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

S(p)in City – Cycling Vegas: an overview

I started writing trip logs (a much more manly term than scrap booking) on adventures about 20 years ago.  I have tried a few different formats such as a log book, word document, and a desk top publishing tool.  Given that I have yet to re-read many of the trip logs, perhaps a blog is way to go as a method to remember where I have been and what I did once I was there.

By way of a note to myself, because this blog will be available on the www (including to spammers and nasty people who visit my site); I have purged most personal details and tried not to post too many pictures showing faces, focusing on landscapes instead.  Look to Facebook and secure to see more personal content.

With these caveats in place, here it goes, my first blog-trip-log!

Cycling Vegas – an Overview

Las Vegas, sin city is also Spin City.  Unknown to many visitors, Las Vegas and environs is a cycling destination. Beyond the Strip, bike lines, canyons, the Hoover Dam and desert vistas await. The Edmonton Bicycle and Touring Club (EBTC) ran a 5 day event that combined 3 days of riding and a bit of what Las Vegas is best known for. The trip left on October 30, 2014 with a November 3 return.  Using a hub/spoke model from the Green Valley Ranch in Henderson Nevada (GVR), this trip was an intermediate ride meaning a moderate level of physical condition and cycling experience.

The trip details are available and Frank’s Packing List – Vegas 2014 for the trip are provided (mostly) for my future reference and so I don’t need to go and find that lost log book of adventures.

Blogs and Key Links

Getting There

Billed as an EBTC ride, (un)fortunately, only the two organizers, Frank and G., signed up.  They travelled to Las Vegas via West Jet on October 30 and picked up their rental van.  As a turns out, the Dodge Caravan was a great investment as it both permitted transportation and a safe place to stow the rented bikes.

A great place to stow bikes and cruise the Vegas strip.

A great place to stow bikes and cruise the Vegas strip.

The bikes were were rented from J.T.’s Bicycles in Henderson Nevada at a cost of about $150USD for each – which included an emergency repair kit (tube, multi tool, C02 pump) and putting on the pedals and saddles that we had brought with us.

2014-11-02 - Our Trusty Steads

2014-11-02 – Our Trusty Steads

Both G. and I liked the bikes although the smaller frame and bent handle bars took some getting used to on my part.  I was hoping for a third granny gear on the front sprocket for hill climbing but was this was not available.  As a result, G’s powerful lungs carried him to the top of the ascents where as I huffed and puffed my way up, typically having to traverse the trail or road to reduce the hill slope.

With bikes, a van to store them and place to sleep (read on for my Tripadvisor.com review of GVR) – we were ready for our first day of adventure, Hoover Dam.  But where to cycle, time for a quick overview of riding in Vegas.

Riding in Vegas – An Overview

There are a LOT of bike and shared trails in and around metro Las Vegas.  I looked for an exact number (and could not find it) but did discover, there are lots.  This trip focus on three different sections of these trails: River Mountain Loop, Red Rock Canyon and the Wetlands/Lake Las Vegas.

Three Cycling Days - 2014 Las Vegas

Three Cycling Days – 2014 Las Vegas

G and I rode primarily in the eastern portion of the metro-Vegas area with the exception of Day 2, Red Rock Canyon.  There are still lots of the bike trails to explore including numerous Rail to Trail routes.  It looks like my bucket list just go bigger!

Day/Date Ride Distance and Elevation
Day 1: October 31 Hoover Dam and the Loop 74 – kilometres
6:19 hours
4,014 feet of gained elevation
Day 2: November 1 Red Rock Canyon 27 – kilometres
2:21 hours
1,859 feet of gained elevation
Day 3:November 2 Wetlands and Lake Las Vegas 68 – kilometres
5:24 hours
2,569 feet of gained elevation
Totals 169 – kilometres
14:04 hours
8,442 feet of gained elevation

OK priced, clean, safe and very far sans auto

Trip Advisor review of Green Valley Ranch
I stayed at GVR for a 3-day bicycling holiday over the 2014 Halloween weekend; so yes, there is more to do in Las Vegas than gamble away your kid’s college fund. Assuming that you have a vehicle or that you plan to spend the entire trip depleting your child’s educational future, GVR is a good location for accessing points throughout Las Vegas due to the proximity of the freeways.
The hotel was clean and grand in that Las Vegas faux reality sort of way. The staff were all friendly with nary a grump in the bunch (even the tie and jacket security guys would give you a nod hello). The pool would keep the kids entertained for a few days and there is a small garden beyond the pool in which the freeway noise is only a low throbbing. I did not see any signs of soccer, a playground set or the like – so other than the pool, GVR is at best neutral on the kid friendliness scale.
Keep this scale in mind if you don’t have a rental car because you are otherwise kinda stuck at GVR. There are some high-end shops nearby but the expect to cab, drive (or bicycle) to a nearby non-trendy grocery or drug store.
In side the casino there is a food court that seems surprisingly over priced. The buffet is a good value, at least for the two breakfasts we head there. $8 for all you can eat with a good variety and quality short beats a $20 cab ride for a box of corn flakes.
Overall, GVR seems to occupy the market space between the fancy strip hotels and the low-mid econo-casinos that dot Vegas.
Overall, I rate it “OK priced, clean, safe and very far sans auto”.
Stayed November 2014, travelled with friends