Las Vegas Area

Mountain Biking and Sightseeing
May, 2004

I went to Las Vegas for work at the beginning of May. I was excited to go out west, so I went out 3 days before my meeting. I rented a bike from Las Vegas Cyclery on the recommendation of an acquaintance. I got a Santa Cruz Heckler. It was a nice bike, but I'm not sure it was worth $50/day! It was heavy, too. But otherwise, very nice.

Due to my luggage being lost, I got a late start on Saturday. While waiting, I took a drive around Red Rocks park. It was very beautiful. When my luggage arrived in the afternoon, I went back to the airport and picked it up. With my helmet, camelback and other gear, I was set to hit the trail at Cottonwood Valley. It was very beautiful. The trails were easy, fast and very fun (see pictures above). I did have a minor crash when I skidded on a switchback, though overall, the trails I went on weren't technically difficult. The high point on the trail was about 4000' above sea level. So coming in from near the coast, I was huffing a little. The hills were gradual and nice.

That night I camped along a dirt road to the west. It was fine, but I had brought my summer bag since the web told me Vegas would be 60 at night. At 11pm I woke up freezing. My thermometer said 47 degrees. I got up and drove downhill toward Vegas. Then pulled off on a deserted road and snoozed till dawn in my reclined car seat (oh, boy).

In the morning, I headed northeast to Utah. I went to Gooseberry Mesa, near St. George, upon the recommendation of Las Vegas Cyclery. In the parking lot, the folks were very friendly, and many came from far flung areas. I hooked up with a very nice, outgoing fellow from Squamish, BC, Canada. We rode around starting on the South Rim, then came back on the North Rim. It was BEAUTIFUL. Unfortunately, my camera knob was bumped and none of my pictures came out. It was so bright, that I couldn't see on the LCD that the pictures where overexposed to the point of being solid white. We chatted with a number of others and rested or looked at the scenery with a tour group of Swiss and Irish guys.

In the parking lot when we finished, there was another couple from BC. The woman said Thunder Mountain near Bryce Canyon was the best mountain biking she'd ever done. She said it was an hour's drive. I knew that was an underestimate, but it turned out to be 3 hours! I took the southern route to avoid the slow road through Zion. I went through Colorado City--famous as a polygamist community on the boarder between AZ and UT. The story goes that when the cops would come to bust the polygamists, they would get a tip, and pick up and move the town across the border out of reach of the law! I looked over at Coral Pink Sand Dunes (I had been there before).

When I got to the trail area, I couldn't quite figure out the directions. There is a bicycle trailhead at the bottom of the canyon. A paved bike trail parallels the road. At the top, you follow a gravel road that has a sign saying "ATV Trail." To scope the area, I drove it looking for the singletrack trail. There's a camping area at the top which was filled with folks with horses. The couple at Gooseberry said the trail started at the first campsite. Harmph. I couldn't find it. Now, in retrospect, I should have followed the gravel road to the very end, and that may have been where the "first campsite" was and the trail. But instead, I hunted in vain at the first campsite I came to. I pulled my bike out of my rental car. I was having some issues with the front tube. I'd already changed the tube with the one spare they'd given me. I headed off in the forest with a low tire. There was *something* of a trail, but it was rarely used and a bermed-off old road. Well!!!! It turns out that ride at Gooseberry Mesa had done me in. My crotch hurt so bad, I could hardly sit on the saddle. I was at nearly 8000' elevation and couldn't breath. I was tired from my earlier ride. I wound up pushing my bike through the woods (which were open pine forest). I gave up, crawled into my car and headed back.

I drove over to Panguitch which I don't think I'd been to before. I decided to go back toward St. George. It was getting late, and decided if I could find a cheap motel, I'd get a room. I took the north route back to the interstate. Wow! I crossed a pass at 10,400'. There was a couple feet of snow. No camping around here! At dusk, 6 elk crossed the road in front of me. I kept driving and driving. I got a room along the interstate at Cedar City--$35 with tax. I need that good night's sleep! Back to St. George after a good breakfast. I headed to a place called Warner Valley based on a Utah Mountain Biking website page that someone else at Gooseberry Mesa had given me. I messed up on the road directions while both driving and navigating. Then I finally got to the right spot. Overall it was beautiful, but the trail didn't look that exciting. My front tire was now totally flat. I tried pumping it up, but it wouldn't hold the air. I drove back to St. George. I would have tested the tire earlier before heading out to Warner Valley, but it was too early, and the stores weren't open. Back in town I stopped at a sporting good store. They didn't have tubes, but sent me to Bicycles Unlimited near downtown. I bought 2 thornproof tubes. I also asked about rental bikes. They said something like $36/day. If I go back I will probably try them instead of Vegas. I was running short of time now since I had to return the bike to Vegas by 6pm. They suggested Green Valley and gave me directions. I drove there, but at the parking area it looked like a vacant lot in the bad section of town (later I looked it up on the web, and it probably got much better down the trail a bit). I returned to Warner Valley. I did an hour's ride. It was OK, but not great. The distant scenery was fantastic. But the near scenery was so, so. The trails were all over and largely used by motorcyles, despite being closed to motor vehicles by the BLM. Indeed, on the way out to the area, there were dirt bike trails ALL over the Chinle shale, which was a shame. It was 90 degrees and pretty toasty. I was glad to have my GPS to aim me back to the car. It was behind a low rise, and it would have been easy to get displaced by a mile or two. I made a quick stop at the Fort Pearce ruins. Why would the army have put a fort here??????

Back to Vegas. Returned the bike. Changed from the cheap rental car to the moderately expensive work rental. Then a nice motel room and shower. Ahhhhhhhh. Next day I had my meeting and all went well. On my airflight home, I saw great sights of the Colorado Plateau from above.