Getting out of Sin City for some two-wheeled fun— Day 2: Road biking in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, just 18 miles off the Las Vegas Strip

Road Biking through Nevada's Red Rock Canyon, just 18 miles off the Vegas Strip.

Only a seasoned biker like journalist Michael Shaprio could be smiling after that 1,051-foot haul up the loop road at Nevada's Red Rock Canyon, a glorious slice of the Mojave desert just 18 miles off the Las Vegas strip.

Challenge level
Physical
***
Cultural
*
I’m not sure which gave out first: my legs or my lungs.

All I know is that, a few hundred yards shy of the High Point Overlook , after hauling my rented hybrid bike up nearly 1,000 vertical feet of the Red Rocks loop road , my thighs started quivering uncontrollably and I began to hyperventilate.

I ended up pushing the bike the rest of the way to the 4,771-foot overlook, where a Korean family—who wisely had driven to the top—had just popped a bottle of champagne and were sipping bubbly while they gazed at the view.

The panorama swept across the Mojave Desert , framed on the left by the limestone Calico Hills, and on the right by the candy-striped cliffs of the Red Rocks Escarpment , a gray carbonite cap sandwiching layers of sandstone stained red, tan, and yellow by iron oxide.

As I coasted downhill to the end of the loop road, I had the leisure to catch my breath and admire the hearty desert vegetation: sagebrush, juniper, and mesquite, tons of Nevada bluegrass and rabbitbrush, and the occasional Joshua tree, its stunted branches furred with thorny leaves against a backdrop of red cliffs and blue sky.

When You Go…

A Joshua tree in Red Rock Canyon

A Joshua tree with the Red Rocks Escarpment in the background in a glorious slice of the Mojave desert just 18 miles off the Las Vegas strip.

The 197,000-acre Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area (702-515-5350, www.nv.blm.gov/redrockcanyon) is just 18 miles west of the Strip on West Charleston Blvd./Rte. 159.

Las Vegas Cyclery (800-596-2953, www.lasvegascyclery.com) runs guided half-day tours along the 13-mile scenic loop road for $99.99 to $119.99, including shuttle bus from the Strip, equipment, and box lunch. They also rent bikes starting at $35 per day.

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