The state of Nevada is home to the fast-paced, neon-studded city of Las Vegas, known for being a gamblers’ mecca. However, some prefer to take in the scenery of this desert state at a slowly-pedaled pace. For those thirsty for a desert cycling adventure, Nevada offers many cycling trails to choose from. We’ll explore the longest biking trail in Nevada so that you’ll know what exactly to expect along the way!
River Mountains Loop Trail: The Longest Biking Trail in Nevada
The longest biking trail in Nevada is the River Mountains Loop Trail (RMLT). The trail offers 34 miles of non-motorized travel and is open for biking, hiking, and horseback riding.
This southern Nevada route is near the beautiful city of Henderson. Although the ride is near Las Vegas, most of it provides little signs of civilization. Automobiles and other motorized vehicles are not allowed on the trail and there are no major street crossings, which makes for a safe and peaceful ride. The route offers stunning scenic lake views, abundant wildlife, and unparalleled beauty that only the Mojave Desert can offer. The River Mountains Loop Trail is currently the longest biking trail in Nevada. However, it is part of the Vegas Valley Rim Trail. This is a proposed 100-mile ever-expanding trail that loops the entire Vegas valley and “connects Southern Nevada from neon to nature.”
History of the Longest Biking Trail in Nevada
Planning for the River Mountains Loop Trail began in 1996. It was born of a public and private partnership of local citizens, the National Park Service, and other local agency representatives. The RMLT gained the status of National Recreation Trail in May 2010. The route is hosted by Boulder City, City of Henderson, and the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. It attracts travelers from around the world as a notable destination trail within the cycling community.
River Mountains Loop Route Navigation
This fantastic Nevada biking trail offers incredible views of the Las Vegas Valley, Lake Las Vegas, Lava Butte, the Muddy Mountains, and the Eldorado Valley. The route runs parallel to the Boulder City/State of Nevada tourist railroad. It also serves as a connector trail to the Henderson UPRR trail, The Historic Railroad Trail, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, and the Clark County Wetlands Nature Preserve trail System.
There are several trailheads offering official access points to the trail. These include Boulder City, Henderson, and Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Maps are available on the River Mountains Loop Trail site and the route is well-marked. We will discuss the route starting at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
Roughly 17 miles of the 34-mile trail is within the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. You can access the River Mountains Loop Trail near the Lake Mead Parkway entrance on the southern part of the trail at the Pacifica Trailhea. This is at the intersection of Pacifica Way and I-93 just inside the Boulder City limits.
The trail then winds its way through the southern portion of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, following along the Historic Railroad Trail.
Lake Mead Lodge
As you continue your journey north from the southern entrance of the trail, you will pass the Boulder Harbor Entrance Station on your left and the Las Vegas Boat Harbor and Lake Mead Marina on your right. A few miles later you will arrive at the Lake Mead RV Village and the Boulder Beach campground, picnic area, and ranger station. Cycling on, you’ll reach the now-closed Lake Mead Lodge on your left. Originally called the Hualapai Lodge, Lake Mead Lodge was built on the western shore of Lake Mead in the 1930’s. It served as a lakeside hangout for famous movie stars and politicians while it was open.
Boulder Harbor is the next feature along the trail and will come up on your right. Alongside Boulder Beach lie two notable geologic points, Pyramid Island and Saddle Island. Despite their names, these are no longer islands. When lake levels were at their highest these two areas of land were surrounded by water.
Next, the trail makes a right and follows along the property line of the water treatment plant and construction area for the “Third Straw.” This is a water project which allows Las Vegas to maintain its connection to the water of Lake Mead as the levels of the lake continue to lower. This point of the River Mountains Loop Trail is the lowest in elevation at 1,217 feet.
Lake Mead Fish Hatchery
The next feature along this cycling journey is a fish hatchery no longer in operation. The Lake Mead Fish Hatchery operated for years, raising a variety of fish to stock the lake. The trail passes through a small tunnel under Lakeshore Road and follows along this road for some time before heading away from the lake and passing through miles of rolling countryside. The trail passes through the city of Henderson and eventually back to Boulder City.
Elevation of the Trail
The longest biking trail in Nevada is a fairly challenging route. It has an elevation change of 750 feet and is either uphill or downhill the majority of the way. It reaches its maximum elevation of 1,245 feet around milepost 31. The lowest point of the trail at 1,217 feet is near milepost 21. It is also very curvy and if you are a biker who likes to maintain high speeds you may struggle to do so along this route. The trail is a great ride for any cyclist but may be best suited for recreational riders looking for a rugged challenge.
How Long Does the Trail Take to Complete?
Every cyclist rides at a different pace so the time it takes to complete this trail will vary. You may want to take it all in at a slow and steady pace, stopping along the way to relax and explore your surroundings, or maybe you’d like to time the route and pedal as fast as you can. At a steady pace, this route would likely take the average rider roughly three hours to complete.
Wildlife on the Longest Biking Trail in Nevada
Although this trail may offer little signs of civilization aside from the others enjoying the route, the open expanses of desert and lakeside habitats may offer unforgettable encounters with the local wildlife. The main predators to watch for include coyotes, mountain lions, and bobcats. However, these desert prowlers prefer to keep to themselves and encounters are unlikely. Pronghorn antelope, mule deer, and elk graze the desert landscape in herds throughout the state. Chipmunks, jackrabbits, and ground squirrels are abundant, and the kangaroo rat is a native rodent you might spot as you pedal along. Beavers, muskrats, and river otters may be spotted cooling themselves in Lake Mead amidst the Nevada desert heat!
Cycling can bring you into a state of harmony with the natural world as you travel at a rate that’s aligned with your surroundings. So have fun exploring and be sure to respect the territories you traverse along your way.
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- National Park Service (1970) nps.gov/lake/planyourvisit/river-mountains-loop-trail.htm