Frenchman Mountain is the tallest peak of the mountain range that forms the eastern border of the Las Vegas Valley. Views from the peak stretch out across the sprawling Las Vegas city skyline to the Spring Mountains at the opposite end. However, reaching this peak requires a serious trek!
Visible throughout the Las Vegas area, Frenchman Mountain rises starkly above the city's eastern edge, capped by radio towers on its two peaks. Often mistakenly called Sunrise Mountain (Sunrise Mountain is a slightly smaller peak located just north of Frenchman Mountain), Frenchman is a DIFFICULT, STRENUOUS, CHALLENGING climb. Though the views from the top are well worth it, hikers attempting this climb should be sure of their ability level and be prepared for what they're getting into.
The trail begins at a locked gate off of East Lake Mead Boulevard and follows a service road for vehicles to reach the towers. However, don't let the idea of a road fool you, as the trail almost immediately becomes a steep grade that climbs several hundred feet before the switchbacks begin. These switchbacks are so tight that vehicles driving them must pull forward for one direction, then back up the next, then pull forward again, and so on.
There is a 1,750-foot elevation difference between the trailhead and the peak, over a 2.2-mile one-way trail. However, the trail first hits a false summit before dropping and then climbing once again on the opposite side of the saddle, meaning that there is about 2,000 feet of climbing required in order to reach the peak.
Abandoned mine shafts and views of junked cars lying ruined in the canyon bottom mingle with barrel cactus. The trail itself is loose rock, which has a talent for rolling ankles up and down the steep grade.
Upon reaching the radio towers (the northernmost tower is the taller of the two at a height of about 4,052 ft), the Strip comes clearly into view, along with Lake Mead from the back of the peak.
Known as one of, if not the, most challenging trail in the Las Vegas area, Frenchman Mountain sees its share of hikers, but it is not uncommon to have the peak to yourself.
From the peak, retrace your path back the trailhead and then go ahead and give yourself leg-day off next time you hit the gym!
Be aware that weather can change quickly at the top; be prepared for strong winds or even rain. And depending on the time of day, there may not be any shade along the hike. There are no amenities at the trailhead.