Riding Roads: SR 167, Nevada

Riding the beatiful roads near Lake Mead, Nevada

SR 167 | Nevada

Some like the all-night party, the clubs, the shows, and the slots, and in Las Vegas, you can do all that 24 hours a day. Whatever happens in Vegas, so they say. But if you have no great attraction to the glitz, glam, or gambling, there is an entire world within an hour’s ride from the Strip that offers a complete and delightful contrast to the man-made attractions. The face of this city changes every decade, but once away from the burning lights, the clock ticks in geologic time. There’s a wondrous world of wide-open country waiting for exploration just outside the city limits.

Away from town, only a few miles in any direction away from the noise, confusion, and hyped artificial excitement, exists a completely calm and starkly beautiful place. The change is so sudden, the two worlds so seemingly unconnected, that you will find it difficult to believe they are less than an hour away from each other.

Leaving Las Vegas via I-515 South leads to Nevada’s State Highway 93, which leads to Boulder City. Once in Boulder City, a left at Lakeshore Road (SR 166) connects to SR 167, also called Northshore Road, which runs almost entirely along the western side of Lake Mead and through the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. But before you begin the day’s ride along the lake, allow a 5-mile detour farther west on Highway 93 to visit Hoover Dam at Nevada’s border with Arizona. Simply put, you have to see this marvel of engineering to believe it and fully comprehend the scale of the massive structure. Photos might give you some sense of the structure, but unless you see it in person and on a bike, you cannot appreciate this phenomenal achievement.

Expect crowds. It is a popular tourist site, and the road during the approximate ride from Boulder City to the dam becomes progressively more crowded as you get closer, slowing to a stop-and-go pace most days during peak summer season. Once there, parking is ample. Just walk over the massive structure and attempt to comprehend the brain and brawn power that went into its construction, the quality of the 1930s architecture and art deco styling, as well as the pure FDR-era history. If you’re not in a hurry, you can take in the museum, where park personnel give tours and presentations that feature the dam’s history. Enjoy a tourist’s lunch at the High Scaler Café on the western side of the dam, which bridges Arizona and Nevada.

Backtracking to Boulder City, a turn north on Lakeshore Road (SR 166) leads to SR 167, but you are already inside the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Both roads run generally north and parallel to the shore and in sight of the lake until exiting the national recreation area near the town of Overton.

A right turn onto Northshore Road marks the beginning of SR 167, and the ride through the entire area is one seemingly made for motorcyclists. First, the scenery is simply stunning. The deep-blue color of Lake Mead is opposite on the color spectrum to the yellow-orange-pink desert moonscape surrounding it. For those used to seeing green trees and forest, it’s difficult not to have your vision continually drawn to it. I know of few other areas in the country where the landscape is so startlingly beautiful as the Southwest. This is one of the most picturesque of them all.

In contrast to the teeming tourists crowding the Hoover Dam, weekday rides along Lake Mead will likely result in two-wheeled solitude, cruising long stretches before seeing a vehicle going the opposite way. The road is exceptionally well paved and has enough hills and curves to make it interesting—but not so severe that you can't take in long looks at the scenery—within the boundaries of good sense.

From a general traveling standpoint, one of the great things about visiting the Vegas area is the easy accessibility to worthwhile destinations via roads that go out and back to the city in all directions, offering reasonably quick return trips to your hotel room at the end of a riding day. For a shorter ride, State Roads 147 and 564 lead out of the Lake Mead area and back to the city, but you aren’t ready to call it a day yet, are you?

It’s 12 miles from the beginning of Lakeshore Road to Northshore Road and another 46 miles via SR 167 to Nevada’s Valley of Fire State Park. Signs point to SR 169, also called the Valley of Fire Highway. This is the most enjoyable scenic route for the return ride to Vegas. By the time you get back, your retinas will be loaded with visuals not normally seen in nature. Few places seem otherworldly and surreal as the Valley of Fire. The state park features orange-and-red-colored sandstone somehow resembling solidified lava, with eroded arches and bluffs, all in a very organic formations, and a landscape that looks as if it belongs on another planet, except you can breathe the air. It is 11 miles through the Valley of Fire to its western exit, but you will want to take some of the side roads up into the hills since most are paved or solid-packed gravel, and many of the area’s most interesting features can be found with a bit of exploring off the main highway.

As SR 169 continues west, it leads back to I-15 northeast of Vegas, and another 36 miles south on the interstate gets you back to the day’s starting point at I-515. The entire loop from the city’s hot spots is approximately 150 miles, and a leisurely ride beginning in the morning will get you back in time for dinner and a show or a few turns at the roulette wheel if you like to spin your luck. But when the opportunity to ride through a place like Lake Mead National Recreation Area on a road like SR 167 presents itself, maybe it’s a better to leave the chips behind.

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