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Visiting the Hoover Dam is one of the best things to do outside Las Vegas since it’s less than an hour from the Strip. Not only that, but it’s a historical landmark nestled within a beautiful natural environment. No matter your age or interests, you’re sure to enjoy a trip to this monumental structure.
You could simply rent a car in Las Vegas, drive over the Hoover Dam Bridge and stop to snap some photos, but I think it’s worth spending some time here. If you don’t want to drive, you can also take a Hoover Dam tour. I’ve even written about the best Hoover Dam helicopter tours in case you want to enjoy this landmark from the air!
Anyway, to help you make the most of your visit, I’m sharing the top 8 things to do at Hoover Dam. Also, in this guide, you will find useful tips for visiting Hoover Dam from Las Vegas and info on hours and pricing.
8 Best things to do at Hoover Dam
There is more to do at the Hoover Dam than meets the eye. In addition to some great lookout points, there are interesting attractions and nearby places to check out. Keep reading to see my top 8 recommendations below!
1. Hoover Dam Visitor Center
Your first stop should be the Hoover Dam Visitor Center, where you can find restrooms, food, and information. There is also parking at the Visitor Center, although it might be crowded depending on when you go.
Here, you can purchase tour tickets and take a self-guided walk through the center’s narrated exhibits. It’s a great way to learn more about the history of Hoover Dam and appreciate its legacy. The exhibits include maps, archived materials, and models of the dam’s power systems and infrastructure. There are three different tours you can choose from:
- Self-Guided Visitor Center Tour: $10 (Visitor Center exhibits, observation deck)
- Guided Powerplant Tour: $15 (Visitor Center, observation deck, original construction tunnels, Nevada Powerhouse)
- Guided Dam Tour: $30 (Visitor Center, observation deck, original construction tunnels, Nevada Powerhouse, elevator ride to top of dam, inspection tunnels & ventilation shaft)
2. Hoover Dam Bridge – Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge
Another cool thing to check out is the Hoover Dam Bridge. Also known as the Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, this massive structure is quite an imposing sight. It’ll also give you some of the best and unique views of the dam.
The structure is named after former Nevada Governor Mike O’Callaghan and football player Pat Tillman, who died while on military duty in Afghanistan. The arch bridge runs across the Colorado River, connecting Nevada and Arizona and measuring 1,900 feet long. Since it opened in 2010, it’s been the widest concrete arch in the Western Hemisphere, and the second-highest bridge in the U.S., at 890 feet tall.
This bridge is the result of the Hoover Dam Bypass Project, which created a safer route over the dam. Today, you can walk across the bridge and get a different perspective of the manmade structure and the Hoover Dam water level. You can also drive across it, but you won’t be able to see the dam from your car.
3. Hoover Dam Lookout – Kingman Wash
A surefire way to enjoy your visit to the Hoover Dam is to check out one or more of the lookout platforms. The Hoover Dam Lookout on the Arizona side of the dam offers aerial views of Hoover Dam that will leave you breathless.
Without a doubt, it’s the best way to comprehend the immense size of this structure. You’ll simultaneously get a look at the rushing water, Lake Mead, Black Canyon, and the surrounding desert environment.
It’s easy to overlook this lookout point, but it’s worth it since there are rarely any crowds. To get there, follow the Hoover Dam Bridge into Arizona and take the Kingman Wash exit. You’ll find the access road, which is unpaved, and you can take that about a half-mile to a beautiful overlook.
If you’re up for it, you can continue along this trail and see the stunning expanse of Fortification Hill, Black Mesa, and the surrounding mountains.
4. Lake Mead at Hoover Dam
Next to the powerful hydroelectric dam, you’ll find the blue waters of Lake Mead. This body of water resulted from the dam’s construction, and the Lake Mead National Recreation Area is the largest of its kind in the U.S.
With a surface area of 247 square miles, Lake Mead at Hoover Dam is the perfect contrast to the concrete and steel parts of the dam. The area is a prime destination for kayaking, as well as boating and swimming. If you prefer on-land activities, you’ll find hiking trails here, and several campgrounds.
Plus, you can get sweeping 360° views of the reservoir on a self-guided Lake Mead and Hoover Dam tour at the Visitor Center.
