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Rainbow Mountain Wilderness

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The last rays of light illuminate the peaks of Rainbow Mountain and Bridge Mountain.
Library image #4084: The last rays of light illuminate the peaks of Rainbow Mountain and Bridge Mountain.


The United States Congress designated the Rainbow Mountain Wilderness (map) in 2002 and it now has a total of 24,783 acres. All of this wilderness is located in Nevada and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service. The Rainbow Mountain Wilderness is bordered by the La Madre Mountain Wilderness to the north.


Although this area is significantly smaller than the adjacent Mt. Charleston Wilderness and La Madre Mountain Wilderness, the terrain consists of beautiful vertical red and buff sandstone cliffs, capped by limestone in some areas, that are deeply incised by narrow, twisting canyons carpeted with vegetation. The area contains one perennial stream. Elevations range from 4,400 feet to some of the high points including Mount Wilson at 7,070 feet and Rainbow Mountain at 6,924 feet in elevation. This wilderness is located approximately 12 miles west of Las Vegas, Nevada, and is jointly managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service.

Here you will find Jurassic sandstone cliffs with great examples of cross-bedding, which reveals their origin as sand dunes. You can also find older limestone that has been thrust over the younger sandstone. The geologic scenery of the Wilderness is associated with the Keystone Thrust which extends for more than 45 miles through the Spring Mountains.

The range in elevation in this area provides for a variety of life zones. Here you can find ponderosa pine, pinyon pine, juniper, ash, manzanita, silk tassel, bitterbush, apache plume, scrub oak, willow, and hackberry. This range in habitat and the area's unique geology and microclimates support several endemic plant communities, plants that are found no where else in the world.

With a keen eye you can spot desert bighorn sheep, mule deer, mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes, gray foxes, ringtails, rock squirrels, white-tailed antelope squirrels, and Merriam's kangaroo rats. You may also spot golden eagles, red-tailed hawks, Cooper's hawks, great horned owls, Anna's hummingbirds, yellow warblers, western tanagers, and black-throated gray warblers.

Evidence of Prehistoric culture adds to the uniqueness of this wilderness area. Please preserve and protect these sensitive resources.

Planning to Visit the Rainbow Mountain Wilderness?

Leave No Trace

How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the Rainbow Mountain Wilderness.
  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors
For more information on Leave No Trace, Visit the Leave No Trace, Inc. website.

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