Spring Mountains Visitor Gateway Complex


U.S. Forest Service


Construction Cost
$29 million

Completion Date
June 2015

Spring Mountains Visitor Gateway Complex

Mount Charleston

The Spring Mountains Visitor Gateway campus is anchored by a beautiful new visitor center and encompasses an education building, two amphitheaters, covered group picnic sites, nine bridges over small ravines, and more than 40 miles of adjoining new trails. Located just 30 minutes from downtown Las Vegas, the 128-acre development by the U.S. Forest Service will help people deepen their appreciation of the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area and better experience it in environmentally sustainable ways, while engaging them as advocates for the preservation of natural environments globally.

The visitor center building provides a convenient and soothing space for patrons to learn about the geography, history, and ecology of the park before they begin their exploration of the rugged mountains. Inside, they are offered scientific exhibits, a place to refresh, and breathtaking views. One of the challenges for the structural engineer was to create a structural frame that handles the area’s high seismicity and heavy snowfalls, yet is subtle enough to offer views to the nearby mountains through a towering and expansive curved glass wall on its southern face. The structure itself is mostly exposed to view, expressing the natural beauty of the materials, which complement the mountain vistas and harmonize the building with its natural environment. Four different structural systems — which use reinforced concrete, structural steel, glulam beams, laminated wood decking, and masonry perimeter walls clad in native stone — blend into a cohesive, minimalist structure. The 30-ft tall central chimney, both a functional and beautiful architectural feature of the central stone fireplace, is designed as a concrete box shear wall that resists earthquake forces. The building capitalizes on multiple smart building technologies to be highly energy-efficient. Stone boulders, bristle cone pine trunks, and other materials from the immediate environs were sensitively reused throughout the campus.

The project reclaimed a previously developed but deteriorated private site, converting it into a beautiful, environmentally sensitive public venue that elevates travelers’ perceptions of what a U.S. Forest Service facility can offer. The recreation area draws one million visitors per year and by 2019, one hundred thousand annually are expected to begin or end their journey at the Gateway and Visitor Center.