About Big Falls
Big Falls could very well be the most impressive of the waterfalls in the Mt Charleston area and Las Vegas vicinity for that matter.
Directly opposite the head of Kyle Canyon was the nearby Mary Jane Falls, which gets the majority of the attention and trail signage mostly because of its size and longevity of flow.
That said, Big Falls was quite an elusive waterfall as it hid within a shaded canyon not visible until you’re either close to the base of Mary Jane Falls, or you make the scramble to reach it.
Anyways, when it would flow, Big Falls seemed to feature a dramatic 150-200ft straight drop (estimated using Gaia GPS), which made it contrast with the Mary Jane Falls experience.
With that other waterfall, it tended to consist more of a series of segmented perennial spring-fed streams hugging the steep cliffs there while leaving wet streaks on their paths.
Unfortunately, as you can see in the photo above, Big Falls was a seasonal waterfall, and mid-August was too late in the year to see it perform.
At least now that I’ve finally made it to this waterfall and know what to expect, I do anticipate coming back here earlier in the Summer or late Spring when it should be performing (assuming there was a decent Winter snow pack).
Speaking of accessing Big Falls, this hike shared the Mary Jane Falls Trailhead as well as the first 0.7 miles (and 350ft ascent) of the Mary Jane Falls Trail.
Then, the hike eventually degenerated into a stream scramble with some degree of bouldering and route-finding with some stinging nettle exposure.
My GPS logs said that I went at least an additional 0.8-mile (with 500ft of total ascent) beyond the departure point from the Mary Jane Falls Trail.
Thus, overall, I had gone at least 3 miles round-trip, but up to 3.4 miles in total if you count all the route-finding.
Subtracting out the time I spent pursuing Mary Jane Falls, my trip logs suggested that it would take me around 2-2.5 hours total if I only targeted a visit to Big Falls.
The Big Falls Adventure Description
Starting from the Mary Jane Falls Trailhead Parking Lot, I proceeded up the wide, gently ascending trail as if I was hiking to the Mary Jane Falls for the first 0.7-mile.
After roughly 10-15 minutes of hiking, I reached an unsigned fork where there was a fallen log essentially covering the wider trail to the left while the Mary Jane Falls Trail continued up switchbacks to the right.
At this point, I left the Mary Jane Falls Trail, which followed what seemed to be some well-used use-trails.
While there were lots of false trails deviating from this path, I stuck with the most obvious path, which went ascended beneath a fallen tree with lots of graffiti on it.
Then, the path curved to the left as it went past some signs of trail maintenance (from cut logs) and stock usage (from horse scat).
In around 500ft or so, the use-trail then went in between two dry washes on a narrow path flanked by a grove of shrubs.
Eventually, this path led into the wash on the left side (instead of the wash on the right side, which seemed to have gotten some people lost in the past).
The use-trail pretty much disappeared into the wash at around 0.3-mile from the point I departed from the Mary Jane Falls Trail.
The higher up the wash I went in the wash, the more bouldering and scrambling over deadfalls were involved.
Roughly 0.6-mile from the Mary Jane Falls Trail departure point (or another 0.3-mile upstream of the start of the stream scramble), I reached an imposing boulder obstacle with some fallen logs seemingly stacked against it.
While some people might be able to daringly scramble up the fallen logs to scale this boulder obstacle, I managed to backtrack and find a steep path on the right side of the wash as I faced downstream.
This detour climbed onto a ledge that ultimately got me onto another use-trail just clinging to the stinging-nettle-filled slope just above the top of the boulder obstacle.
Continuing further upstream, it was pretty much a pick-your-own-adventure of route-finding where I could have chosen to follow a narrow ledge-clinging path straight ahead or doing the rough but direct stream scramble in the wash itself.
I even noticed other trails climbing up the other side of the wash in an effort to avoid both the bouldering and perhaps minimize the stinging nettle exposure.
No matter which way you go, there are pros and cons to each one, but the bottom line was that I had to keep pushing further upstream to go the final 1/4-mile to the base of Big Falls.
Although Big Falls didn’t get nearly the amount of foot traffic that Mary Jane Falls would get, it still seemed like quite a few people know about this place.
That said, when I visited the falls in August 2020, I was all alone until I started to head back out.
Unfortunately, I must have been gotten some stinging nettle exposure from this hike because I endured at least 2 days after the end of the trip of a burning sensation on my ankles, especially when exposed to warm water (like in a hot shower).
Therefore, I’d definitely recommend wearing sturdy hiking boots as well as long sleeves and long pants given the rough nature of this adventure.
Big Falls resides in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest near Las Vegas in Clark County, Nevada. It is administered by the USDA Forest Service. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, you can try visiting their website.
To reach Big Falls, I needed to start from the Mary Jane Falls Trailhead. So to get there from the Las Vegas Strip, I drove onto the I-15 north towards the US95 Freeway heading west.
I then followed the US95 for about 16 miles before turning left onto Kyle Canyon Rd.
Then, I drove on Kyle Canyon Rd (NV-157) for about 20 miles going through the village of Mt Charleston then leaving the NV-157 by turning right onto Echo Drive.
By this point, there was a brown sign for Trail Canyon and Mary Jane Falls directing me to turn this way at this point.
Continuing another 0.4 miles on Echo Drive, I then turned left onto unpaved Mary Jane Falls Rd (as directed by another brown sign), where I drove the final quarter-mile to the big parking lot at road’s end.
Overall, this 44-mile drive took me around an hour after leaving the New York New York Hotel and Casino.
To give you some context, Las Vegas was about 265 miles (about 4 hours drive; possibly more with traffic and drivers ignorant of the keep right except to pass highway etiquette) northeast of Los Angeles, California, 121 miles (2 hours drive) southeast of Beatty (near Furnace Creek in Death Valley), 99 miles (over 90 minutes drive) north of Laughlin, 123 miles (about 2 hours drive) southwest of St George, Utah, 276 miles (about 4.5 hours drive) west of Page, Arizona, and 424 miles (about 6 hours drive) southwest of Salt Lake City, Utah.
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