Riding bliss in Las Vegas

Lennard Zinn documents his ride from Boulder City, Nevada to Las Vegas during Interbike.

Ever had a roadrunner run alongside you on your bike? How about seeing jackrabbits, rattlesnakes, scorpions, redtail hawks, and ospreys while riding? Or a desert tortoise? I saw all of those except the tortoise this week on the Wetlands Park Trail, the River Mountain Loop Trail, and the Union Pacific Railroad Trail on the east side of Las Vegas (and I got to watch all of the traffic I was avoiding while on the I-215 trail).

The rattler and the scorpion were both dead, and I only saw a sign for the desert tortoise, but the long-legged, long-tailed, long-eared desert jackrabbit (as well as lots of brown cottontails), the roadrunner, and the raptors were moving fast. To see that much wildlife in the desert, one would normally have to suffer a lot more than simply surprising the animals by zooming around a corner on a paved bike path on a road bike; one would instead have to hike, mountain bike, or ride a horse in the blazing sun for hours to do so.

Admittedly, there was plenty of blazing sun on my ride, as temperatures were in the 90s with no perceptible humidity, but on a road bike on a paved trail, I was cooled by moving fast and was never far from places to obtain food and water. The suffering was a lot less — perhaps imperceptible.

This is possibly my last time ever riding in Las Vegas, now that Interbike is moving away, and I’m going to miss it, especially after finding these trails. Other than the first few times that Interbike had an Outdoor Demo at Bootleg Canyon above Boulder City, I have gotten to Boulder City by bike. To have Boulder be my riding destination, rather than my starting point at home, is a treat; even with temperatures approaching 100, I prefer it to the shuttle bus.

Most people’s experience of Las Vegas is innumerable massive, multi-lane roads full of cars, with frequent, slow traffic lights constantly impeding one’s progress. This was also my experience on the bike many times riding to and from Boulder City, with the added hazard at the end of the day of riding uphill on some giant, busy road as I headed due west into the setting sun with drivers coming up behind possibly unable to see me until it was too late.

So I started looking for alternatives, and I’ve found some great bike trails, some of which I wrote about a year ago. Many new ones have appeared during the time Interbike has been in Vegas. Since I might not ever get another chance, I wanted to do a huge loop entirely on bike paths to the Outdoor Demo this year, especially because the Demo itself has become so small. There is no way to escape traffic on bike paths near The Strip, but the rest of the ride was sheer bliss.

It could be worth your while to come to Las Vegas just to ride its trails, and it certainly is worth bringing a road bike if you are in Vegas for some other reason. (Maybe bring a mountain bike, too, for the trails at Bootleg Canyon, Calico Basin, and Blue Diamond.) You just might find bliss and see a lot of wildlife you might otherwise never see.

Check out my trip in these photos: