The Hoover Dam is one of the coolest historical landmarks in the American Southwest. An impressive feat of human engineering and hydropower, the dam continues to amaze visitors nearly 90 years after it was built.
Moreover, its close proximity to Sin City makes visiting the Hoover Dam one of the best things to do outside of Las Vegas. You can easily rent a car in Vegas and get to the dam in less than an hour. If you don’t want to drive, I recommend taking a Hoover Dam day tour like this one or flying over this monumental structure on a Hoover Dam helicopter tour.
To help you decide how to visit Hoover Dam and plan your trip, I’m sharing everything you need to know about this landmark attraction. I’ll share how to get there, the 10 best things to do at the Hoover Dam, and more.
Guide to visiting the Hoover Dam
This guide includes everything you should know about Hoover Dam tourism, including ticket prices, directions, and activities. Feel free to read through the entire guide or skip to the topic you’re curious about:
- How to visit Hoover Dam
- Best things to do at the Hoover Dam
- Hoover Dam tourist information
- Tips for visiting Hoover Dam
Where is the Hoover Dam located?
The Hoover Dam is on the border of Nevada and Arizona, on the Colorado River in Black Canyon. It’s just 40 minutes from Sin City and one of the best stops on a road trip from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon.
How to visit Hoover Dam
You can visit the Hoover Dam by car or take a tour from Las Vegas. An organized tour is the most convenient option especially if you don’t have a vehicle or don’t want to drive.
Directions to Hoover Dam from Las Vegas
The Hoover Dam is just 37 miles southeast of Las Vegas, so the drive only takes about 40 minutes.
If you don’t have a vehicle, renting a car in Las Vegas is the best option since you can go on your own schedule and spend as much time at the dam as you want. Plus, you’re free to take any detours or pit stops you’d like. The directions to the Hoover Dam from Las Vegas are quite simple:
- 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 from Las Vegas
Of course, if you don’t want to drive, you can take a Hoover Dam tour from Las Vegas. This is definitely the easiest option since most of the tours include the Hoover Dam shuttle from Las Vegas and a live guide. Some of these Hoover Dam tours even include extra stops along the way, so they’re perfect for a day trip.
I recommend this full or half-day tour, which passes through Boulder City and Lake Mead before arriving at the Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. Then, you’ll take a tour through the construction tunnels, powerplant, and Hoover Dam Visitor Center. This tour is included in several Las Vegas tourist cards, including the Las Vegas Go City Pass. I suggest getting the pass if you plan on seeing other Vegas attractions so you can visit them at a discount.
10 Best things to do at the 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 10 recommendations below!
1. Hoover Dam Visitor Center
The first place you should check out is the Hoover Dam Visitor Center. It costs $10 to enter and see the informational exhibits. Here, you can learn more about the history of the Hoover Dam, its legacy, and the power systems and infrastructure that keep it functioning. You can also watch a short documentary about the dam’s construction, including the engineering prowess and manpower it took to build such a huge structure.
The Visitor Center is also where you can purchase tickets for a Hoover Dam tour. There are three tours to choose from:
Hoover Dam self-guided tour
The self-guided Hoover Dam tour costs $10 and is the tour that’s included in your Visitor Center admission. You’ll be able to walk through the narrated exhibits and watch the historical Hoover Dam film. The tour also includes access to the Visitor Center observation decks, which offer panoramic views of the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead, the Colorado River, and the Bypass Bridge in the distance.
Guided Powerplant Tour
The powerplant tour through Hoover Dam costs $15 and grants you access to the dam’s original construction tunnels. A guide will lead you through the passageway and take you to the Nevada Powerhouse to see its commercial generators. You can even feel the force of the water rushing through the pipes below. This tour also includes everything in the self-guided tour.
Guided Dam Tour
For $30, you can take the complete Hoover Dam tour, which includes everything in the powerplant tour, plus an elevator ride to the inner workings of the dam. Take a walk through the old inspection tunnels and check out the ventilation shaft, where you can also see the Colorado River churning. It’s the best deal if you’re interested in the behind-the-scenes logistics of the Hoover Dam.
2. Hoover Dam Bridge – Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge
When you visit the Hoover Dam, you’ll also be able to see the Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. From here, you’ll get some of the most impressive views of the dam and its surroundings.
This Hoover Dam Bridge was named after former Nevada Governor Mike O’Callaghan and football player Pat Tillman, who died while on military duty in Afghanistan. It was built to provide a safer route over the dam and ease traffic congestion.
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.
You can walk or drive across the bridge, although you’ll have to get out of your car if you want to get the full view.
3. Hoover Dam Lookout – Kingman Wash
Another one of the best ways to see Hoover Dam is by visiting Kingman Wash. This Hoover Dam Lookout is on the Arizona side of the dam and has the most breathtaking views of the massive structure. From here, you can take in the magnitude of the manmade dam and witness the rushing water while glimpsing Lake Mead, Black Canyon, and the desert environment in the distance.
