Bicycling through the Mojave Desert Outside Las Vegas

The Mustang Trail in Cottonwood Valley offers a quick escape from the neon and glitz of the Las Vegas Strip. (Photo by Tom Adkinson)

LAS VEGAS, Nevada – After you conclude that throwing dice and pulling the lever on a slot machine really don’t count as exercise, you can burn off some calories and clear your head in pure wilderness just a few miles from the Las Vegas Strip.

A family-owed company called Escape Adventures can put you on the saddle of a fancy mountain bike and in the middle of some wild, rugged and beautiful territory barely 30 minutes from the neon and artificiality of the city.

The destination is the Mustang Trail in Cottonwood Valley, located in a corner of the 196,000-acre Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Many Las Vegas visitors find the 13-mile Red Rock Canyon driving loop, but driving is tame (maybe even lame) compared to feeling the wind in your face on a mountain bike trail far from pavement.

The top of a support van is the perfect place for a pre-ride talk from an Escape Adventures guide. (Photo by Tom Adkinson)

Although a bit of experience on a mountain bike is useful, novices are welcome and can have a great outing.

“My guides and I love to introduce the sport to newcomers. A trip with us is a professional and safe way to enjoy the outdoors,” said Kevin Ford, tour coordinator for Escape Adventures.

Ford says he can size up a client’s ability in short order, sometimes just because of the types of questions asked. From there, it’s only a matter of picking the best route and adding the right amount of instruction and coaching.

There is a temptation just about every minute to stop and photograph the stunning desert scenery. (Photo by Tom Adkinson)

Everyone rides in style on mountain bikes that retail for from $3,000 to $7,000. Even novices will appreciate the comfort and quality of the bikes, but it’s more likely they will be blown away by the dramatic scenery of the Mojave Desert.

The face of the Sandstone Bluffs is an imposing sight to the west, while Potosi Mountain back to the south reaches 8,517 feet. Potosi Mountain was where a plane crash in 1942 killed actress Carole Lombard and 21 others.

Half-day trips take a little more than four hours, including transit time from the Strip. You cover from 7 to 12 miles after you start riding. Fall, winter and spring are the most popular riding seasons, although Ford says many clients enjoy early-morning rides in the summer.

Miles of interlocking trails mean trips of almost any length can be designed in Cottonwood Valley. (Photo by Tom Adkinson)

Escape Adventures offers multi-day trips in Nevada, Arizona, California, Idaho and elsewhere, and one intriguing summer trip near Las Vegas if mountain biking doesn’t appeal to you – the Mt. Charleston Downhill.

That trip is an 18-mile roll on a paved route. You descend 5,000 feet through five vegetation zones. You start in high alpine terrain and end up in the desert. 

Trip-planning resources: EscapeAdventures.com and RedRockCanyonLV.org.

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