Biking and hiking in Nevada

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of April 11-18, 1996
Biking and hiking in Nevada
Utah's Fishlake National Forest
Camping in the Hawaiian Islands
Exploring Canada's remote Ellesmere Island
Low-budget snorkeling in the Florida Keys
A family vacation in Jamaica

Biking and hiking in Nevada
Question: A friend and I are planning to drive from New York to San Francisco in late April. We're looking for something cool to do for a day or two in Colorado, Utah, or even Nevada. We both like to hike, raft, and mountain bike (although we won't have our bikes with us). Any suggestions?

Alex Navarro
Ann Arbor, MI
[email protected]

Adventure Adviser: At first glance, Nevada may just seem like a vast stretch of intolerable barrenness standing between you and the sunny California coast. But look again, and you might be pleasantly surprised. While the Silver State isn't quite as in-your-face with spectacular snowcapped mountains or mind-bogglingly beautiful red rock as Colorado and Utah, it does have more than its fair share of underappreciated wilderness areas.

If you're taking the southern route through Las Vegas, plan on spending a day in Cottonwood Valley, a 40-square-mile valley looped by nine interconnecting circles of singletrack, about 30 miles southwest of the slot machines and showgirls. The area, recently sanctioned by the BLM as fat-tire-friendly terrain, has plenty of technical wash crossings and screaming descents--or tortuous climbs, depending on which way you ride--to keep things interesting. The technically easy, moderately strenuous, 5.5-mile Race Course Loop flirts with the foothills of the Spring Mountain Range, following rollers and darting in and out of arroyos. From there, hook up with the 13.5-mile Dead Horse Loop, which climbs out of the cholla and creosote; through Joshua trees, junipers, piñons; and into Red Valley, a two-mile slice of narrow, rust-colored canyon. A hair-raising, 2.5-mile downhill roll deposits you back in the valley, where you can choose your next track. If you're the leave-a-trail-of-bread-crumbs-or-you're-dead type, don't worry: All the routes are marked with cairns, and vistas are so expansive that you can usually spot your car. (Heck, you can spot the neon lights of Las Vegas if you really squint.)

You should be fine in late April, Alex; three-season riding there is ideal. (Summer bikers should go early or late in the day to avoid scorching temperatures.) From Las Vegas, take I-15 south about ten miles to the Blue Diamond/Pahrump exit, from there go west about 17 miles on Nevada 160 to unpaved Good Springs Road, then south six-tenths of a mile to the head of Race Course Loop. For bike rentals, stop by Blue Diamond Bicycles (702-875-4500) in bustling downtown Blue Diamond, where a two-wheel steed will run you about $25 per day; they'll probably also provide you with area bike maps and inside trail information if you're nice. The BLM (702-647-5000) is your best source for camping regulations.

If you're taking the northern route via I-80, consider a layover in Humbolt National Forest, a hiker's mecca that's about 30 miles south of Elko. The Ruby Crest Trail to North Furlong Lake makes a great 14-mile day hike, or pitch your tent at one of the several primitive campsites along the way. For more information, call the Forest Service office in Elko at 800-715-9379 or check out "America the Hoofable" in the Destinations section of our April 1996 issue.

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