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There’s more to the Vegas area than casino’s, strippers and Elvis. If you’re visiting Las Vegas and you want to do something different, and go off the beaten path then you’ll love this quick guide.
The cool thing?
You’ll be able to ride the area like a local biker and take in the sites without blowing up your budget.
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Miles from Strip: About 25 miles or 40 minutes. Depends on the route you take.
Visible from the strip, Red Rock is great place that you can experience that doesn’t take long to get to, that’ll make you feel like you’re a world away from the downtown area.
The Conservation area has a large volume of large sandstone rock formations that are colored – you guessed it – red.
The area is a big attraction for all kinds of outdoor enthusiast from rock climbers, hikers and cyclists who come to climb and trek the various rock cliffs and hiking trails.
For motorcyclists, the best part is a 13-mile loop through the park with several points that you can stop off and take in the sites and check out the trails.
The loop has a lot of nice twists and turns (just what motorcyclists like!) to help you work on your cornering skills and have fun. You’ll want to watch your speed though, as there are a lot of tourists and traffic in the area as well as law enforcement.
If you’re riding the Red Rock Conservation area on the weekends, plan on it being busy with tons of traffic, pedestrians, cyclists and other motorcyclists.
Things to know when you go:
- Visitors center (at the front of the park). Lots of great exhibits to learn the history of the area and wildlife.
- Keep your eyes peeled for tribal Indian glyphs on the rocks.
- There are no trees – If you get off of the bike to look around, take a hat with you.
- Make sure you have plenty of water – it is a desert after all.
- The best time of year to visit is from around November to March. If you visit during the summer months it will be scorcher with temps ranging from 107 upwards of 115 degrees or more. Ride smart, don’t get heat exhaustion!
- Watch for Animals – You may get lucky enough to see the native desert tortoise. Other animals in the area include wild burros, sheep, deer, rabbits, squirrels and more. It’s the occasional large wandering animals (burros and deer) you’ll want to keep and eye for.
The cost for motorcycles to enter the park is $3.00
Find out more at their website:
Spring Mountain Ranch State Park
Miles from the strip: About 22 miles or 30 minutes
Once owned by Howard Hughes, the Spring Mountain Ranch sits below Wilson range cliffs just down the road from the Red Rock Conservation area.
Besides being owned by Howard Hughes, the ranch has a long and stored history that dates back into the late 1800’s. The area was settled due in part because of its proximity to a bunch of natural springs which make a real live oasis in the desert.
If you’re a western history buff (or any kind of a history buff) you’ll want to take some time out and check out the ranch.
What’s available here:
- Main ranch house – You’ll want to start here and take the self-guided tour if you’ve got the time.
- Living History Programs – During the spring and fall there are roll players on the site dressed in pioneer costume to depict a day in the life of the original Las Vegas pioneers.
- Summer Theatre – Cultural events are held by Super Summer Theatre from May to September. You can check out their events calendar at supersummpertheatre.org.
- Guided Tours – Guided tours are available, but you’ll need call the park for more info.
Other things to know when you visit:
- Stay on the established roadways.
- Only park in designated areas
- Don’t be a litterbug – fines are very steep.
- You’re responsible for knowing park rules, but they do a good job of posting them. If you don’t see them, ask a Park Ranger.
Cost for all vehicles (including motorcycles) is $10
Bonnie Springs Ranch
Miles from the strip: About 15 miles or 25 minutes
The ranch was originally built around 1843 as a place for people heading to California to have a place to stop and rest up a bit. It was converted into a tourist attraction in 1952 to give visitors a taste of the old west.
It’s also been featured tv shows like Tru t.v.’s “Impractical Joker” and SyFy’s “Ghosthunters”. There are a few buildings on site that are rumored to be haunted.
There are a few cool things that you can check out at Bonnie Springs:
- Melodramas at the old saloon. These are fun, lots of audience participation!
- Staged old west gunfights outside. Again, lots of help needed from the audience as they stage a “hanging” of a bad guy based on audience reaction. Actually, they hang him anyway. After the stage and outdoor shows the actors take you on a brief wax museum tour.
- Old Jailhouse – Plenty of photo ops of you behind bars!
- There is a small onsite zoo with a variety of animals that are worth checking out.