Best of all, this overlook tends to be less crowded than the others, so you can get a front-row seat to the beautiful views. 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 the 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. Historic Railroad Tunnel Trail at Lake Mead National Recreation Area
I’ve mentioned that you can get nice views of Lake Mead from Hoover Dam, but it’s also worth visiting this place for yourself. Lake Mead was formed as a result of the construction of the Hoover Dam and spans 247 square miles. The Lake Mead National Recreation Area is the largest of its kind in the U.S.
The calm blue water of the lake is the perfect contrast to the concrete and steel parts of the Hoover Dam. It’s worth spending some time in this area, especially if you enjoy water sports like boating, kayaking and swimming. If you prefer on-land activities, you’ll find hiking trails here, including the Railroad Tunnel Trail.
This family-friendly trail starts at the Lake Mead Visitor Center and has sturdy terrain and signposts, so it’s quite easy. Since it travels along the Boulder City Highway, you’ll be able to see the Hoover Dam’s construction tunnels while you hike. You’ll also see the Hoover Dam Boneyard, the Lake Mead – Lakeview Overlook, and natural scenery, so it’s one of the best hikes near Las Vegas.
5. Gold Strike Hot Springs Trail
Hiking the Gold Strike Hot Springs Trail is one of the best things to do at the Hoover Dam, especially if you love outdoor activities like us. 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.
The trail has a few areas where you’ll have to scramble over boulders and watch your footing, but it’s worth the effort. 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 in the area have dried up, but there are a few you can swim in, and there are some thermal waterfalls, too. It’s one of the coolest places to visit near the Hoover Dam, so I highly recommend it.
6. Dam Builders Memorial at Hoover Dam
By the entrance to the Hoover Dam, you can see the beautiful, winged figures built by Norwegian sculptor Oskar J. W. Hansen. The figures represent guardian angels looking over the dam, and they’re accompanied by a plaque dedicated to the people who died during the dam’s construction.
The plaque was on the canyon wall on the Arizona side of the dam but was moved so it would be closer to the sculptures. The accompanying plaque reads, “They died to make the desert bloom. The United States of America will continue to remember that many who toiled here found their final rest while engaged in the building of this dam. The United States of America will continue to remember the services of all who labored to clothe with substance the plans of those who first visioned the building of this dam.”
Visiting this little piece of the dam is even more meaningful after going through the Hoover Dam Visitor Center and learning about the history of this monument.
7. Hemenway Park
Not far from the dam, off Highway 93, you’ll find Hemenway Park in Boulder City. I recommend taking this detour to visit the park, get some fresh air, and spot some wildlife.
Hemenway Park is a pleasant green space that’s perfect for the whole family. It’s mostly known for its herds of bighorn sheep, who often graze in the park. The bighorn sheep is Nevada’s state animal, so keep your eyes peeled for strays snacking on the grass or resting in the shade.
There are also tennis courts, picnic areas, and a playground at the park, so you can take a brief break here before continuing your journey to the Lake Mead and Hoover Dam area.
8. Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum
The Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum is inside the Boulder Dam Hotel at 1305 Arizona Street. This is another Boulder City attraction near the Hoover Dam that you should add to your itinerary.
The museum chronicles the construction of the dam as well as the history of Boulder City through artifacts, photos, and an educational theater. Many of the objects on display date back to the Great Depression, offering a look back at the social and political climate of the time. You’ll also learn more about the Hoover Dam’s impact and how it paved the way for hydroelectric power and engineering.
The Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum is free and open daily from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
9. Nevada Southern Railroad Museum & other places to visit in Boulder City
Given its proximity to the Hoover Dam, Boulder City is a great place to explore during your trip, so I recommend spending a few hours here if you have time.
In addition to the Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum and Hemenway Park, the city is home to the Southern Railroad Museum, one of the most popular attractions in Nevada. This museum has a collection of historic trains and locomotive models dating back as far as the 1840s. There are also interpretive exhibits and a 7-mile heritage railroad ride that you can enjoy. This family-friendly attraction is one of the best things to do near Hoover Dam with kids.
Another cool place to check out is Bootleg Canyon Park, a haven for mountain bikers and hikers. The cross-country and downhill trails here wind through the desert landscape and pass by some stunning viewpoints overlooking Lake Mead.
For a scenic change of pace, head to Veteran’s Memorial Park, a 25-acre green space with several sports fields and courts, a 3-acre fishing pond, a skatepark, and walking/biking paths. Another outdoor option is the Alan Bible Botanical Garden, which is home to various species of desert shrubs and cacti.
10. Get stunning aerial views of the Hoover Dam
Finally, to make your visit to the Hoover Dam extra special, consider taking a Hoover Dam helicopter tour. It’s the best way to get aerial views of Hoover Dam and fully grasp the magnitude of this massive structure.
