Lake Mead National Recreation Area – Visiting Hover Dam


What? :

Built during the Great Depression (1931-1936), Hoover dam that is blocking the Colorado River and holding Lake Med is still considered to an engineering marvel.

Hoover Dam is the heart of Lake Mead National Recreation Area where you can explore the lake and the surrounding desert area.

There are many things to see and do here and I will try to provide you as much information as I can so you can plan your visit here.




Where? :

Hoover Dam is located in Black Canyon spanning the Colorado River between Arizona and Nevada, about 30 miles southeast of Las Vegas, Nevada.

Driving Directions to Hoover Dam:

From Las Vegas take I-11 S/US-93 S/US-95 S through Boulder City and take Exit 2, At the traffic circle, take the 3rd exit onto NV-172, Turn right onto NV SR-172/Hoover Dam Access Rd, continue to follow Hoover Dam Access Rd.


Google Map Link




When? :

The Dam is open year-round.

Summer month are very hots and temperatures can reach 111 F.



Due note 1: Open to the public daily from 5:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Due note 2: Hoover Dam Visitor Center and Tours Open daily 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day). Last tour departs at 3:45 p.m.

Due note 3: Guided Dam Tour ($30): Tickets CANNOT be purchased online, and are only sold on-site, in person, on a first come-first served basis. The entire group must be present at time of purchase.


Due note 4: Guided Power Plant Tours ($15): The least busy times of day for the Power Plant Tours are 9:00 - 11:00 a.m. and 2:30 - 3:45 p.m.


Due note 5: The America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Pass are not accepted for Hover Dam Visitor Center or guided tours. The facility although within the Lake Mead National Recreation Area is governed by United States Bureau of Reclamation (USBR).


Due note 6: Parking fee $10 per vehicle. Parking Garage in the Nevada side:  Open 8:00 a.m. – 5:15 p.m. $10.00 parking fee. These 400 plus-space parking garages is located on your left side when you are driving down the dam, from that parking you can walk to the visitor center and the dam itself. You can also find open parking lot at the Arizona side of the dam, the first parking also cost $10 but the one up the hill are free and can accommodate large size RV or trailers.


Due note 7: The only way to cross from/to Arizona and Nevada with a car is over the new Mike O'Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge that is engineering marvel by itself. In the pass it was done by driving over the dam (old highway 93) but today the road is closed on the Arizona side, right after the last parking lot.

Due note 8: The Hoover Dam is located less than an hour drive from the Las Vegas strip, it is the perfect half a day trip destination.


Due note 9: The Hoover Dam receives around 7 million visitors annually, making it the world's most-visited dam. About 1 million of those visitors take tours of the dam. Except congestion near parking lots mid-day.


Due note 10: When visiting here you should anticipate traffic delays, especially before Nevada Security Checkpoint, especially during holiday and summer travel periods. Parking spots can be challenging. Try to come here early in the morning, it will be less hot and with less people.


Due note 11: A good portion of your Hoover Dam experience is outdoors, if this is walking over the dam, or walking to the bridge viewing point. Please plan for all types of weather, summer is extremely hot with mid-day temperatures can reach to 155 F. Bring and drink enough water, put sunscreen and wear a hat.


Due note 12: Lake Med water level are near lower point, as of May first 2024 the water level is at 1,072 ft this is considered as low water level but not as low as in July 2022 where the water level reach it lowest as 1,040ft.


Due note 13: There are several restrooms near the more popular locations, there is a gift shop and Hoover Dam Café on the lower floor of the parking garage.



My thoughts:

The first time I visit Hover Dam was in 1997 and over the years I visit here several more time, always finding myself amazed by this human marvel of engineering.

There are many things to see here, and I will recommend coming early in the morning so you will have less crowd and it is not as hot as mid-day.

Although the dam and powerhouse tour can be expensive for family, I really recommend it.

Do not miss the walk over the bridge, the view down to the Hover Dam is very nice.





The visit:


Open Hours:

Hoover Dam is open to visitors from 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. seven days a week.

The first tour of the day begins at 9:30 A.M., with tours running every half-hour until the final tour at 3:30 P.M. Powerplant tours begin at 9:25 A.M. with the final tour at 3:55 P.M. 

The parking garage is open from 8:00 A.M. to 5:15 P.M. 

Hoover Dam Visitor Center is open every day of the year except for Thanksgiving and Christmas.



Security Checkpoint:

Most passenger vehicles can cross the dam.

All vehicles are subject to inspection at the Nevada Security Checkpoint.  

Vehicles are prohibited from stopping on top of the dam.

Firearms, Explosives and Fireworks are Prohibited at Hoover Dam.

