Big Falls

Mt Charleston / Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest / Spring Mountains National Recreation Area / Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

About Big Falls


Hiking Distance: 3.2 miles round trip (0.8-mile round-trip stream scramble)
Suggested Time: 2.5-3 hours

Date first visited: 2020-08-11
Date last visited: 2020-08-11

Waterfall Latitude: 36.26897
Waterfall Longitude: -115.67836

Waterfaller Newsletter

Get over the hump of the mid-week blues! Subscribe and get exclusive curated content delivered to your inbox every Wednesday.

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.

Mt_Charleston_282_08112020 - Big Falls
Big Falls

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.

Mt_Charleston_217_04222017 - Looking towards Big Falls in late April 2017, which only revealed itself across Kyle Canyon once I was close to the base of Mary Jane Falls. It was hidden further down Kyle Canyon and through most of the Mary Jane Falls hike
Looking towards Big Falls in late April 2017, which only revealed itself across Kyle Canyon once I was close to the base of Mary Jane Falls. It was hidden further down Kyle Canyon and through most of the Mary Jane Falls hike

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.

Mt_Charleston_002_08112020 - Big Falls shares the same trailhead as that of the Mary Jane Falls Trail
Big Falls shares the same trailhead as that of 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.

Mt_Charleston_362_08112020 - Following the use-trail to Big Falls, which went under this fallen tree that was tagged with graffiti
Following the use-trail to Big Falls, which went under this fallen tree that was tagged with graffiti

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.

Mt_Charleston_352_08112020 - Looking back at a bush-fringed section of the use-trail that went in between a pair of dry washes on the way to Big Falls
Looking back at a bush-fringed section of the use-trail that went in between a pair of dry washes on the way to Big Falls

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.

Mt_Charleston_248_08112020 - This was the imposing boulder obstacle that turned me back in search of a detour to get around it
This was the imposing boulder obstacle that turned me back in search of a detour to get around 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.

Mt_Charleston_261_08112020 - Once I got past the big boulder obstacle, the remainder of the Big Falls stream scramble was a confusing blend of use-trails through stinging nettle, spur trails into awkward stream and deadfall scrambles, and eroded ledge trails trying to avoid these things
Once I got past the big boulder obstacle, the remainder of the Big Falls stream scramble was a confusing blend of use-trails through stinging nettle, spur trails into awkward stream and deadfall scrambles, and eroded ledge trails trying to avoid these things

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).

Mt_Charleston_319_08112020 - Close-up look at what I believe are some of the stinging nettle that was growing everywhere in the wash leading up to Big Falls
Close-up look at what I believe are some of the stinging nettle that was growing everywhere in the wash leading up to Big Falls

Therefore, I’d definitely recommend wearing sturdy hiking boots as well as long sleeves and long pants given the rough nature of this adventure.

Authorities

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.

