Got the Winter Blues? Pack your camelback and ride Vegas!

Author: Ina Hunt

Endless grey, wet skies and meager daylight for weeks on end can make me a grumpy gal in our Pacific Northwest winter. I tend to be a “rain-avoidance” mountain biker so how do I get out of this seasonal rain-soaked funk before I completely forget how to ride a bike before spring arrives? I pack my camelback and head south to the desert! And one of the easiest places to go for a weekend get-away: Las Vegas, Nevada.

Riders on the rolling singletrack of the Cottonwood Trails system.

Sin City is synonymous with gambling, shopping and eating. Tell someone you are in Vegas for the mountain biking, and they usually give you a strange look. But for us knobby tire lovers, Las Vegas offers three great riding areas—Cottonwood, Cowboy Trails and Bootleg Canyon—that are close enough to the city you can ride all day and then experience the full glory of the strip at night.

Going to Vegas for a riding weekend will cost some money but there are ways to minimize costs. Watch for deals on airfares or a combo with a hotel; fly out of Bellingham, Washington (Allegiant Air has great prices) or book your trip from a Monday to Thursday for cheaper airfare versus Thursday to Sunday. Go with friends and share accommodation and car rental. And stay away from those coin-hungry, one-armed bandits…

Here are some things to consider based on my last trip to Vegas in 2008, (total trip cost was just under $1,000 each for 4 people; would have been a bit cheaper if we hadn’t gone over the Easter long weekend when demand is high):

Accommodation – if you like to soak your weary muscles after riding, check with your hotel as to pool closing time. We stayed at the Hilton (about $100US/night, bit more than we normally spend but we splurged for my birthday weekend) and discovered that the pool area closed at 6pm to encourage people to go gambling. So much for beers and hot tubbing after a day of riding! (Of course we still drank beer.)

Car Rental – rent a large enough vehicle to carry the number of bodies and bikes you have. Dodge Caravans are perfect for four people and four bikes (wheels off) with room to spare for gear. Car rental agencies are located a short shuttle bus drive away from LV airport.

Bikes Rentals – because it was only a 4-day trip, it wasn’t worth the time, effort and money to bring our bikes (can cost more than $100 each way to ship bikes plus time to assemble/take apart bikes). We rented Blur XCs from Las Vegas Cyclery (Cottonwood & Cowboy Trails) and Specialized bikes from All Mountain Cyclery in Boulder City (Bootleg Canyon). Average price/day: $45 – $75 US. Some shops have multi-day rentals which is usually cheaper than daily renting (if you do this, make sure you can keep the bikes in your hotel room or somewhere secure). Book your bikes in advance of your trip – bike shops get busy and you don’t want to show up and have nothing left but road or kids bikes to rent.

Riding up one of the Cowboy Trails


Bike Gear: – besides a camelback, helmet, etc, bring your own pedals and seat to install on your rental bike. This gives you at least two points of familiarity (and comfort) on a bike that you likely have never ridden before.

Food – you can eat on the cheap or spend tons on lavish feasts. We enjoyed the Burger Bar at Mandalay Bay (24 beers on tap and you choose what meat and toppings for burgers) and splurged one night on the Bellagio buffet (worth the $45US price tag to try it once).  For breakfast, try the Omelet House but ask for the “baby omelet” (3 eggs): their standard 6-egg omelet with fixins is for the super freaky hungry only.

Other Ina Bits: All Mountain Cyclery offers DH shuttles ($5/ride) to the top of Bootleg Canyon and for women, it’s free on weekends!

As for the trails, there is everything from rolling smooth XC at Cottonwood to gnarly DH at Cowboy Trails and Bootleg (our focus was XC). Cottonwood is great as a first day’s ride to warm up the legs and acclimatize sea-level lungs to higher, drier elevation (LV is 2028 ft above sea level). Bootleg Canyon has excellent technical XC trails with lots of climbing and great views but it’s best known for it’s DH trails and a proving ground for new bikes during Interbike. Our favourite was Cowboy Trails: interesting technical terrain and good climbs with fun descents.

And remember: what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas!

Bike Stand

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(The Road Trip Queen has been road-tripping to mountain-biking destinations since 1998. By sharing my adventures, I hope to take away the “oh, oh” factor and add to the fun on your journeys. I do not proclaim to know everything or have the best answers; feel free to add comments from your experiences or ask questions. Enjoy the ride!)

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7 thoughts on “Got the Winter Blues? Pack your camelback and ride Vegas!

  1. Great write up Ina! I was in Vegas for a work conference last month and as I stared at the mountain range in the distance I wondered if there were any trails to explore! Riding all day, dancing all night – sounds like a recipe for a great holiday to me!

  2. You go on some of the most wonderful adventures Ina! Great writeup, thank you for sharing…. now where did I put my passport?

  3. Oh boy Ina,, should keep some vacation saved. Always ready to lead some rides around. Make it happen. I can try to find some new trails for you an the bunnies.

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