Length of Hike: 5.6 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Hunter Creek Falls?

First Creek Falls, Nevada

The first time at First Creek Falls was not the charm. The second time was disappointing as well. The third time was the charm!

In January 2009, both my father and I visited the Red Rocks area, and searched for First Creek Falls. We spent a considerable amount of time wandering around to no avail. We found small drops, but nothing significant. It was rather disappointing, but in the Red Rock Canyon, you can’t stay disappointed for long.

In January 2010, I visited the area again. This time around, I was rather unlucky. I got extremely sick the first day there. The second day around, I decided, with what little energy I had, to search for the falls. I had better directions, and I did find the falls, but there was no water! At least I knew the general area of the falls now.

In December 2010, I decided to show up again with my dad. The first full day there, I decided to go and check out the falls. Now, luck would dictate that there would be some problem. It had rained in Las Vegas for the past few days, and so it was the opposite extreme of no water. There was so much water that we couldn’t even pass what was the former dry creek bed at the start of the trail. We had been stymied again. Luckily, three days later, the rain had subsided, the rushing creek had subsided, and so it was easier to get to the falls. And with all that rain, it was pretty much guaranteed there would be water! Success! Oddly enough, my dad says that we had been there in 2009, but there wasn’t any water flowing then. I don’t remember getting to the falls, as I think I would remember a drop this big, even a dry one.

Directions:

  1. The waterfall is off NV-159 (Charleston Boulevard). I’m providing the link of the directions that I used since it is rather tricky to find the falls. Even finding the parking area is tricky, since it’s only marked in one direction, not the other.
    Bird and Hike’s Directions

Accessibility: 8/10 (easy/moderate)
Height: 10′
Length of Hike: 2.2 miles round-trip

First Creek Falls in December 2010

Where in the World is First Creek Falls?

Lost Creek Falls, Nevada

Lost Creek Falls in January 2010

Nevada might not be the first place one thinks of when thinking about waterfalls, but there are some waterfalls in this dry state. Many of these waterfalls, though, are fleeting. They are most likely to be found in the winter and spring, and even then it appears their existence isn’t guaranteed.

Last year, when visiting the Las Vegas area in January, the creeks I visited did actually have a small amount of water flowing. This year, also in January, there was very little water at all. The waterfall on First Creek was completely dry. Lost Creek Falls had a small amount of water flowing over, but admittedly not enough to really show up well in the photograph.

If you live in the Las Vegas area or are visiting the area and are there has just been a rainfall or snow melt has occurred, that is likely the best time to view the falls. If the flow is higher, I think Lost Creek Falls might actually be pretty impressive. The falls were taller than I expected.

Directions:

  1. From Las Vegas, head toward the Red Rocks Canyon National Conservation Area, which is west of the city off of NV-159.
  2. On NV-159, head to the entrance to the scenic drive for the canyon. There is an entrance fee, which is definitely worth it even if the waterfall is not that great.
  3. Obtain a free visitor’s guide, and look for the area on the map indicating Lost Creek. The visitor’s guide very clearly describes the area.
  4. Begin your drive on the one-way road. You’ll definitely want to make stops along the way. After going more than halfway around the drive, you can either continue on the main road, or take a right. Take the right turn. You must go slowly as you are likely to miss this turn. If you miss it, you have to re-drive the loop again.
  5. After taking the right turn, go to the first parking area on your left, which will be for Lost Creek and the Children’s Discovery Trail.
  6. Park and take the trail for Lost Creek. Trust your instincts, as the trail does split off numerous times, often leading to other trails. The trail is VERY short, only a little more than 0.35 miles one-way. If you’ve gone any further, you’ve probably gone the wrong way.

Accessibility: 8/10 (easy/moderate)
Height: 40′
Length of Hike: 0.7 miles round-trip

Lost Creek Falls in December 2010 (flash floods 2 days earlier)

Where in the World is Lost Creek Falls?