Mt_Charleston_002_08112020 - It was about 6:50am when I arrived at the Mary Jane Falls Trailhead Parking Lot on my August 2020 hike to both Mary Jane Falls and Big Falls
Mt_Charleston_010_08112020 - Going up the familiar wide trail leading about 0.7-mile to the unsigned fork which marked the departure point from the Mary Jane Falls Trail to pursue Big Falls
Mt_Charleston_020_08112020 - This was the fallen log that acted as the departure point where I went left behind the log to pursue Big Falls.  The Mary Jane Falls Trail continued on the right
Mt_Charleston_194_08112020 - Looking back at the departure point for the Big Falls scramble after having visited Mary Jane Falls. By the way, if you're pursuing Big Falls and you find yourself hiking up switchbacks, then that means you're headed to Mary Jane Falls and not Big Falls
Mt_Charleston_197_08112020 - Following some obvious use-trails in pursuit of Big Falls though there were plenty of false trails branching from it
Mt_Charleston_200_08112020 - Seeing horse scat on the use-trail for Big Falls meant that there was some stock use here, and that this trail wasn't as obscure and unmaintained as I had thought (at least as of my visit in August 2020)
Mt_Charleston_358_08112020 - While following the use-trails to Big Falls, I saw cut logs like these, which further reinforced the notion that this use-trail wasn't as unmaintained or unsanctioned as I had originally thought
Mt_Charleston_203_08112020 - Looking towards the hidden canyon containing Big Falls as I was following the use-trail during my August 2020 visit. Notice the big protruding cliff on the left was the main reason why Big Falls was hidden from view throughout Kyle Canyon except for at the base of Mary Jane Falls or up the canyon itself
Mt_Charleston_205_08112020 - Following the use-trail towards this crossing of a wash that came in from the right.  The use-trail continued straight ahead into a section between two washes flanked by hard shrubs as seen during my August 2020 hike
Mt_Charleston_206_08112020 - Ascending the use-trail between these hard shrubs, which themselves were between a pair of washes on my August 2020 hike to Big Falls
Mt_Charleston_210_08112020 - The use-trail eventually brought me into the hidden canyon that Big Falls was hiding within, but I still followed the use-trail for as long as I could on my August 2020 visit
Mt_Charleston_212_08112020 - Still following the use-trail in pursuit of Big Falls. Indeed, the use-trail seemed to go on for a surprising amount of time as I still didn't need to drop into the wash at this point during my August 2020 adventure
Mt_Charleston_215_08112020 - This was the point at which the use-trail started to disappear and the remainder of the adventure to Big Falls was basically a stream scramble. This was roughly 0.3-mile from the departure point from the Mary Jane Falls Trail
Mt_Charleston_217_08112020 - The Big Falls use-trail might reappear then disappear again inside the wash
Mt_Charleston_224_08112020 - The boulder scramble in the wash leading up to Big Falls as of my August 2020 visit
Mt_Charleston_231_08112020 - Looking back across the head of Kyle Canyon towards Mary Jane Falls from the wash leading up to Big Falls in August 2020
Mt_Charleston_235_08112020 - Continuing the stream scramble up the wash to Big Falls, where I was increasingly encountering boulders, deadfall, and stinging nettle during my August 2020 hike
Mt_Charleston_238_08112020 - This was a part where the deadfall were really making the stream scramble a bit tricky during my August 2020 adventure
Mt_Charleston_239_08112020 - Still scrambling up the wash in pursuit of Big Falls, where progress was noticeably way slower than it was hiking on the use-trail on my August 2020 adventure
Mt_Charleston_245_08112020 - Approaching the imposing boulder obstacle in the wash leading up to Big Falls during my August 2020 visit
Mt_Charleston_250_08112020 - As I backtracked from the imposing boulder obstacle, I noticed this scrambling path rising to my right as seen in August 2020
Mt_Charleston_253_08112020 - As I was backtracking from the imposing boulder obstacle, I looked across towards the head of Kyle Canyon where it looked like there was another spring-fed Mary Jane Falls-like streak on the wall towards the bottom of this photo taken in August 2020
Mt_Charleston_254_08112020 - During the detour to get around the imposing boulder obstacle, I had to climb up this section to keep going towards Big Falls in August 2020
Mt_Charleston_256_08112020 - Looking down into the wash above the imposing boulder obstacle while continuing the last quarter-mile of the scramble to the base of Big Falls
Mt_Charleston_264_08112020 - Looking back at the narrow scrambling path that I took to get around the imposing boulder obstacle to continue to Big Falls during my August 2020 adventure
Mt_Charleston_271_08112020 - This trail of use continued towards Big Falls, but it was flanked by lots of stinging nettle during my August 2020 visit
Mt_Charleston_273_08112020 - Continuing towards another route-finding part of the Big Falls scramble where it wasn't clear what was the easiest way to proceed on my August 2020 hike
Mt_Charleston_275_08112020 - Getting close to the end of the stream wash scramble as I could start to see Big Falls up ahead during my visit in August 2020
Mt_Charleston_278_08112020 - Going around the final bend that concealed Big Falls during my August 2020 visit
Mt_Charleston_279_08112020 - Finally making it to the base of Big Falls on my August 2020 adventure, but as you can see, it wasn't flowing this late into Summer
Mt_Charleston_291_08112020 - Looking right at the stains left behind by the usual flow of Big Falls as seen in August 2020
Mt_Charleston_296_08112020 - Closer look towards the base of Big Falls, which was dry as of August 2020
Mt_Charleston_299_08112020 - Looking up towards the brink of Big Falls from right at its base during my August 2020 visit
Mt_Charleston_300_08112020 - Looking up towards this worrisome slab of cliff that has cracks and appears that it could eventually flake off at some point as seen during my visit in August 2020
Mt_Charleston_305_08112020 - Looking across Kyle Canyon towards Mary Jane Falls as I was heading back from Big Falls in August 2020
Mt_Charleston_311_08112020 - Context of the stream scramble on the way back from Big Falls with Mary Jane Falls across Kyle Canyon as seen in August 2020
Mt_Charleston_320_08112020 - Closeup look at what I suspected to be the ubiquitous stinging nettle that I encountered lots of during my Big Falls scramble in August 2020
Mt_Charleston_323_08112020 - Following this false use-trail on the way back to the imposing boulder obstacle from Big Falls thinking that it might have been an easier way back during my visit in August 2020
Mt_Charleston_326_08112020 - That false use-trail ultimately took me back to the top of the imposing boulder obstacle where I had to do some awkward scrambling to get across its top during my August 2020 adventure
Mt_Charleston_327_08112020 - Closeup look at that jumble of deadfalls and boulders above the imposing boulder obstacle that the false trail had brought me to on the way back from Big Falls in August 2020
Mt_Charleston_332_08112020 - Looking back at the imposing boulder obstacle after returning to the wash downstream of it. At the same time, there were other hikers also turned back by that obstacle. These were the first people I encountered while doing the Big Falls scramble in August 2020
Mt_Charleston_334_08112020 - The other group figured out how to get past the imposing boulder obstacle as I headed back in August 2020
Mt_Charleston_343_08112020 - Encountering other people as I headed back from Big Falls during my August 2020 visit. So clearly, this place wasn't as lightly-used or unknown as one would think
Mt_Charleston_349_08112020 - Finally regaining the use-trail as I was returning from Big Falls, so progress was pretty quick from here on out during my adventure in August 2020
Mt_Charleston_351_08112020 - Looking down Kyle Canyon as I was heading back to the Mary Jane Falls Trail from Big Falls in August 2020
Mt_Charleston_368_08112020 - Continuing to follow the use-trail back to the Mary Jane Falls Trail towards the tail end of my adventure in August 2020
Mt_Charleston_372_08112020 - Back on the Mary Jane Falls Trail where there were a lot more people going the other way on my visit in August 2020
Mt_Charleston_376_08112020 - Finally making it back to the Mary Jane Falls Trailhead thereby ending my adventure taking in both Mary Jane Falls and Big Falls in August 2020

