City Escape: Las Vegas, Nevada

Text: Tim Kessel • Photography: Tim Kessel

This loop south of Las Vegas is a serene escape from the urban bustle. Once free from the neon lights and the traffic of Sin City, riders will experience the raw beauty of the Mojave Desert. The clear desert air allows awe-inspiring views of rugged mountains, expansive sand dunes, and whimsical Joshua trees. This is a ride best suited for fall through spring.

Length

Approximately 250 miles

Meet-up Spot

The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, 2220 Village Walk Dr #140, Henderson, NV

Lunch Stop

There are snacks available at Kelso Depot. My suggestion is to pack a lunch to eat at the depot picnic area.

Scenery (5 out of 5)

Panoramic desert views are the rule on this loop. Once in the Mojave National Preserve, one will encounter stands of Joshua trees that are truly spectacular.

Traffic (4 out of 5)

Traffic in and around Las Vegas is frenetic. On the rest of the route, traffic is refreshingly light. 

Difficulty (3 out of 5)

The route is a mix of long straights and sections of long sweeping corners. 

Road Conditions (3 out of 5)

The striking beauty of the Mojave National Preserve landscape is distracting but be ever mindful of the frequent potholes in the area. There can be sand (and an occasional desert tortoise) on the road as well.

Points of Interest

  1. Joshua Tree Forest and Cima Dome 
Along Cima Road, riders travel through the largest and most dense Joshua tree forest in the world. From this vantage point, one can see the Cima Dome, which rises 1,500 feet above the surrounding desert. The dome itself is known for its near-perfect symmetry and being remarkably smooth despite being cultivated from coarse granitic rock dating back 180 million years; www.nps.gov/moja/planyourvisit/cima-road.htm.
  2. Kelso Train Depot
Built in 1924 by the Union Pacific Railroad, the Kelso 
Depot became a respite for workers and passengers as well 
as a place to provide water for steam locomotives, change
crews, and check engines before enduring the elevation
change of 2,000 feet within the next 18 miles. This stately
historic depot has been fully renovated by the National Park Service. It serves as the primary visitor center for the Mojave 
National Preserve and houses a fascinating museum; www.nps.gov/moja/historyculture/kelso-depot.htm.
  3. Kelso Dunes
The Kelso Dunes are extraordinary pieces of geological art, which have been sculpted by Mother Nature over the past 25,000 years with wind blowing from the northwest and gradually carrying sand from the Mojave River. The massive sand dunes can be seen from the route’s roadway, but take the Kelso-Dunes side road for a closer look; geomaps.wr.usgs.gov/parks/mojave/kelso1.html.