5. Gold Strike Hot Springs Trail
Another thing to do at the Hoover Dam that you might not know is the Gold Strike Hot Springs Trail. This 6-mile off-road hike is a bit of a challenge, but most people can do the first mile or so without any problems. Just be sure to bring plenty of water and snacks and to dress appropriately for the weather.
This hike is one of the best Hoover Dam activities, especially if you love the outdoors like us! Along the route, you’ll have to scramble over boulders and hold onto the supportive ropes in some areas. As you make your way through the wash canyon, you can find scenic grottoes, natural pools, and maybe some bighorn sheep.
Some of the hot springs have dried up, but there are a few you can swim in, and there are some thermal waterfalls, too. It’s surely one of the coolest places to visit near the Hoover Dam, so I highly recommend it.
6. Hemenway Park
While you’re on the way to the Hoover Dam, turn off Highway 93 and check out Hemenway Park. This short detour will take you to another top attraction near Hoover Dam, where you can get some fresh air, enjoy a snack, and spot some wildlife.
Hemenway Park in Boulder City, NV, is a pleasant little pocket of green space that’s mostly known for its herds of bighorn sheep. Fittingly, this is Nevada’s state animal, and you can often find these sheep grazing in the park or enjoying a rest in the shade.
The park also has a playground, tennis courts, and picnic areas, so it’s the perfect spot to take a brief break before continuing your journey to the Lake Mead area.
7. Nevada Southern Railroad Museum & other places to visit in Boulder City
Boulder City offers lots of fun things to do near the Hoover Dam, so if you have time, I recommend spending a few hours here. One of the most popular attractions in Nevada that you can find here is the Southern Railroad Museum, which has a display of historic train models dating back as far as the 1840s. You can also take a ride on its 7-mile heritage railroad while learning about the area’s locomotive history.
Another cool place to visit near the Hoover Dam is Bootleg Canyon Park. This is the go-to place for mountain bikers since you’ll find cross-country and downhill trails spanning the desert landscape. You can also hike here and find stunning lookout points overlooking Lake Mead.
For a scenic change of pace, head to Veteran’s Memorial Park, a 25-acre green space. It has several sports fields and courts, a 3-acre fishing pond, a designated skatepark, and paths for biking and walking.
Depending on how much time you have, you may also like perusing the exhibits at the free Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum or walking among the cacti and desert shrubs at the Alan Bible Botanical Garden.
8. Get stunning aerial views of Hoover Dam
Finally, you can make your visit to the Hoover Dam extra special with a Hoover Dam helicopter tour. Nothing beats an aerial view of Hoover Dam, and it’s the best way to grasp the magnitude of this structure.
It’s also worth noting that most helicopter tours to Grand Canyon from Las Vegas also fly over the Hoover Dam. This is a great alternative if you’re traveling from Sin City, and you don’t mind just doing a helicopter ride over Hoover Dam. We did this heli tour and got some exceptional photos of the dam and canyon from above. We thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend you see it for yourself!
How to plan your visit to Hoover Dam
As you can see, a visit to the Hoover Dam is a worthwhile day trip, especially if you’re in the Las Vegas area. Before you pack up and head out, there are a few things to keep in mind, like admission fees, parking, and hours of operation.
Hoover Dam entrance fee
There is no cost to see the Hoover Dam. However, if you want to take one of the tours offered at the Hoover Dam Visitor Center, you’ll have to pay. Besides the entrance fee, consider the $10 parking fee.
Hoover Dam opening hours
The hours for the Hoover Dam parking lot are from 8 am to 5:15 pm. The Hoover Dam Visitor Center is open from 9 am to 4:15 pm, and official tours operate from 9 am to 3:45 pm. You can visit Hoover Dam 365 days a year, except for Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
Other tips for visiting the Hoover Dam
Here are a few other tips to help you plan your Hoover Dam visit:
- To make the most of your Hoover Dam visit, plan to spend a few hours there (3-4). This will give you time to get pictures, take a Hoover Dam tour at the visitor center, and explore the surrounding Lake Mead area.
- Remember that it’s about an hour from the Hoover Dam to Las Vegas, so give yourself enough time to get there and maximize your visit.
