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Big Falls at Mt. Charleston
Big Falls is a trail located on Mt. Charleston that ends with, well, a big waterfall as the name would say.
While most people have heard of Mary Jane Falls, which happens to share a trail with big falls, Big Falls is the older brother and is honestly a little bit cooler than Mary Jane Falls.
For most of this post, I will be comparing Mary Jane Falls to Big Falls to kind of give you a reference point since it seems like more people have done Mary Jane Falls.
RELATED ARTICLE>> Hiking Mary Jane Falls
With this hike being done in June, snow and ice weren’t as much of an issue than it would be in the winter and spring months. Be sure to adjust based on when you go and the weather conditions of that day.
Given that two trails share the same path, making sure you go the right way is important, and thankfully pretty easy in this case.
The break off for the two trails is marked by a massive 20+ foot log that has been there for as long as I’ve been hiking Mt. Charleston. Once you find the log, simply go over it and to the left to get to Big Falls. If you go right, you’ll end up at the Mary Jane Falls switchbacks.
A trip to Big Falls is about 3.18 miles round trip which is similar to that of Mary Jane Falls.
This is one of the main differences between Mary Jane Falls and Big Falls. While Mary Jane Falls has about 900 feet of elevation gain, Big Falls has around 1500.
While it may seem like the extra 600 feet would make the hike harder, I actually prefer the hike to Big Falls because there aren’t any switchbacks that go straight up, it’s just a slight incline the entire way.
Hiking Big Falls took me about 3 and a half hours but I attribute some of that time to spending a bit at the top as well as walking at a below average speed most of the way up. If you’re making good time, the hike should probably take around 3 hours.
The difficulty of this trail can vary greatly between hikers depending on how well they can handle the elevation of Mt. Charleston.
If the elevation isn’t a problem for you, this hike should be a relatively easy one to complete.
If the elevation does tend to get to you, it should still be a pretty straight forward hike with just a few more stops to try and catch your breath along the way.
Big Falls trail consists mainly of a dirt trail that leads into a stream, with some bigger rocks and boulders, which you will follow all the way up to the waterfall.
If you prefer to stay dry and away from the boulders for as long as you can, the dirt trail seemed to follow the stream on the right side.
If you want to be a little more adventurous, hop straight into the stream and follow it all the way up. Both trails will eventually merge into one as you get closer to the top but going up the stream path will allow for more scrambling and water play.
Food and Water Requirements:
Even though Mt. Charleston is cooler than Las Vegas by about 15 to 20 degrees, don’t let it trick you into thinking you need less water than you would normally take on a hike.
On hikes like these, which means not terribly hard or long, I will bring about 2 liters even though I may not need it. While hiking Big Falls, I went through maybe a liter of water.
As far as food and snacks go, try to pack something with a little more carbs than you would on say a Red Rock hike. The reason I say this is because your body is working harder and burning more calories trying to get air, pump blood, and move due to the elevation.
Now I’m not saying bring a big bowl of pasta or anything, just that you should be mindful of the extra energy spent and adjust accordingly.
RELATED ARTICLE>> Mt. Charleston Picnic Areas
What To Pack:
When it comes to packing for Big Falls, a backpack to hold all of your stuff is great because this trail tends to be a little more slippery and hands-on if you take the stream route.
A hiking boot for ankle support on the bigger rocks is preferred over a tennis shoe because a rolled ankle equals a bad time. Big Falls can be done in tennis shoes, I’m just the kind of person that will hike any and every trail with boots.
With Mt. Charleston being cooler as stated before, you may feel like sunscreen isn’t as important, but it is. Most of the hike is open and exposed to the sun until the afternoon when the sun sets behind the mountains.
Besides a backpack, water, a good hiking shoe or boot, and sun protection, it’s really up to you on what you bring since this hike doesn’t require any special gear to complete. If you hike in the cooler months, extra layers will be needed as well as crampons to help with the ice that tends to build up.
The Big Falls trail shares a parking lot with Mary Jane Falls which means that if you’ve done Mary Jane Falls, then you know what to expect.
If you haven’t done Mary Jane Falls or just forgot, the trailhead has a bathroom for men and women, trashcans at the start, and a couple of parking lots. There are no trashcans or bathrooms on the trail so bring back what you brought in and dispose of it at the provided trashcans.
Dogs are allowed on the trail as long as they are on a leash and as long as you pick up after your dog.
Big Falls at Mt. Charleston
My parents raised me to appreciate nature and how to enjoy it with family and friends. Group camping trips, family hikes, and long ski weeks are what I grew up enjoying.
As an adult, I now focus on more travel to backcountry areas to enjoy vistas and formations that not many get to see, trails that are on and off the beaten path, and camping.