Keep in mind that most helicopter tours from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon also fly over the Hoover Dam. So, if you’re traveling from Vegas and don’t mind just doing a helicopter ride over the dam, this type of tour can be a great deal. We took this heli-tour and got some exceptional photos of the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon from above. The birds-eye view was so amazing that we’ve taken additional helicopter tours over the area. I highly recommend seeing it for yourself!
Hoover Dam tourist information (hours, ticket price, map, and more)
Now that you know the best things to do at the Hoover Dam, here is some important information you’ll need to plan your visit.
Hoover Dam hours
The hours for the Hoover Dam are 5:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. daily. The Hoover Dam Visitor Center is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 pm, and official tours operate from 9:00 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. You can visit Hoover Dam 365 days a year, except for Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
Entrance fee and tickets to Hoover Dam
There is no cost to see the dam, but if you want to go into the Hoover Dam Visitor Center and see the exhibits, you must pay the $10 admission. There are also different guided tours of the Hoover Dam, which range from $15-$30 per person and include admission to the Visitor Center.
Hoover Dam map
You’ll have an easier time planning your visit with this Hoover Dam map. It includes an overview of the dam, the parking lots, and attractions surrounding the dam.
Parking at the Hoover Dam
There is free Hoover Dam parking across from the Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. There is another free lot on the Arizona side. Paid parking at the garage by the Visitor Center costs $10 per vehicle.
Hoover Dam hotel
If you want more time to visit the Hoover Dam and the surrounding area, consider staying overnight. The Hoover Dam Lodge in Boulder City is the best hotel by the Hoover Dam. It’s just a 5-minute drive away and offers good nightly rates and free parking.
The accommodation features spacious and tidy rooms that are ideal for families. Plus, there are additional guest amenities like an outdoor pool, a fitness center, a casino, a general store and a restaurant.
Otherwise, we have a full guide on where to stay in Las Vegas, for more accommodation options.
Hoover Dam history & facts
What’s so special about the Hoover Dam anyway? You’ll learn all about it when you visit and take a tour, but for now, here are some Hoover Dam facts to entice you:
- The dam was built between 1931 and 1936 to hold back the waters of the Colorado River and supply hydroelectric power to the surrounding area, which was rapidly developing. Today, the Hoover 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 to help ease traffic congestion.
- 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.
- In 1939, the United States discovered that the Hoover Dam was the target of a German military bomb threat, and U.S. officials were able to stop the attack.
Tips for visiting Hoover Dam
Before you plan your visit to the Hoover Dam, here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Plan to spend 3-4 hours here. This will give you time to take pictures, go to the Hoover Dam Visitor Center, take a tour, and explore the Lake Mead area.
- The best time to visit Hoover Dam if you want to avoid crowds is between 9:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. or 3:00 p.m. to 4:45 p.m.
- Remember that it takes about an hour to visit the Hoover Dam by car from Vegas. Make sure you give yourself enough time to get there and maximize your visit.
- It is free to cross the Hoover Dam Bridge, but there is a fee to get into the Visitor Center. Also, the tours at the Hoover Dam range from $15-$30 per person.
- Parking at the Hoover Dam Visitor Center costs $10. You can find free Hoover Dam parking on the Arizona side, across from the Memorial Bridge.
- 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.
FAQs about visiting Hoover Dam
To round out this guide on how to visit the Hoover Dam, here are the answers to some common questions:
The total height of the Hoover Dam is 726.4 feet.
The Hoover Dam is on the border of Nevada and Arizona, on the Colorado River in Black Canyon.
The Hoover Dam is just 37 miles from Las Vegas, or about a 40-minute drive.
Construction on the Hoover Dam began in April 1931, and it opened in March 1936.
The purpose of the Hoover Dam was to control flooding on the Colorado River and to help with agricultural irrigation and hydroelectric power to Nevada, Arizona, and California.
You should plan to spend about 3 hours touring the Hoover Dam.
The best time to visit the Hoover Dam is in fall or winter when there are minimal crowds, and the temperatures are mild.
Yes, you can walk across the Hoover Dam and see the lookout points, but if you want to go into the Visitor Center, you need to pay the admission fee.
Yes, you can see the Hoover Dam for free, but it’s worth taking the tours.
It’s free to go to the Hoover Dam, but the Visitor Center costs $10 per person. The tours at the Hoover Dam range from $15 to $30.
Absolutely! It’s worth visiting the Hoover Dam and learning about its history while seeing it up close. Plus, the dam is close to Las Vegas and on the way to the Grand Canyon.
Yes, and it’s free to walk across the Hoover Dam Bridge.
Yes, you can drive across the dam and park in one of the free lots or the paid parking garage.
That’s it from me! I hope you feel better prepared for your Hoover Dam visit and that you make the most of your time here. If you have any other questions, feel free to leave me a comment below. I’d also love to hear about your experience touring the Hoover Dam.
Stay safe and have a wonderful trip!