The Spring Mountains are a high-elevation retreat of cool forest and snowy peaks just north of Las Vegas. The range is quite expansive and rugged, with boundless backcountry terrain for intrepid adventurers, but there are also familiar comforts in the form of vacation rentals, campgrounds, and short trails. One of the best family-friendly hikes is Cathedral Rock just outside of Mount Charleston Village.
Cathedral Rock is a 300-foot-tall cliff that juts above the town. The climb seems daunting, but from the summit you'll realize this rock is actually dwarfed by the height of peaks that surround. It really puts the scale of the Spring Mountains in perspective. You can see the range's tallest summit, Mount Charleston, to the west, the cliffs of Mummy Mountain across the canyon, and all the way to the flat expanse of desert in the east.
The trail begins in the shade of huge ponderosa pines and spruce trees, and it starts to climb uphill immediately. It takes broad switchbacks up the canyon between Cathedral Rock and Echo Cliffs. From clearings in the forest you'll admire these two huge formations towering on either side. Much of the trail passes through a forest of young aspen trees that are short enough to see over in all directions. These hardy, small trees are all that can grow in the rocky soil of this steep slope, which in some years gets swept by avalanches and in some years gets burned by wildfires. Most years, however, it is a haven of leafy green in spring and summer and a show of golden foliage in fall. Benches along the trail provide good rest spots, as does one shady alcove with a pair of trickling waterfalls.
The sheer face of Cathedral Rock looks insurmountable for much of the trail, but one final twist in the path begins a traverse along a forested hillslope that leads to the backside of the formation. The trail then makes some tight, steep switchbacks to the top. This is the toughest part of the trail, but it's short. Soon you'll round a corner and find your reward: a wide ledge with an incredible view.