There’s no way that the tiny Smart Car can handle the 170-mile unpaved 4WD road system of the Desert National Wildlife Refuge in Southern Nevada. However, a mountain bike can. Fortunately there’s a cool compact bike rack system made especially for a Smart Car. The entire bike rack fits in a small one-gallon size nylon bag to store easily in the cargo section of the Smart Car. And it only takes about 5-7 minutes to assemble and dis-assemble the bike rack system including the time taken to mount the bike on the system. This takes care of the first question: How to get the bike to the jumping off point in the wilderness.
The second question is, how to carry everything needed for a hiking/trail running adventure on the bike. This includes the following items:
All these easily fit on a back rack I installed on the bike.
Now, the only item left is my favorite yucca trekking poles, about 6 feet in length. These I will test on the next trip.
There are about 170 miles of main unpaved roads in the Desert National Wildlife Refuge. Additional, more rugged unpaved roads branch off from the main roads. As you can see in the image above there are 2 main arteries: Alamo Road, which skirts the East (front) side of the Sheep Range, and Mormon Well Road, which heads up the South side between the Sheep Range and Fossil Ridge, then takes a left to circle around the West (back) side of the Sheep Range. An early split from the Mormon Well Road heads to the main trailhead for Gass Peak.
How well does a mountain bike hold up on these roads? Definitely have your tire repair kit handy, along with thick puncture resistant tubes because this is going to be a bumpy ride. The main roads are pretty firm for mountain bikes, and mostly wide enough for 2 cars to pass in opposite directions, so definitely wide enough to avoid traffic. However, prepare for a lot of dust as the passing 4WD vehicles are going to create clouds of it. Many slow down while passing to minimize dust, but some do not. Though the roads are firm, there are a lot of embedded rocks to bump over.
On this day I tested the first mile of Mormon Well Road. No problem at all. It was possible to move along, even uphill, at a fairly good clip. Very little loose rock. The bike was always on firm, though bumpy ground. Heading back downhill over long stretches may be a study in how to scramble your brain! The good news is that even for those who do not have a rugged 4WD vehicle, the Sheep Range is still wide open for exploration!
Watch for more extensive road condition reports as additional Sheep Range adventures are added to this site.