CITY HIKE: Exploration Peak Park
As the Las Vegas valley continues to expand outward, some of the surrounding natural landscape has been swallowed up by housing developments and strip malls. It's pretty wild to be driving down a flat byway, make a left turn, and suddenly there's a 200 ft mountain rising out of the suburban landscape.
When I first drove by this natural beauty in a sea of commercialism on my way to pick up Chinese food, I saw the sign proclaimed it "Exploration Peak". I could not be more tempted by a name. I came back a few days later in the morning ready for the exploration, with Jody, because he was helping me drop my van off at the mechanic. I grabbed a quick breakfast and brought it over to the park.
The area was much more expansive and involved than I had originally been able to see from the road. There was the most intense playground equipment I had ever seen - complete with a little rock climbing wall! We ate near the spray-ground - water occasionally shot up through underground pipes in various sequences for the kids and dogs - and contemplated our inevitable trek up the mountain.
The cool thing about the mountain was that there were a dozen different paths you could take to get up it. It was like river tributaries of trails, all kind of winding their way up the mountain while intersecting with others, giving you the option to change your route and your perspective. We chose a path that went pretty steeply up the southwestern side of the mountain. It's not a long trail, but it definitely put a few high heart rate minutes on my apple watch.
There's not a lot of shade so wear a hat and put on a little sunscreen. I had sunglasses but really regretted my lack of headwear. Near the top there was the first pavillion, the first place to rest out of the sun since we left the manicured greenery of trees at the foot of the mountain. The views were pretty incredible, although not the 360 degree views we'd see in a few moments when we would crest the peak of the mountain.
A few more steep hiking minutes in the sun - it was getting to be on 10am now, which can already be a little brutal in June - and we made it to the peak! A little surprise of knowledge was waiting for us on the tip of the peak. I love some good educational signage!
There were four or five signs at all different points around a stone piazza with compass imagery. The signs gave geographical info about the history of the geology in the area, to stories about some of the first mines and trails leading through the area, to helping identify which mountains you were looking at. I really enjoyed this, as I have been trying to learn all the surrounding mountain ranges and their peaks. It seems simple enough, but there are SO MANY mountains surrounding the valley, and they look different from every new angle approached or even which direction the sun is shining from.
Being up here reinforced one of my favorite things about living out west - the amount of sky available for you to absorb. It's such a freeing feeling - and you can feel it every time you go to the bank, or run out to grab groceries. You don't have to plan it, the beauty is just part of your daily life.
The hike back down went fast, and we took a slightly different path. All in all the out and back trail is only about 1 mile, but you can make it longer by jumping all around the different paths. If you take one that is relatively straight up, it is a little strenuous! As you can see, I did the whole thing in my Teva sandals, hiking boots not really required. This was a great one hour interlude as I waited for my car to get out of the shop. If I lived within walking distance, I think I'd be here almost every day, even just for a jog around the perimeter.