- There is no charge to cross the Hoover Dam Bridge, which offers some of the best views of the dam. That said, there is a Hoover Dam entrance fee for the Visitor Center, the tours, and the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
- You can find additional parking on the Arizona side of the dam. If it’s a slow day, parking may be free, or you can drive further up the hill for more free parking. The earlier you get there, the better your chances of scoring a decent spot.
- Be prepared for desert heat and bring plenty of water to carry with you. There isn’t much shade around the dam, so sunscreen, sunglasses, and hats are must-haves.
How to get to Hoover Dam
The directions to Hoover Dam from Vegas are super simple, so you’ll have no problem driving there or booking a tour.
Directions to the Hoover Dam from Las Vegas
Hoover Dam is located in Boulder City, NV, about 45 minutes to an hour southeast of Sin City. There are a few ways to get to Hoover Dam from Las Vegas. You can take your vehicle or rent a car in Las Vegas, take the Hoover Dam shuttle, or book a tour from Vegas.
I’ll share more about tours in the next section, but for now, here are the directions to Hoover Dam from Las Vegas:
- Take I-515 S/US-93 S and follow it for about 34 miles to NV-172 (Exit 2).
- Continue on NV-172, which converts to Hoover Dam Access Rd. You’ll see signs for Hoover Dam bridge parking and the Visitor Center.
Hoover Dam tours
If you’re in Las Vegas and you don’t want to rent a car, you can take one of these Hoover Dam tours from the Strip. They’ll take care of round-trip transportation, guides, and tickets. Some of these tours include extra stops at attractions along the way, so they’re perfect for a day trip.
The most popular one is this full or half-day tour with shuttle service. It’s also included in the Las Vegas City Pass, one of the best Sightseeing Passes in Las Vegas.
You could also book a Hoover Dam helicopter tour and enjoy a narrated flight while soaring over one of the most famous U.S. landmarks.
Hoover Dam history & facts
By now, you’re probably convinced that visiting the Hoover Dam is a worthwhile trip! However, if you’re still unsure, here are some Hoover Dam facts that will clinch the deal for you!
- The dam was built between 1931 and 1936. Its original purpose was to hold back the waters of the Colorado River and supply hydroelectric power to the surrounding area, which was rapidly developing. Today, the dam still fulfills this purpose and provides power to over a million people in three states, and irrigates 2 million acres of land.
- The Hoover Dam’s height of 726.4 ft made it the world’s tallest dam until 1968 when it was surpassed by California’s Orville Dam (770 ft).
- The Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge is the Western Hemisphere’s longest single-span concrete arch bridge. It replaced the portion of US-93 that crossed over the top of the dam since it often got too congested.
- The construction of the Hoover Dam was a huge project and provided employment for thousands of people who were out of work due to the Great Depression. As these laborers flocked to the area, they needed a place to live, so Boulder City was built to house the workforce.
- During the five years it took to build the dam, over 130 workers died, either from accident or illness.
- The dam is named after U.S. President Herbert Hoover, whose administration approved the project’s construction. However, President Hoover wasn’t invited to the dedication ceremony, and the dam wasn’t officially named until 1947.
- U.S. officials discovered that the Hoover Dam was the target of a German military bomb threat in 1939. The U.S. managed to thwart the attack.
FAQs about the Hoover Dam
Finally, here are some common questions about the Hoover Dam and how to visit from Las Vegas.
How tall is Hoover Dam?
The Hoover Dam is 726.4 feet tall.
What state is the Hoover Dam in?
It’s on the Colorado River in the Black Canyon, which sits on the border of Nevada and Arizona.
How far is Hoover Dam from Las Vegas?
The drive from Las Vegas to Hoover Dam is about 50 minutes (37 miles).
When was the Hoover Dam built?
Construction on the Hoover Dam began in 1931, and it opened in 1936.
Why was the Hoover Dam built?
The purpose of the Hoover Dam was to control flooding on the Colorado River, as well as for agricultural irrigation and hydroelectric power to Nevada, Arizona, and California.
That’s it from me! I hope you enjoyed learning more about the Hoover Dam and all the fun things to do here! If you have questions about visiting Hoover Dam from Las Vegas or anything else in this article, leave me a comment below. I’ll be happy to help you out. Have a safe trip!