Pack Rat Route Trail, Mt. Charleston, NV

Kyle Canyon Valley Area near Spring Mountain Visitor Gateway

The Pack Rat Route trail takes hikers on a 1.4-mile moderate loop through the Kyle Canyon area of the Spring Mountains.

Starting at the Spring Mountains Visitor Gateway, the path leads to a historic exhibit about the 1955 Mt. Charleston plane crash. It also boasts views of Cathedral Rock, Charleston Peak, a huge limestone escarpment, wildflowers and several packrat middens.

Cathedral Rock seen from Pack Rat Trail
Cathedral Rock seen from Pack Rat Route Trail

Pack Rat Route Trail Hiking Stats

Trail DescriptionLoop
Trail StartPack Rat Route Trail
Parking LotSpring Mountain Visitor Gateway.
Note: When the visitor gateway is closed, park at the Cliff Rose Trailhead (also called Step Ladder) across the traffic circle.
Round Trip Mileage~1.4 miles
DifficultyModerate
Average Time1 to 1.5 hours
Elevation at trail start~6,594 feet (Source)
AccessibleYear-round
Amenities at TrailheadVisitor Center, parking lots, restrooms, benches, information sign boards
Entrance FeeNone
Rating3.0 Mooses

Where does the Pack Rat Route get its name?

This area of Kyle Canyon and the Spring Mountains features several Pack Rats that live in the area.

If you keep your eyes peeled, you’ll notice several “middens” along the trail. Pack Rat middens are nests constructed out of nearly any materials they can get their hands on. Examples include various plant materials, sticks, twigs, etc.

Beige Woodrat running on the ground
“Pack Rat”

Pack Rats are unique in that they don’t drink water, but produce a plant-derived waste product which they excrete on their nests. This in turn creates a hard crust that preserve their nests for thousands of years.

You can find several of these middens (nests) along the Pack Rat Route trail.

You can read more about Pack Rats and their middens here.

Paved Pack Rat Route Trail
Pack Rat Route Trail

What to expect on the Pack Rat Route trail

The Pack Rat Route trail is accessible from the Spring Mountains Visitor Gateway Center.

To begin, follow the signs to “hiking trails” (on the southern side of the visitor center).

Hiking Trails at Spring Mountains Visitor Gateway
Information sign point to hiking trails

You’ll start on the Kunav Huveep Trail before taking a left to stay on the Pack Rat Route trail.

Tip:  Before you head off down the Kunav Huveep trail, look off across the valley and picture being able to walk in a straight line.  If you could, you’d end up at the looking glass for the plane crash exhibit. 

Start of Kunav Huveap Trail
Arrow marks the exhibit for the plane crash
Kunav Huveap Trail near Mt. Charleston
Looking back towards the start of the Kunav Huveep Trail

We noticed the first part of the trail was well-marked, but the signs quickly become non-existent or just plain confusing. 

Pack Rat Trail Marker
One of the few Pack Rat Route trail signs we saw

It’s not an area you’re likely to get lost as we could always see the visitor center from the trail, but finding the exhibit was a little harder than we expected. 

The trail alternates between a paved walk-way and hard packed-gravel.  There are plenty of benches along the trail to stop and rest but there was very little shade.

Bench along Pack Rat Route Trail
Benches were found along the trail in several locations

There is some elevation loss and gain over the course of the trail, and we found one of the paved sections of the trail to be pretty steep. 

You’ll end up heading around the loop and getting closer to the canyon walls. As you see the large limestone escarpments, you’ll know you’re getting close to the looking glass exhibit.

Canyon Walls on Pack Rat Route near Mt. Charleston
Limestone escarpment not far from the viewing glass

We eventually came around a corner and found the viewing glass. There is a sign explaining exactly where to look on the mountain to see the plane crash location. 

Approaching the Exhibit
Memorial Exhibit Looking Glass showing the Crash Site

We couldn’t see any of the wreckage from the looking glass, but imagined what it would have been like for the rescuers trying to get to the plane in the dead of winter.  The remoteness of the area and steep mountain side would have been incredibly difficult to get to.

Silent Heroes Monument Viewing Glass for Plane Crash
Arrow points to where the plane crash occurred
Information Sign for Silent Heroes Memorial
Silent Heroes sign at looking glass exhibit

It is possible to climb up to the site of the plane crash, but it is a long and arduous journey. We plan to make the trek up there at some point.

After you’re done with the exhibit, be sure to look around at the canyon walls and keep your eyes open for potential climbers.  There are many fixed climbing anchors embedded in the steep walls.

Head back the way you came to the visitor center, or continue to follow the trail around in a circle. 

Kyle Canyon Valley Area near Spring Mountain Visitor Gateway
View of Kyle Canyon Area

Be aware you may end up in a wash like we did to get back to the main trail, as the paths were somewhat confusing on the way back.

Is hiking the Pack Rat Route trail worth it?

Rating: 3.0 Mooses

3 Mooses Rating

This hike is short and has some great views, but overall, with the confusing path and steep grades on parts of the trail, it wasn’t our favorite. The educational component saved the rating for us on this trail, otherwise I would say it was a 2.0. There are better moderate trails in the area such as Fletcher Canyon or Echo Overlook.

What we liked:

  • We appreciated the viewpoint with the looking glass honoring those who perished in the 1955 plane crash on Mt. Charleston.
  • We liked the huge limestone escarpment walls near the interpretive area.
  • It was a beautiful sunny day when we were there and the mountains were fully on display.

What we didn’t like:

  • The trail is not well-marked and we found it confusing.
  • There’s virtually no shade on the trail, so bring lots of water when you go.

Practical Information for your hike

Trailhead Amenities

  • Large parking lot with ample spots. If visitor center is closed, park at Cliff Rose Trailhead across the traffic circle.
  • Visitor center and gift shop
  • Trail Information and trail map of surrounding areas
  • Restrooms
  • Trash receptacles
  • Benches

Trail Maps

Pack Rat Trail Route Hiking Map
Official Trail Map at the Visitor Center
Pack Rat Route Trail Hiking Map
Pack Rat Route Hiking Trail Map

Parking Information

The primary parking area for the Pack Rat Route trail is at the Spring Mountains Visitor Gateway Center. They have abundant parking when the center is open.

We recommend checking their official website to determine if the center is open or not.

If the visitor center is closed, you can park at the Cliff Rose Trailhead (aka Step Ladder), across from the traffic circle.

Parking Map for Pack Rat Trail
Parking area for Pack Rat Route

Trail Tips

We did not see any specific hiking tips for this area, but the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area has the following recommendations on some of their other trails:

  • Bring extra water
  • Wear sturdy hiking shoes or boots
  • Wear sunscreen and a hat.  At higher elevations, the atmosphere provides less protection from the sun’s harmful rays.
  • Flashlight – Allow for ample hiking time.
  • Bring clothing for cool or wet weather.  Weather changes rapidly in the mountains.
  • Leave wildflowers, plants and artifacts.  Please leave these behind to be enjoyed by others.
  • Take photographs and memories and pack out any trash.
  • Stay on trails.
  • Let family or friends know where you plan on hiking and when you expect to return.  Know your limits and remember, you will need to walk back as far as you have walked in.

More hiking trails near Mt. Charleston