People like them because they’re quiet, but new Southern Nevada hiking and biking trails are making some noise. The Harry Reid UPRR Trail just completed in Henderson and the Red Rock Legacy Trail in development in the west valley provide the kind of infrastructure that bicycle advocates say is much needed in Southern Nevada.
“Many cyclists — including my wife — don’t feel comfortable riding alongside the roadway,” said Clark County Commissioner Justin Jones, an avid bicyclist whose district includes the Red Rock trail route. “Once we make it a thing people feel safe doing, they are more likely to get out there.”
According to the Federal Highway Administration, the lead agency on the project, construction is likely to begin next year on the $100 million, 20-mile paved trail through the federally protected Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.
From one trailhead on far West Charleston Boulevard, the trail will go into the canyon, continue past the entrance to the scenic loop, and end near Blue Diamond Road and Durango Drive in the southwest valley.
The first phase of the project will include a parking area near West Tech High School, a pedestrian bridge across a nearby wash, and building five miles of trail to near the Red Rock visitors center. Construction of the southern end of the trail would follow, with additional phases eventually connecting the sections.
Jones said the county also is taking the needs of bicyclists more into account for projects in town.
“We’ve changed the way we build bicycle lanes. In the past, they’ve been the narrow lanes at the side of the road, but the trend is toward protected or buffered lanes, so cyclists aren’t constantly being buzzed by the cars,” Jones said.
“From a west valley perspective, people will have the ability to go from Red Rock to our parks and bike paths in a connected way that hasn’t been there before,” said Jones, who added that “the cities of Henderson and Las Vegas saw the vision” and pioneered bicycle-friendly options.
In Henderson, this spring marked completion of an $18 million project to build the final five miles of the 11-mile Harry Reid UPRR Trail. The trail goes east-west the length of the city and lets bicyclists travel from Boulder City to west of Green Valley without encountering motorized vehicles.
“Henderson residents place a high value on parks, trails, and open space,” said Mayor Debra March. “The completion of the UPRR trail will provide a wonderful escape.”
Running along Union Pacific Railroad rights of way, the Reid trail creates a spine for Henderson’s 220-mile municipal trail system that links neighborhoods with shopping, workplaces, and public amenities like the city’s new event venue, The Dollar Loan Center.
“One of the benefits of this particular trail is it connects to so many areas within the city — schools, businesses, parks,” said Shari Ferguson, the city’s director of parks and recreation. “And with the exception of Gibson Road, the new section provides either bridges or tunnels to get people across existing streets.”
“With an average of more than five pedestrians or bicyclists killed each month in 2021 on Clark County streets, there is an urgency to roadway safety,” said Tony Capsouto, vice president of the Southern Nevada Bicycle Coalition.
“Henderson has shown what’s possible with all of the trails that the city provides to the community,” Capsouto said. “There’s no safer way for a bicyclist or pedestrian to travel.”
Making use of a trail also provides health benefits beyond diminishing the likelihood of being hit by a car.
“Walking for exercise can increase cardiovascular fitness and muscle tone,” said Dr. Karin Esposito, senior executive dean for academic and student affairs at Roseman University College of Medicine, which is in development in Summerlin.
Esposito, who can often be found hiking at Red Rock Canyon or Mount Charleston, said she hopes convenient trails and “the glorious weather here” will get more people moving, noting that the Southern Nevada Health District warns that one in four area adults gets little or no exercise.
“Walking, particularly, is an easy way for people of different fitness levels to exercise together, without a lot of expense — just a good pair of shoes,” she said.