This time of year, heading south has always been the ticket for discovering new riding and winter time destinations. Since we have family based on the Las Vegas area, we took the opportunity to explore the area. Most think first of the strip when Las Vegas comes to mind, but the area also happens to boast some diverse terrain, moderate winter temperatures and enough riding that one can spend days trying to ride it all.
One of our favorite rides in the area is SW Ridge Trail.
Far as we can tell, the SW Ridge trail is a new addition to the local area trail networks, and as you would expect, located just southwest of Las Vegas. It also happened to be the closest riding from where we were staying. And while the loop is short at 6 miles or so, the terrain is fun, challenging and happens to feature some amazing views of the landscape as well as Las Vegas.
SW Ridge is rated as a black diamond trail, primarily due to the exposure. There are a number of relatively steep stair step sections which could prove challenging to newbies, but that’s exactly the kind of terrain we seek out on these trips. The loop basically contours around a huge rock that includes some amazing views of the city, with some fun desert riding. If the route was three times as long, it would be considered an epic in anyone’s book; in fact, viewing a topo map of the area shows significantly untapped potential in this area.
Our first time there was a windy day, which made for unpleasant riding conditions. Making it worse, we ended up doing the loop clock-wise— the least fun way possible. (you’re basically climbing the whole time with a short and quick descent in this direction) Loose rock and cross winds can be sketchy on unfamiliar terrain, especially while acclimating to desert riding.
When we came back to ride it a week later and document the ride, we swapped out clip-in pedals to platforms to maximize the fun factor. We also did it in our recommended direction, counter clockwise.
When running the trail in the “fun” direction you start with a bit of a climb. It’s short and gets out of the way quickly, as you traverse around the ridge, heading up and down over rocks, all while surrounded by amazing scenery.
The views here rival those in Utah or Arizona, and it’s closer. Mileage here is the only thing holding this trail back from being amazing, as the terrain east side of the ridge is pretty epic.
It’s not burly like Bootleg Canyon, but picturesque with a good bit of flow and the right mix of up and down.
On the last bit of the loop things mellow out quite a bit as it ends on an old jeep road with a two mile stretch back to the starting point that serves as a cool down.
We utilized the MTB Project site to locate the trail, and it’s proved to be one of the best resources online for finding our way, with route info (it doesn’t mention a recommended direction of trail though, remember, head right first to start in a counter clock-wise direction) and a map.
MTB Project: SW Ridge Trail, Las Vegas