Spring Mountains

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The Spring Mountains form the western boundary of the Las Vegas Valley. This desert mountain range isMt. Charleston, Las Vegas, Nevada so named because of the thousands of springs found throughout most parts of these mountains. This is a 316,000 acre area that is part of the Toiyabe National Forest. Designated as a National Recreation Area in 1993, the Spring Mountains attract more than 1.5 million visitors a year.

Las Vegans like the mountains for several reasons. In the summer, it is an average of about 20 cooler here. In the winter, skiing and winter sports are available.

Travelers driving from Las Vegas to any of the areas in the Spring Mountains will should note the distinctive changes in climate and vegetation as the elevation increases. Typical of Nevada's mountain and valley terrain is the dramatic isolation of these climate and vegetation zones. This has created an interesting and unique diversity of plants in each of these isolated areas. The Spring Mountains exhibit these features even more strongly because they are more isolated. The Spring Mountains are notable for the large number of species which exist here, and nowhere else.

No matter which part of the Spring Mountains you approach, the changes in environment are dramatic as you go higher in elevation. Las Vegas is at roughly 2080 feet above sea level. The elevation of the Spring Mountains starts at 4,500 feet ends at 11,918 feet on the top of Charleston Peak. The changes are dramatic as you leave the dry desert floor. Soon you will notice an increase in vegetation. First more Joshua Trees, the more Cedar Trees. By the time you reach the lodges, you are in an alpine forest.

One of the most interesting features of the Spring Mountains is that they have 5 different ecological zones. Each ecological zone 'lives' at a different elevation. At the base of the Spring Mountains, is the Southern Desert Scrub zone which is the principal ecological zone in the Southern Nevada area. As you drive into the mountains the environment changes when you gain elevation. Each zone has distinct characteristics. Most notable of these characteristics is the change in temperature and in the plant life. Eventually you will reach a heavily forested Alpine zone. As you go through these zones you might see wild burros, horses or any of the several species of plant and animal life that are found no where else. Notable among these is the 18,000 acres of Bristlecone Pine. The Bristlecone Pine, looking unlike any pine tree you might expect to see, is the oldest known life form on earth.

The contrast between the mountains and the desert is amazing. In 20 minutes, you can go from a 110 degree desert to an 80 degree Alpine forest. That is what makes this one of the great get-away areas in Las Vegas. There are 2 major resort and residential areas on the north side of the range. On the south side of the range, near Mount Potosi, is a smaller less developed area called Mountain Springs Summit.

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