The Hoover Dam
5-years, 5,000 workers and over 3.25 million cubic yards of concrete later, a monolith would arise from the glimmering waters of the Colorado River. Originally built to protect farmland in Southern California from flooding by the Colorado river, the project gave rise to the massive and magnificent Hoover Dam, one of the greatest engineering feats the world has ever seen.
Top reasons to visit Hoover Dam
Whether you’re a history buff, enjoy amazing scenery or just want to marvel at the sheer size of this architectural wonder, there’s something for everyone at the Hoover Dam. Best of all, it’s a short 45-minute journey from the Las Vegas Strip to see this structure.
Insider tip: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. is typically the busiest time at the dam (even during the hot summer months).
Our trip to Hoover Dam and Lake Mead
Looking for an easy day trip, we decided to check out Hoover Dam and Lake Mead outside of Las Vegas.
We got an early start to beat the crowds and to have enough time to check out Lake Mead. Our first mistake upon arrival was to eagerly pull into the first parking lot we saw when entering the recreation area. $10 later and we had ourselves a spot in the mostly empty garage.
Insider tip: Exact change is appreciated at the pay-lot, however they now take credit cards.
We wish we had kept going and driven over the Hoover Dam to the Arizona side to snag a spot in one of the free lots.
The walk-way extends across the entire dam with equally impressive views on either side. Be sure to check out both sides.
Since the tours and visitor center were both closed, we ended up spending about 20 – 30 minutes snapping pictures and taking in the sights.
After we witnessed the dam up close, we wanted to get a panoramic view of the area and back-tracked to checkout the Memorial by-pass bridge (our second mistake). We recommend going to the Memorial by-pass bridge first. The parking lot is small and it fills up quick.
Up until 2010, the main traffic route (for commercial and private use) was to drive directly over the Hoover Dam. This all changed after the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat-Tillman Memorial bridge was finally completed. If you try and snag a spot on the free AZ side, you’ll see why a new road was needed.
Insider tip: The Memorial bridge parking area is free, but go early as it tends to fill up quick.
The trek up from the parking lot to the bridge takes about 5 -10 minutes and has a lot of history boards to read.
Once you reach the bridge, you’ll be met with approximately a five foot wide path that runs directly next to traffic whizzing by.
When passing by in a car, you would never know the Hoover Dam was there due to the tall concrete walls.
Given Mrs. Moose is afraid of heights, we didn’t feel it would be easy to fall off the bridge but it was eerie to be up so high looking down.
There is a nice handrail to grasp onto as needed during the journey.
The bridge did like to shake as the cars (and especially semis) race by.
Insider tip: Hold on to your camera tight if you’re going to take pictures! It gets windy and if the fall doesn’t destroy your device, landing in the water below certainly will. Plus, there’s no way to get it back.
Longing to see the famous Lake Mead, we made our way back to the parking lot and went off on the next stage of our journey.
Traveling Northshore Road Around Lake Mead
To cap off our day, we traveled a mere three miles to the nearest entrance of Lake Mead.
Insider tip: Use your America the Beautiful Pass for free entrance to Lake Mead. Otherwise, a day pass costs $25 (pricing subject to change).
Right before the pay entrance, you can stop at the visitor center and gift store or hike the very popular railroad trail. It was already getting too late in the day for an 7.5 mile hike, so we opted to drive the scenic drive along western edge of the lake instead.
We were not disappointed.
With numerous places to stop along this scenic drive, we quickly realized we didn’t have enough time to see them all and lunchtime was calling. As we wistfully headed back towards Vegas instead of venturing on, we knew we’d be back one day to finish our Lake Mead journey.
Frequently Ask Questions about Hoover Dam
What is the Hoover Dam Entrance Fee?
There is no cost to visit the Hoover Dam. There are paid tours to visit the inside of the Dam and you will need to pay a $10 parking fee (pricing subject to change) if you park on the Nevada side of the Dam, or the first and only pay lot on the Arizona side.
Insider tip: When traveling from Las Vegas, continue over the Hoover Dam and park on the Arizona side to avoid the $10 fee. Note, when it’s busy, this may not be an option.
Should I visit the Memorial Bridge?
Yes! A quick stop to the Memorial bridge is an absolute must when visiting Hoover Dam. While small, the parking lot for the entrance to the by-pass is free! A short walk (either up the stairs or accessible path), leads to the pedestrian walk-way on the bridge, named for Mike O’Callaghan and Pat Tillman.
Are drones allowed at the Hoover Dam?
No. The FAA has banned drone flights within 400 feet of several national landmarks, including the Hoover Dam.
Are pets allowed at the Hoover Dam?
Sorry, Fido has to sit this one out. Pets are not allowed in the area, except for service pets
I’m afraid of heights, should I visit Hoover Dam?
Yes! The Hoover Dam is a marvelous feat of engineering and can be safely visited, even by those scared of heights. You may want to refrain from peering over the side. It’s a long way down!
Should I drive to the Hoover Dam or book a tour?
This depends on a couple of items. Would you like to go see other attractions in the area? Perhaps the Valley of Fire or Red Red Canyon? If so, I highly recommend renting a car for a day or two to aid in your journey. Most of the main attractions in Vegas can be reached by a short car ride. Plus, if you have a car, you can round out your Hoover Dam trip with a stop at the famed Lake Mead before you head back to the glitzy strip.
Is Hoover Dam closed due to COVID?
No. You can still visit Hoover Dam, however not everything is accessible. At this time, all of the Dam tours have been cancelled and the restrooms were open with restrictions. The Visitor center was also closed, however there were plenty of sign boards to read about the history of the Dam and the gift shop was open to the public. Check out current closures here.
Can I leave my car at Memorial bridge parking lot and walk down to the Dam?
Yes. There is an accessible trail to walk down to the Dam area from the Memorial Bridge area.
Should you visit the Hoover Dam?
Yes! We greatly enjoyed our trip to Hoover Dam. While we didn’t get to see the visitor center or take a guided tour, seeing the Dam from the Memorial Bridge and walking over the Dam itself was quite a treat. If you’re in the area, we highly recommend checking it out!
Rating: 5 Mooses