Las Vegas, Nevada conjures up images of many indulgent things (get your mind out of the gutter) but mountain biking? Here? Surely you jest.
Actually, no, we’re serious.
About half an hour southeast of the city (or more than triple that if you're trying to cross the Hoover Dam during peak hours) sits the fabled terrain of Bootleg Canyon in nearby Boulder City. The brainchild of recently passed trail visionary Brent Thompson, Bootleg Canyon offers up a wide variety of both cross-country and downhill-specific terrain, both of which are accessible year-round.
Having ridden this area many times over in the past, we decided to keep on driving to our final destination on the west side of Las Vegas (dinner was waiting at mom's house). But if you've never had the pleasure yourself, pay Bootleg Canyon a visit, as it's fantastically fun.
Bring your A-game, though, while it's a highly rewarding area it's also very demanding and the minefield of loose rock that characterizes the area is treacherously sharp — if you lay it down here you can be assured of drawing blood. Of course if you do, you can consider them battle scars and wear them proudly.
While non-locals may already be familiar with Bootleg Canyon on account of the annual Interbike trade show (the Outdoor Demo is held there each year), locals are more apt to hit the Blue Diamond trails out on the other side of town and closer to the distinctly red-hued foothills. There are no formal trailhead per se nor even proper trail markings – simply park at McGhie's Bike Outpost in the center of town, check out the map posted on the shop window and then get ready to practice your navigating skills.
The vast trail network is mostly set in a broad valley flanked on either side by rocky hills dotted with typical desert foliage. As compared to Bootleg Canyon, Blue Diamond's terrain is a little less frenetic with longer stretches of moderate terrain and more gradual gradients. It's no less entertaining, however, and definitely no smaller in scale. Had we arrived a week earlier, we could have jumped in a 75-mile open-invite epic posted on one of mtbr.com's forums.
Alas, we only had about three hours to play with but were still treated with miles of rolling terrain, one particularly grin-inducing steady, rocky climb that lasted a solid half-hour, and plenty of spectacular views.
And what did we do later that night? Hit the buffets (again), of course. After dinner mom won US$46 from one of the slot machines. Jackpot!
Road tripping is fun and all but after one final overnight stay with some friends in New Castle, Colorado, it was nice to come back to the Boulder 'bubble' – and to find that the late-wintry weather we left behind eight days prior was replaced by spring-like warmth and sunshine which we promptly took advantage of with a home-based road ride and nearly 4,000ft of climbing.
Moral of the story? Sometimes hitting the road is the best way to dig your way out of a cycling slump by escaping some nasty weather, revisiting some favorite stomping grounds or even checking out some new ones. But when all is said and done, hopefully you can still come back and say that there's no place like home.