- Restaurant – After you done with all of that, you can check out the restaurant and bar and grab some food.
Bonnie Springs is a popular place for local motorcyclists to stop and grab a burger and a beer on a weekend ride.
There is motorcycle parking at the front of the restaurant (nice concrete pad) but if it’s busy it fills up fast. All of the other parking areas are dirt, so be careful.
Cost is around $7 on weekends.
Get more info on their website here:
The Red Rock Loop: A nice quick day trip
If you’re looking for an overall nice quick day trip on a motorcycle in the Vegas area, you can’t go wrong with taking a motorcycle out on SR159 through the Red Rock Canyon area. It’s a nice motorcycle ride in and of itself and seeing the Red Rock Conservation area, Spring Mountain Ranch and Bonnie Springs will cap off the ride nicely.
Lake Mead Loop (north shore)
The north shore loop offers a scenic desert ride State Route 167 (official State Routes are maintained by the state of Nevada) along the norther shore of Lake Mead.
The highway connects Las Vegas to other rural Nevada community’s northwest of lake mead and ultimately Interstate route 15 in the Glendale, Nevada area.
The ride is a nice and occasionally twisty ride with some pretty sharp curves through the desert. In fact, the road is a local favorite with motorcyclists, so you’ll want to keep an out for other bikes who are speeding.
I don’t recommend doing what they are doing, as the Park Rangers, although nice, will give you a ticket for speeding.
You’ll want to also watch out for other vehicular traffic and occasional animals that can leap into your path. Don’t underestimate hitting a ground squirrel at highway speed!
Although it’s a nice ride to enjoy on your motorcycle, you may not see much of Lake Mead partially due to the landscape and because the lake has been drained significantly over the years.
The easiest way to take Interstate Highway 515 (or U.S. 95) and take it south to West Lake Mead Parkway (564). Follow West Lake Mead Parkway out of civilization to Northshore road.
Make sure you have water and snacks with you plus a full tank of fuel. If you ride the full length of the highway you won’t have any services for quite a while.
Valley Of Fire State Park
Miles from the trip: About 53 miles or 67 minutes (one way)
The landscape at Valley Of Fire really is epic. It takes what you’ll see at Red Rock Canyon and take it to a new level. Tons of opportunity for great desert photo ops without tripping over tons of people like you would visiting the Grand Canyon.
Due to its ‘other worldly’ appearance it’s been feature in film (Star Trek-Generations, Total Recall) television and numerous car commercials. When you need a stand in for Mars or a weird planet for your production, this is where you go!
Valley Of Fire is Nevada’s oldest state park, dedicated originally in 1935. It covers 46,00 acres and is located north of Las Vegas off of Interstate Route 15.
Attractions to check out:
Petroglyphs – Valley Of Fire was once inhabited by native Americans hundreds of years ago. Petroglyphs are the ‘word pictures’ they’ve left behind and they are everywhere if you Keep your eyes peeled.
Atlatl Rock – This rock is boulder that sits on top of a sandstone outcropping. It get its name from a nearby Petroglyph that depicts a stick that native Americans used to throw a spear while hunting.
Elephant Rock – Yep, a rock that looks like an elephant!
Mouse’s Tank – This is an area used by a Paiute Indian to escape being pursued from accusers who thought he had killed some prospectors. It’s also an area that native Americans used to catch or hunt local animals for food.
Visitors Center – The visitors center has a nice museum that features the history of the area and the kinds of animals you can expect to see in the area. It’s also a great place to take a break and get some cool air!
Getting to Valley Of Fire
Get on Interstate Route 15 and head north and continue until you see signs for Valley Of Fire Highway and the Moapa Paiute travel plaza. The travel plaza has a Chevron, restaurant and convenience store so it’s a great place stop either before or after your ride into the park.
Cost: $10 for all vehicles.
Pahrump Valley Winery
Miles from the strip: About 55 miles, or 1 hour
Wine tasting and bikers don’t exactly go hand in hand, but if you want to try something a bit different and have a nice day of riding you’re in for a treat.
The ride out to winery on State Route 160 is scenic and you’ll be traveling up and over a mountain range shortly after leaving Las Vegas. You’ll have the opportunity to hit some twisties and have some fun with cornering.