Flying drones is prohibited on Hoover Dam property.

Marijuana is prohibited at Hoover Dam.

Comfort animals and pets are not allowed on top of the dam or in any buildings.



General Information About the Dam:

Hoover Dam is concrete arch-gravity dam in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River, on the border between the U.S. states of Nevada and Arizona. Constructed between 1931 and 1936, during the Great Depression.

In order to build Hoover Dam, the town of Boulder City was established to house the workers. At the time, Las Vegas had a modest population of 5,000, but the city soon saw an influx of 10,000-20,000 workers.

Workers first divert the Colorado river into two side tunnels so the construction can access the bedrock for dam foundations. They used a total of 3,250,000 cubic yards of concrete to build the dam, and they used an additional 1,100,000 cubic yards to build the power plant and other nearby structures.

Hoover Dam is 726 feet (221 meters) high and 1,244 feet (379 meters) long at the crest. It is as tall as a 60-story building. Its base is as thick as two football fields are long. The amount of concrete used in building it was enough to pave a road stretching from San Francisco to New York City.

Four reinforced-concrete intake towers located in the lake side of the dam divert water from the reservoir into huge steel pipes called penstocks.

Nearly half of the generated electric power goes to California and the city of Los Angeles, and the rest goes to Nevada and Arizona.

Today the Hoover Dam controls the flooding of the Colorado River, provide irrigation water to over 1,500,000 acres of land, and provides water to over 16,000,000 people. Power generated by the dam turbines provides energy to power over 500,000 homes.


Lake Mead, which extends for 115 miles upstream, is the largest man-made lake in the US, supports recreational activities and provides habitats to fish and wildlife.




Things to do when visiting Hover Dam:


There are many things to do here some involved with additional fee (visitor center and tours) and other only cost entrance and 10$ parking fee.


I will advise to start your visit here with the visitor center and the guided tours into the dam and powerhouse. For Visitor Center the best place to park is in the parking garage on your left when you are driving down to the dam. If this parking is full you need to drive and park on the remote (Arizona) side of the dam.

After your guided tour walk over the dam to it remote side, see the dam and the spillway.

The Picture below was taken 27 years ago when the highway 93 road crossing from Nevada to Arizona was over the Dum:

From here I will recommend driving up walk to Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge that offer amazing bird eye view of the dam and the canyon below you.

The last place I recommend to visit is to have a short stop at the Lake Mead - Lakeview Overlook point. This point is located west of the Security section, on a side turn out.





Hoover Dam Tours:

I highly recommend taking the tour inside the dam and into the power plant below. You will learn and see how this amazing achievement was built and understand how it operate.

Both tours include admission to the Visitor Center.

Hoover Dam Visitor Center is the starting point for the tours of Hoover Dam.

You will purchase tour tickets, explore exhibits that include the dam’s massive, hydroelectric power-producing turbines.

The one-hour guided tour of the powerplant and few inspection tunnels within the dam itself where you can see the huge water pipes.

In the powerhouse you will see the 17 huge power turbines that are located on both sides of the canyon wall (Arizona and Nevada).



Driving and Walking over the dam:

If you’re short on time or budget, skip the Hoover Dam tour and walk across the top of the dam for free.

Here you can look down the dam and see the generator building on both sides of the canyon walls at the bottom of the dam.

You can also see the 2 large clocks that show Arizona and Nevada time, because Arizona do not change it time the clocks are not always showing the same time.


On the far side of the dam (Arizona) you can see the large spillway entrances and the steel-drum gates that set the lake level from the nearby parking lot. The road passing over an arch bridge right over the spillway entrance.

The two spillways are protecting the dam against over-topping of the lake, and they were use twice over the years (1941 and 1983).

by two spillways. The 50-foot-wide (15 m) spillway running parallel to the canyon walls and reentering the main river channel below the dam.



Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge:

As the world’s tallest concrete arch bridge, it is the first concrete-steel arch composite bridge towers 880 feet over Hoover Dam canyon. The almost 2,000-foot-long bridge connects Nevada and Arizona roadways. The bridge was built to overcome the traffic congestion over the old highway 93 that travel over the dam and to enable better security, it was open on October 2010.

In order to walk over the bridge, you need to get into Boulder Dam Bridge parking lot (right if you are going down, left if you are going out) and look for an open spot.

If there is no open spot, wait people are coming back from the walk and drive away.

From the parking lot a short, paved path will take you up to the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge.

Visitors who aren’t afraid of heights can walk across the bridge and get a great view of Hoover Dam, power plant buildings, and the Black Canyon below.

This is not a long hike and I highly recommend it.






Nearby Hikes:


*Hikes are close during the hot summer months









Additional Pictures: