Biking skills to ride the Wetlands Trail!
Are your biking skills up to the challenge of the Wetlands Trail?
Before making that decision, view my aerial maps with GoPro video clips of the Wetlands bike route, then let me know what you think.
I’m Debra Stefan, 2020 Educator of the Year for the League of American Bicyclists. Learn Smart Cycling to bike safer and more confidently on the road or trail.
Once you see these views of the Wetlands Bike Trail, you’ll know that there is a vast difference in the Wetlands trail on the north side of the Las Vegas Wash. Do not confuse this trail with the Pabco-Wells easy trail on Galleria–the south side of the wash. Don’t confuse it with the 1.5-mile loop at the Wetlands Nature Park, either. Watch and learn.
But before you ride, as a smart cyclist, please have your ID, medical insurance card, emergency contact information and a fully charged cell phone. Here’s where I will insert a brief recommendation clip for managing personal essentials on your bike ride. Since you’re still with me, don’t forget to subscribe and hit the notifications bell icon for future content of this nature.
Wear a helmet, eye protection, gloves, and bring a spare tube, C02 cartridge or a small bike pump. Bring plenty of water to do this ride. I will consume a liter of water on this route and I start hydrating upon arising on the mornings that I ride.
The video bike route starts at Terrazza Park in Lake Las Vegas, Henderson, Nevada. Locals and visitors can rent bicycles and e-bikes at the River Mountains Bike Shop nearby.
For locals choosing to bike to the trail, I’m showing two different routes to get there. Ride from Galleria down Weston Ridge to the Pabco Trail or from Galleria to Terrazza Park in the bike lane on the roadway. A third way shown is on my topographical map where I racked the bikes and drove to the Clark County Wetlands Park trailhead. This starts at mile marker ONE biking out to the 9.5-mile marker at Wells Trailhead by Galleria to bike a round trip. These are the three options covered in this video.
From Terrazza Park (off Galleria) cross the bridge over the Las Vegas Wash into your first and most qualifying climb of the route. This 7-mile stretch of the Wetlands trail has been called a glorified mountain bike trail that’s been paved. You’ll need to ride alert and ready to react to steep descents, blind corners, sharp turns, and abrupt uphill climbs with an overall gain of 1107 feet. Add the unexpected hiker with a dog off-leash, an unauthorized dirt biker, or an ATV and the thrills begin!
Boulder Highway in heavy traffic may be safer or at least more predictable. I’m just saying, don’t take this trail too lightly. On the road, you have the law, but on the trail, you rely on courtesy that other trail users may or may not choose to use.
A cyclist needs full control of bike handling skills without risking a fall on the Wetlands Trail. I’ve seen people fall off the bike at high downhill speeds and I’ve seen them fall uphill from losing momentum. One student shared his leg-breaking experience falling up a steep hill and jamming his leg through the frame on a solo ride. You’ll see this hill pictured in the video. Another dangerous hill pictured is the steep descent with a blind corner. One day, I met a cyclist as he faced the scene of his accident there. He described his uncontrollable downhill speed, encountering an off-leash dog at the blind corner. This caused him to bike off the cliff into the Wash unconscious before waking up hospitalized from a coma.
So, be prepared with the skill and physical fitness to take on this Wetlands Bike trail route. Even if you are on an electric-assisted bicycle, you still need handling skills to bike safely and confidently.
In this video, I’m sharing two different routes to access the Wetlands Trail. First, I biked from the Pabco Trailhead passing the Wells Trailhead along Galleria, then to Terrazza Park to start to the actual Wetlands Trailhead. According to the Clark County Wetlands Park mile markers, the trail starts at the Wetlands Nature Park (north of the stadium) and ends with the 9.5-mile marker at the Wells Trailhead. There is a noticeable difference in the skill and exertion required on the north side of the wash and the south side by Galleria.
Crossing the wetlands bridge from Terrazza Park begins 7 miles of the Wetlands Trail heading west to the bridge at the Wetlands Nature Park route completes the 9.5-mile distance from the Wells Park trailhead. It can be biked as an “out and back” (elevation gain of 605 feet) or like I’ve shown, the vehicular cycling option on the roadway. This is how I completed my solo round trip shown here on the aerial view. From the Clark County Wetlands Park, take Broadbent to Boulder Highway to Galleria and head east again.
Note: Some years ago, LVMPD advised cyclists to avoid the return loop at Sunrise Trailhead for the continuous uncontrolled activity. Since there are still graffiti signs on this section, I don’t take this loop. Also, the trail connection isn’t paved and at one point you need to walk your bike past “pedestrian only” poles. For these reasons, I don’t consider this a “loop” trail but an out-and-back route.
So there you have my favorite options. Bike a round trip from start to end or double back or make a loop using the roadway.
Disclaimer: A lesson in vehicular cycling is highly recommended so that you know how to bike predictably and be conspicuous to motorists sharing the roadway. Have I mentioned the Smart Cycling course?
Are your biking skills up to the challenge? CTA for Bicycle Educators to Share with Cycling Communities!