Be careful, as there is a lot of traffic that runs between Pahrump to Vegas, and its worse on weekends. On weekends you’ll not only need to keep you eyes out for cars, but joggers, bicyclists and other motorcycles.
Depending on the time of year, the mountain area can freeze overnight and leave ice patches in some of the corners. This is not a concern for summer months, but from about December through March it’s possible due to the area actually getting a bit of snowfall.
In addition to traffic hazards, be watchful for wild burros that live in the desert and occasionally wander onto the highway.
Inside the winery is upscale without being “hoity toity”. It feels very much like a “Napa California winery, if you’ve ever done wine tasting there.
You somewhere around 7 free wine tastings and get to select from their wide variety (around 21 or so) wines that are made onsite.
Things to check out here:
- Wine tasting – Of course! If you have a large group of 8 or more you’ll need to call ahead
- Daily Wine Tours – They have great tour that explains the history of the winery and how they make their wine.
- Restaurant – “Symphony’s” is their onsite restaurant, and is popular with the locals and the frequent tourists that visit the winery.
If your into wine, this is a great place to stop. Make sure you have room in your saddle bags, you’ll be bringing wine home!
Be smart about any alcohol consumption! Don’t ride if you’ve had too many. Getting back through the mountains back to Vegas has twists and turns with steep drops offs and is heavily patrolled by law enforcement.
Get more info:
Hoover Dam and Tillman bridge
Miles from the strip: About 35 miles, or 45 minutes
Hoover dam is of course regarded as one of the biggest engineering marvels in the world. Impressive because it was build in the 1930’s and utilizes about 6.6 million tons of concrete to in its structure.
A lot of people will visit Vegas and talk about how they’d like to visit it, thinking that a lot farther away than it really is. Once you get onto the highway, getting to Hoover Dam is almost a straight shot from Las Vegas that is only about a 45-minute drive.
From Las Vegas you’ll head south to Boulder City, NV to the junction of U.S. 93. Stay on U.S. 93 and follow it straight to the Dam.
If you’re making the ride on a weekend, be prepared for a large amount of traffic to and from the Boulder City area, which will cause your travel time to bump up closer to an hour (sometimes more) one way.
What to see
If you want to take the cheap route, you can park your motorcycle in the parking garage for a small fee and then walk down to the small plaza, walk across the dam and look over the edge to the bottom.
If it’s hot out (it almost always is) you’ll want to pay the parking fee in order to keep your bike out of the direct sun so you don’t roast your buns when you go to leave.
There is also a guided power plant tour that will take you 530 feet down into the interior of the dam that will cost a few bucks. If you like history and want to see the inner workings of the dam, well worth it.
Tour and event information:
Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge
As you ride out of the Hoover Dam area, you’ll see a parking area and walkway for the entrance to the Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge.
The bridge is the arch bridge that carries U.S. 93 across the Colorado River in front of Hoover Dam.
Once you park your bike, just walk up the trail to find the entrance to cross the bridge. To cross the bridge is totally free, and you’ll get some awesome pics of Hoover Dam and the Colorado River. Keep walking across the bridge and look for the marker that tells you that you are right at the center!
If you make the ride to Hoover Dam in the hotter months, I would recommend stopping in Boulder City and taking plenty of water with you! As hot as Vegas itself is, Hoover Dam can tend to even hotter.
Miles from the strip: About 128 miles or 3 hours (one way)
Both historical and entertaining, Oatman is an old mining ‘ghost town’ that’s alive and well that lies along old route 66. The town began as a mining camp in 1915 and looks like it hasn’t changed much since.
There are a few tourist trappy stores you can wander in and out of, but the main attraction are the ‘wild’ burros that wander the streets. They’re quite friendly and love treats, and there’s plenty of places you can purchase them.
If you stick around long enough there are wild west shows in the streets simulating an old west style shootout that’s fund to watch. Bring ear plugs, their caps are loud!
A quick word of advice…
The streets in Oatman are pavement (barely), and are dirt covered – You know what that means. Be very careful while maneuvering your bike, as there is ample opportunity to have your feet go out from under you and dump your motorcycle.
