Got a vice? Las Vegas has you covered. Booze, blackjack…it’s all here. But what happens when your vice is bikes? Settle your shaking shifter fingers. Because if you can handle a 45-minute drive from The Strip, you’re in for a treat.
Situated about 20 miles southeast of Las Vegas, Bootleg Canyon Mountain Bike Park is a man-made wonder right up there with the Hoover Dam. Just who exactly is the man behind the wonder? Local trail builder Brent Thomson is said to have created the network of scenic singletrack in Boulder City (one of two cities in the state that prohibit gambling, if you were curious).
The Trail Network:
With over 35 miles of downhill and cross-country trails boasting names like “The Reaper,” “Armageddon” and “Dominatrax,” Bootleg Canyon is home to some of the best mountain biking in the United States. So good, the trail network has been hailed an “Epic” trail by the International Mountain Bicycling Association.
Nine downhill and 15 cross country trails exist and interconnect, offering endless ride opportunities of assorted difficulty and length. Cross country trails are fast, flowy, dry and dusty. Nothing but rock out here, so dress appropriately and pad up if you want to lay down the hammer. It’s easy to pick up speed.
Have I mentioned that the place is a downhiller’s dream? Gravity seekers have the option to travel up the mountain via shuttle to more advanced terrain, where the trails are both scenic and steep. You’ll be able to see for miles with panoramic views of Las Vegas, Lake Mead and Boulder City. Take in the scenery, but be prepared for some gnarly topography on your way down. On the appropriately-named “Elevator Shaft” you’ll find yourself flying down a 22 percent grade. If you’re not prepared for that sort of vertical, if technical is not your thing and if you’d rather drop dead than launch a dropoff, these may not be the trails for you.
Many visiting mountain bikers have labeled the downhill trails as “extreme” and/or “advanced.” If you are new to the downhill scene, you may wish to start out on easier terrain. Or, turn a few laps on the cross country trails to build your confidence. Experts and novices alike should come equipped with body armor and a full-face helmet.
A terrain park near the base of the mountain bike park offers riders a place to practice their BMX skills.
Keep in mind that Bootleg Canyon is in the desert. Load up on water, food and sunscreen to avoid heat illnesses. You’ll drink more than you usually do if you’re not from around these parts. I came unprepared on a recent trip to the Canyon and was in search of water long before I had hoped to call it quits for the day. Don’t ride without it. You’ll turn an enjoyable ride into an emergency situation fast. Food—especially the kind made for high-activity consumption—will also keep you going strong. Seeing as there are no trees to provide cover, sunscreen is a must as well.
Steer clear of riding this place from June through August, if you can. Summer here is scorching—and the mercury can top out over 110 degrees. If you find yourself in the Canyon during the heat of summer, make sure you bring essential items with you to avoid a dire situation.
Bootleg Canyon is a 45-minute car ride from Las Vegas (and well worth the 20-mile trip!). Take highway 93/95 south towards Boulder City and the Hoover Dam. Turn left onto Yucca Street, which will lead straight to the parking lot.