S(p)in City – Cycling Vegas: Hoover Dam and the Loop

Visiting Hoover Dam has been on my bucket list for a long time.  In fact, after visiting Vegas in 2010, I said that I have only two reasons to ever return: visit the dam and hike the desert.  On this ride I got 50% of my reasons to return.

Blogs and Key Links

Staging Point – Equestrian

Located near the Clark County Museum (a reference only fans of Pawn Stars would get); this is a large parking area in the 8-o’clock position of the River Mountains Loop Trail.  As it turns out, it is also a relatively high spot on the trail (635m) given the descent we experienced and the grinding ascent later in the day.

2014-10-31 - Equestrian Staging Area

2014-10-31 – Equestrian Staging Area

Descent Into Boulder and the Dam Ride

Riding clockwise along the River Mountain Loop, our general direction was toward Boulder Nevada.  The descent into the Hoover Dam saw a loss of more than 150M down to 387M at the top of the Dam.  En route, a section of the trail doubled as a flash flood spill way (aka skate-board turn pike).

2014-10-31 - Descent into the Hoover Dam via the spill way (aka turnpike)

2014-10-31 – Descent into the Hoover Dam via the spill way (aka turnpike)

The actual descent toward the dam included by-passing the new bridge, clearing a security check point and seeing the US-federal government fineness pull over a seemingly innocent looking car.  Both the ride and K-9 units were quite exciting.

2014-10-31 - The New Bridge

2014-10-31 – The New Bridge

2014-10-31 - Descent and the K-9 Unit

2014-10-31 – Descent and the K-9 Unit

2014-10-31 - From the Arizona Side

2014-10-31 – From the Arizona Side

Ascent Out of the Dam – the Climbing Begins

For every descent, there is usually an ascent; and despite delaying at dam level, we began to make our way up again.  Fortunately a parking garage and elevator shaved five-stories of climbing off of our return to the River Mountain Loop.  Unfortunately the rest was either ride or push; including the initial ramp from the parking garage to the Tunnels Trail.

2014-10-31 - Start of Tunnels Trail

2014-10-31 – Start of Tunnels Trail

Historic Railroad Tunnel Trail

According to its website, the Historic Railroad Tunnel Trail:

… the gravel Historic Railroad Tunnel Trail hugs the hills on the southern shoreline of vast Lake Mead. The rail-trail offers panoramic views of the manmade lake and snakes through five railroad tunnels on its way toward Hoover Dam.  After the dam was completed in 1935, the railroad ceased operation, and in 1962 the tracks were removed; the trail opened in 1995.

Riding on the rail way bed was fun but we were glad to be descending rather than trying to climb through the loose gravel.  Five tunnels give a brief respite from the heat and vistas down to Lake Mead were around most corners.

2014-10-31 - Leaving one Tunnel and Starting Another

2014-10-31 – Leaving one Tunnel and Starting Another

A quick snack at the campground just off the River Mountain Loop Trail brighten our spirits, fluids and energy levels.  Little did we know how much we would need of all three over the next few hours.

2014-10-31 - Lake Mead from the Campground

2014-10-31 – Lake Mead from the Campground

River Mountain Loop Trail

After the campground, civilization quickly fell away (well except for the excellent asphalt trail we were riding on) to be replaced by desert vistas and rocks.  Also making its presence known were long hill climbs up and out of the Lake Mead valley.  Making the effort more challenging were the +30C temperatures which saw water being sweated out faster than it could be consumed.

2014-10-31 - The Desert and the Ascent

2014-10-31 – The Desert and the Ascent

Completing the River Mountains Loop Trail

Six hours, about 4 litres of water and 74+ km later, we returned to our starting point.  Dehydrated and exhausted – we still had enough energy to hit the Vegas strip during a very crazy Halloween Night.  Supper at Gordan Ramsay’s Burgr Bar and stroll afterwards capped off an excellent day of riding and bucket list kicking!

RTC - Bike Map - detail of Day 1

RTC – Bike Map – detail of Day 1

2014-10-31 - Lake Mead Overview

2014-10-31 – Lake Mead Overview