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Get lost (practically) in your own backyard

Christopher Smith

As I write this, the April 2011 feature, “ 15 Great Hikes (Practically) in your own backyard,” is No. 1 on the list of most-viewed articles at That’s not surprising; it occupies a more-or-less permanent spot in the top five, attesting to just how popular hiking is with our readers.

Case in point: My former Nevada Public Radio colleague Lisa Davis and her husband took a copy of the print issue, back when it was still hot off the presses, out to Red Rock to try to hike No. 7, Las Vegas Overlook (aka Muffin Ridge). As the writer of that piece, I described it as an enticing jaunt, near the western edge of town and accessible to most ability levels. Unfortunately, Lisa and her husband found the directions, ahem, vague relative to the terrain spread out before them. Wandering up one of a few possible trails, looking for the way to the summit, they came across another couple … also lost and clutching their copy of Desert Companion.

Returning to the office on Monday, Lisa shared her adventure with Andrew Kiraly, my editor. I was freelancing then, but soon after I came on board as a staff writer in early 2014, we were spit-balling ideas for that year’s outdoors issue, and the unfortunate Muffin Ridge incident came up. My reply was a combination of, “Oh, crap!” and “Come on, how hard could it be?”

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I remember pitching that story way back when. As a non-native and pretty frequent hiker myself, I’d been impressed by Las Vegas’ abundance of trails a short drive from neighborhoods. Andrew liked the idea, but there were some spots around the valley that neither he nor I had explored personally, and we wanted to include something for everyone. Summerlin was one of them, so I used research, rather than experience, to come up with the nearby Las Vegas Overlook.

Flash forward to last weekend. My husband and I were looking for a 5- to 10-mile hike with a couple thousand feet of elevation gain. The weather was cool enough to go to Red Rock, and I remembered Muffin Ridge. My chance at vindication had arrived!

I’ll cut right to the case: We got lost. Not once, but twice — first, back-tracking to make sure we were on the trail leading to the clockwise version of the hike, and a second time by turning left down a wash that leads around the base of Blue Diamond hill instead of up it. Lucky for us, we stumbled on three friendly retirees, Jack, Mike and Richard, from the Around the Bend hiking club, who led us up to the summit and back down the canyon to our car.

Abating the crow taste in my mouth somewhat, they told me that the BLM recently organized a hike up to Muffin Ridge. The hike leader mistakenly led a large group of people into a canyon with no outlet, causing them to get stuck and call for help. According to them, most people get lost on that hike.

In Muffin Ridge’s (and my) defense, it definitely is one of Las Vegas’ best hikes. Just as I said back in 2011, it offers spectacular views of both the city and Red Rock. And the canyons on the northeast side of Blue Diamond Hill are filled with interesting plants and geology. I wouldn’t do it in summer — there’s too little shade — but I highly recommend heading out to the west edge of town and trying hike No. 7 for yourself. With a guide. A live one, that is.

Desert Companion welcomed Heidi Kyser as staff writer in January 2014. In 2018, she was promoted to senior writer and producer, working for both DC and State of Nevada. She produced KNPR’s first podcast, the Edward R. Murrow Regional Award-winning Native Nevada, in 2020. The following year, she returned her focus full-time to Desert Companion, becoming Deputy Editor, which meant she was next in line to take over when longtime editor Andrew Kiraly left in July 2022.