Las Vegas Sun

December 8, 2023

Ask Mr. Sun:

Why doesn’t anyone call Sunrise Mountain by its real name?

Sun Coverage

Dear Mr. Sun,

You recently answered a question that included a reference to Sunrise Mountain. Most longtime Las Vegans know it’s really named Frenchman Mountain. Why doesn’t anyone call it by its real name?


The most prominent mountain bordering the valley on the east — the larger of two peaks straddling Lake Mead Boulevard — is officially named Frenchman Mountain. Sunrise is the smaller (by about 700 feet) and northernmost of the two.

Early newspaper reporters didn’t confuse the names. In 1912 and 1914 articles, the Las Vegas Age newspaper referred to the larger mountain as “Frenchman’s Hills” and the smaller peak as “Sunrise.”

Maps and atlases never confused the two either, according to historians.

But that hasn’t kept most Las Vegans — with the exception of a few didacts — from referring to the larger peak as Sunrise Mountain.

Guy Rocha, the former state archivist, said that when he was growing up in Las Vegas in the 1950s, everyone called the bigger mountain Sunrise. “As a boy I climbed up to it — that mountain was Sunrise Mountain,” he said.

In the early 1970s Helen Carlson’s “Nevada Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary” noted that the larger peak is officially Frenchman, but also known as Sunrise.

Maybe it was inevitable there would be confusion surrounding the mountain’s name.

Frenchman Mountain was named for Paul Watelet, a European immigrant who developed a mine there following reports of a 1912 gold strike. Watelet, however, was a Belgian, whom locals mistakenly believed was from France.

Belgian Mountain anyone?

Questions for Mr. Sun can be sent to [email protected].

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