Some intrepid Southern Nevadans choose paths of darkness in their bid to keep hiking adventures alive during sizzling summer months.
A preferred night-hiking venue is Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area on the southern end of the Las Vegas Valley. The views of the Strip are spectacular, and the paths above Anthem Hills neighborhoods are wide and manageable enough to cross the dusty, uneven Mojave Desert terrain with confidence. Previous daylight experience hiking in the area will make trekkers more comfortable with the idea of headlamp light and moonbeams helping to guide their way in the dark.
The moon will be full on July 13 and Aug. 11, and there’s magic in watching the full moon rise above the ridgeline and then shine its light for trail navigation. Familiar Sloan Canyon trails reveal unfamiliar sounds and sights at night, such as the distinctive birdcall of a poorwill and the frenetic scurrying of bug-eyed desert kangaroo rats. Desert hairy scorpions can be spotted, and rattlesnake encounters are a possibility (an unfortunate one for any worriers in the trekking party).
Moonlight casts playful shadows of occasional Joshua trees and Mojave yuccas found along the trails. Bats fly about. Coyotes howl. Tranquility and quiet mix with nervousness about putting one foot in front of the other in the dark.
Nighttime temperatures can remain in the 90s during July and August, but at least the blistering sun doesn’t beat down on hikers. A good time to start a night hike is a half-hour before sunset, especially if there’s a wispy layer of unthreatening clouds on the western horizon. Sunsets can be stunningly gorgeous on trails above the Shadow Canyon and Anthem East trailheads, both of which grant hikers access to Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area and its sparkling views of the Strip.
There are a few things night hikers should check off their lists before hitting the trail: sturdy hiking shoes (loose rocks are part of desert trail life), hiking poles or walking sticks, plenty of water, snacks (not just trail mix and turkey jerky; include treats like cookies and chocolate), a pair of binoculars to see craters on the moon, headlamps and a second reliable source of light, such as a flashlight. Some headlamps have a red light feature, which adds illumination but allows eyes to remain adjusted to the dark.