FATMAP difficulty grade
The Mount Charleston area is Las Vegas's bonafide big mountain shuttle zone.
While you won't find any true long-distance shuttles with dozens of miles of singletrack and over a vertical mile of descending, you can still shred down a cool 2,000 vertical feet in a few minutes on several steep shots of singletrack.
If, however, you don't have a shuttle vehicle or you prefer to pedal up, you can still create a great loop thanks to several well-graded climbing trails. The best way up the mountain follows Lower Showgirl -> Tin Can Alley -> Upper Showgirl.
Lower Showgirl is a well-graded singletrack that's benched into the sides of the small arroyos down low and into the mountain ridge higher up.
With a very manageable grade and a smooth trail tread, it's an eminently climbable trail and doesn't see too much downhill traffic. Lower Showgirl connects into Tin Can Alley, which may be a bit rougher and more difficult to climb, and does see more downhill bike traffic.
So, when you reach the turn-off to Upper Showgirl, opt for that trail instead. Upper Showgirl is a true singletrack gem! Winding through formidable trees in a high elevation climate zone, this delightfully smooth and well-built bench cut trail doesn't see much traffic, which is a real shame.
Yes, you'll have to pedal some pavement after finishing Upper Showgirl to reach Chutes and Ladders, but it's well-worth it. Arguably the prime route down the mountain begins on the Chutes and Ladders Trail and finishes on Tin Can Alley.
Chutes and Ladders begins steep and loose, dropping dramatically down an eroded fall line trail.
Turning through some bermed, eroded corners and plopping over drops and rock ledges, after a couple minutes, the Chutes quickly lead to the Ladders.
There's one substantial ladder drop that's about 8-10 feet tall, but it can be easily bypassed.
Below, there are several smaller, more manageable drop options, including a rock rollover followed by a small ladder bridge. The technical difficulty of Chutes and Ladders depends a bit on your perspective, but it's easy to make the argument for rating it a black diamond.
Normally a dark black diamond ride would get a "Severe" FATMAP difficulty rating, but due to the lack of technical challenge on Chutes and Ladders aside from the loose steepness and the mellowness of the rest of the ride, this route only gets a "Difficult" rating. After crossing the highway, there's a little more steep descending, and then the route mellows out as it hits Tin Can Alley.
There's nothing difficult on Tin Can Alley, but this great singletrack keeps the entertainment value high as it winds its way through the trees.
It quickly drops down a valley toward the final trailhead far below.
The trail tread is still loose, so sliding corners can definitely surprise you, but the grade is much flatter than the steep drop through the "Chutes" section up top. The final section of trail traverses the hillside on a delightful benchcut, popping out of the big trees into a high desert environment as it reaches the lower trailhead.