Rosie’s Den And Last Stop (Arizona)
Miles from strip: About 60 miles or 1 hour 15 minutes
Rosie’s Den is a favorite local biker hangout that features a bar, diner and gift shop about 25 miles from Boulder City, NV. On any given weekend you’ll run into motorcyclists from all over who stop and grab something to drink and swap road stories.
After your done there and decide to head back to Vegas you can hit the ‘Last Stop’ (you’ll see it on the opposite side of the road on the northbound side) and hit their gift shop and grab food there (if you didn’t eat at Rosie’s) and get your lottery tickets.
Miles from the strip: About 49 or 1 hour (depends on traffic)
Mount Charleston is the locals area to go and get away from the heat. If it’s over a hundred degrees in Las Vegas, Mt. Charleston will be 10 to 20 degrees cooler.
On your motorcycle head north out the city on U.S. 95 and look for the Mt. Charleston turnoff (SR157), it’s well signed.
Follow the road into the canyon to the end where you’ll find the only diner (Mt. Charleston lodge) in the area. The foods a bit spendy, but good, and you’ll love the mountain setting.
After grabbing a bite at the lodge, ride back down the mountain and look for the junction of SR159 and SR158 (you will have passed it on the way up to the lodge).
Turn onto SR158 and you can take a nice mountain ride with a variety of stops along the way and nature trails to check out if you’d like. It’s a fun twisty ride!
Finally, you’ll reach the junction of SR158 and SR156. Take a right onto SR156 and follow it back to U.S.95 (the highway you came in on) and you can head back to town.
Getting there is a great ride, but lots of local weekend traffic so beware in the turns.
Motorcycle Rentals Las Vegas
If you’re visiting the Las Vegas area, clearly you won’t have your own motorcycle with you. No problem!
Here is a short list of places where you can rent a motorcycle for the day to explore the area. I recommend that if you’re going to rent a motorcycle, that you call ahead and make a reservation. Motorcycles rent fast, specially on weekends.
Brands offered: Harley Davidson, Honda, BMW’s and other bikes.
Brands offered: BMW, Triumph, Motoguzzi
Bikes offered: Harley Davidson
Tips for motorcycling in the Las Vegas area
Okay, so you want to take a motorcycle day trip in the Vegas area. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Be prepared for heat! Take plenty of water with you and keep yourself hydrated.
- Take snacks with you.
- Stop frequently – in the shade. Find good shady spots or even an indoors area where you can take a break.
- It’s gets windy – really windy. You could encounter strong afternoon winds even in the summertime.
- The traffic is terrible, stay sharp! It’s not that you’re not doing this anyway when you ride your motorcycle but be very mindful of cars. Many drivers in the Vegas area dart across multiple lanes of traffic without warning and are tailgaters. This post on 21 tips to help you be a better rider will help you stay sharp.
My recommended Las Vegas Area Motorcycle Day Trip rides
If you only have one day to spend in the Vegas area to take a motorcycle ride, here are a couple of itinerary’s you can use to see as much as possible. If you choose to do either one of these rides, it will take the entire day to hit everything so leave early in the morning.
Ride 1 – Red Rock Loop and Pahrump Winery
Enter State Route 159 from Charleston boulevard. This will take you past Red Rock Canyon, Spring Mountain Ranch and Bonnie Springs and you can hit all of them.
Continue around State Route 159 to the junction of SR159 and SR160. Turn right (or west) on SR160 to head to the Pahrump Winery. When your done at the winery you can take SR160 all the way back into Las Vegas to SR604 (‘the Strip’).
Ride 2 – Mount Charleston and Red Rock Loop
Take U.S.95 north to the Mt. Charleston turnoff and visit the area. On your way back, you can hit the CC215 beltway to Charleston boulevard. This will put you on the scenic Red Rock Loop where you can visit Red Rock Canyon, Spring Mountain ranch and Bonnie Springs.
You can follow the SR159 to SR160 and follow that highway all the way back to the Las Vegas strip.
Winding it up…
If you’re going to Vegas and you want want to do something on your vacation that’s a bit out of the ordinary, rent a motorcycle and get off the strip. You’ll see some great places that typical vacationers never really see and experience some awesome desert wildlife areas.
Again, as a friendly reminder – It’s a desert, you need to stay cool and not get dehydrated. You can check out this post on tips to stay cool to help you out.