join-booking-970x240-1.jpg


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.

Mt_Charleston_004_iPhone_08112020 - Driving up the Kyle Canyon Road towards Mt Charleston
Driving up the Kyle Canyon Road towards Mt Charleston

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.

Mt_Charleston_378_08112020 - Looking back at the very busy trailhead parking lot for the Mary Jane Falls and Big Falls hike when I came back after completing them in August 2020
Looking back at the very busy trailhead parking lot for the Mary Jane Falls and Big Falls hike when I came back after completing them in August 2020

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.

Semi-circular sweep starting with Mary Jane Falls across the canyon before panning down the Big Falls, which was dry


Examining Big Falls from right at its base

Related Top 10 Lists

No Posts Found

Trip Planning Resources


Tagged with: mt charleston, humboldt-toiyabe national forest, spring mountains, las vegas, kyle canyon, mary jane falls



Visitor Comments:

No users have replied to the content on this page


Share your thoughts about what you've read on this page

You must be logged in to submit content. Refresh this page after you have logged in.

Visitor Reviews of this Waterfall:

No users have submitted a write-up/review of this waterfall


Have you been to a waterfall? Submit a write-up/review and share your experiences or impressions

Review A Waterfall

Nearest Waterfalls

The Waterfaller Newsletter

The Waterfaller Newsletter is where we curate the wealth of information on the World of Waterfalls website and deliver it to you in bite-sized chunks in your email inbox. You'll also get exclusive content like...

  • Waterfall Wednesdays
  • Insider Tips
  • User-submitted Waterfall Write-up of the Month
  • and the latest news and updates both within the website as well as around the wonderful world of waterfalls
Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
Read More About Johnny | A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls.