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blue Bonanza Trail

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14.1 mile 22.6 kilometer point to point


Ascent: 2,552' 778 m
Descent: -4,305' -1,312 m
High: 10,271' 3,131 m
Low: 7,540' 2,298 m


Avg Grade: 9% (5°)
Max Grade: 60% (31°)


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Trail shared by Dave JM with improvements by Alex Hagen

Great views can be had throughout this long trail.

Dave JM

Features Views

Make sure you don't park on the Emergency helipad at the Upper Bristlecone Trailhead...park about 100ft or so down the road. I received a citation from the state of Nevada because I wasn't aware of this fact. Also, during the ski season, the ski resort charges $5 if you arrive 8am-4pm. I recommend driving to the trailhead prior to 8am to avoid this fee.


It is a 22-mile out-and-back if you start from the Upper Bristlecone Trailhead and work your way out to Bonanza Peak. If you begin here, note that you'll have to hike for a bit on the Upper Bristlecone Trail before you even reach the start of this trail. The total elevation gain is approximately 6,000 ft. If you decide to start from the Lower Bristlcone Trailhead, you'll add 4 miles to your hike (about 26 miles out and back to Bonanza Peak).

The first 6 miles or so are mostly uphill. The grades will be steep, but this is the most strenuous portion of the trail.

Mile 0-2.5: Stay on the Upper Bristlecone Trail until you see the sign for the Bonanza Trailhead.

Mile 3.5-4: Mt Charleston Wilderness sign. At this fork, the trail veers to the right up some wooden steps.

Mile 6.5: Trail splits: Bonanza Trail continues on to left and up McFarland Peak to the right. If you find yourself doing some class 2 scrabbling, you have probably bit off on the McFarland Peak Trail.

Miles 7-9: Downhill...enjoy it because you'll be climbing the next 2-3 miles on switchbacks to Bonanza Peak.

Mile 9: Wood Spring. A metal box, which is now rusted, acts as a seasonal water source. Don't rely on it during the summer months. About 40 yards after it, the trail forks. If you follow the left fork, it will lead across a small gully and into an area with few campsites. The right fork continues onto the trail.

Mile 10.5: Keep a close eye out for the Bonanza Peak Summit Spur. There is a large kairn constructed where the peak use-trail begins. Kairns mark the way towards the summit, but there are many scrambling routes to reach the summit. At this point you can choose your own adventure. You'll see a green tin can at the peak.

Mile 10.5 to the end: If your goal isn't Bonanza Peak, you'll stay on the trail as it meanders around the foot of the mountain. The trail here is mostly rolling, though much flatter than the beginning. The trail ends at the Northern Bonanza Peak Trailhead.

This route is a bit more remote than say the Mt Charleston South/North Loop. I didn't run into any fellow hikers on my Sunday outing. When I made this trip in December, about 1/3 of the trail was snow covered (average 3-4 inches of snow). I had to go off trail for about a total of 1 mile or so to avoid the pockets of deeper (6-12 in) of snow.


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1,744 Since Sep 29, 2016
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If you enjoy a challenge, want a trail that doesn't see a lot of people, and don't really mind backpacking, I suggest at least doing a thru hike of this trail. After exiting the Bristlecone trail, you are met with 4-5 switch backs right off the bat, that take you into the official "Wilderness." From here on out, the views are gorgeous now matter where you look. There are a few places where you have to really look in order to figure out where the trail goes. Once such place is the McFarland peak use-trail. I was enticed by the kairn in the distance and decided to follow it. This lead to McFarland peak. If I had taken a few more second to look to my left, disregarding the kairn, I would have realized that the trail descended downward. If you do take a pitstop at McFarland, the trail has been pretty well kairned, but don't be afraid of level 3 rock scrambling. This only happens towards the top of the gully and is the most difficult part of the climb. Just make sure to stay on the left side of the gully, as it's the easiest way up. Campsites: There are a few campsites scattered throughout the area. One is about 4 miles in along a ridgeline, shortly after ascending a few fairly steep switchbacks. There is also one that has been used about a mile before Wood Spring. Wood spring had two campsites, which I could see, one of which has been used as a designated wild horse bathroom. That being said, we camped at the other campsite in the area. A few wild horses decided to visit us that night and hang around our tent. There is a campsite about 1 mile before bonanza peak and a shelter that someone had constructed. There is also a campsite at the Bonanza Peak junction with great views shortly afterwards. All and all, it was a beautiful trail with a lot of up and down. A thru hike is roughly 18.5 miles (If you don't go to McFarland) and the views are gorgeous. Worth doing at least once. Bird and Hike has a pretty good description of the whole trail. :) Jul 9, 2018

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