10 Tips for Visiting Hoover Dam

Last updated: August 27th, 2023 | Originally published: August 27, 2023
Visiting the Hoover Dam

The Hoover Dam is located on the border of Nevada and Arizona, 40 miles from the Las Vegas strip. It has been called the 8th wonder of the world, as well as one of the 7 modern marvels of the industrial revolution. The dam stands 726 feet tall and is 1,244 feet long, and is as every bit impressive as those measurements would indicate. Visiting Hoover Dam is one of the bests things to do in Las Vegas.

Hoover Dam impounds the Colorado River, creating Lake Mead – the largest reservoir in the United States. It provides power to more than 1 million people in Arizona, Nevada, and California. Named after President Herbert Hoover, construction began in 1931 and took five years to complete. The cost? $49M. The official number of fatalities? 96.

The Hoover Dam was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1985. More than one million people tour the dam each year. If you want to be one of those dam tourists, we’ve made a short and simple list of things that we think everyone should know before they come to visit. We hope you enjoy.

1. Beat the Dam Buses

Visiting the Hoover Dam

Busloads of tourists arrive early and often when visiting Hoover Dam. Our best advice is to beat them at their own dam game. Unless you love throngs of people in your photographs, and wading elbow-to-elbow with strangers, get up a little earlier than usual and arrive by 08:00. Because if you don’t… you’ll come to understand what it’s like when people arrive 75 at a time, one bus after another, all dam day.

2. Free and Paid Parking at Hoover Dam

Visiting the Hoover Dam
Arizona side overlook — Visiting Hoover Dam

The parking lot across from the dam visitor center charges $10 to park. We think its worth the convenience to pay. There is also a $10 parking lot on the Arizona side, just across the bridge.

If you want to save ten buck when you visit the Hoover Dam, park on the Arizona side further up the hill. You’ll walk a half mile or so, but you’ll get a couple extra pulls on the slot machine for your efforts.

Parking is also available near the Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge on the Nevada side — its about a mile walk to the dam from here. Here’s a MAP to all the parking lots.

3. Available Tours when Visiting Hoover Dam

Visiting the Hoover Dam

There are three different tours for visiting Hoover Dam. Here’s the LINK to their website.

Guided Dam Tour ($30) Includes: Visit historic tour tunnels and ride original elevator to the top of Hoover Dam. Walk through the inspection tunnels at the center of Hoover Dam. View the Colorado River through the inspection ventilation shaft. Guided Powerplant Tour. Self-Guided Visitor Center Tour.

Guided Power Plant Tour ($15) Includes: Walk through original construction tunnels. Visit the viewing platform overlooking a 30 foot diameter penstock – feel the vibration created by water. See 8 of the commercial generators in the Nevada Powerhouse. Self-Guided Visitor Center Tour.

Self Guided Visitor Center Tour ($10) Includes: Immerse yourself in the history of Hoover Dam as you walk through our narrated exhibits. Enjoy a 360 degree view of the Dam, Colorado River, Lake Mead and Hoover Bypass Bridge from the Observation Deck. Visit the Original Exhibit Building with narrated 3D model of the region’s dams and power systems.

4. Hoover Dam Visitor Center is NOT Free

Visiting the Hoover Dam
Top of the Dam — Visiting Hoover Dam

If you read the above tour descriptions this will not come as a surprise. But if you’re skimming this article… just remember that skimming becomes scumming when U is added. Anyway, most visitor centers are free so it might be slightly off-putting to find one that requires payment to visit.

They really should change the name to Paid Customer Center, or Admission Required Center. Perhaps give it a trendy name, like Ten Bucks Lighter or Fool Me Once. Seriously, though, they should just call it a Dam Museum cause museums charge $10 to visit and visitor centers don’t.

5. Proximity to Las Vegas

Visiting the Hoover Dam
Hemenway Park — Visiting Hoover Dam

From the intersection of Flamingo and Las Vegas Boulevard, home of the Bellagio and Caesar’s Palace, it takes just under 40 minutes to drive to the Hoover Dam. There are no shortage of tours that will bring you here. From our perspective, bus tours look lame. If you have a car, just drive.

If you love to travel, or love the idea of traveling more, better, or different, we have something we would like to give you. It is our professionally designed e-book and it is FREE of charge. We think it’s pretty great, and we’re pretty sure you’ll like it, too. It’s called, “Cultivating a Lifetime of Travel”. Click HERE. and we’ll send it on over!

6. Pat Tillman Highway / State Line

Visiting the Hoover Dam

If you didn’t know, the Hoover Dam not only crosses Lake Meade, but it also crosses the state line between Nevada and Arizona. You can see in the photo above that the clock displays Arizona time. On the other side of the dam it displays Nevada time. In between its party time.

7. Bridge View at Hoover Dam

Visiting the Hoover Dam

In plain view of the dam is the the Mike O’Callaghan / Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. Mr. O’Callaghan was the 23rd Governor of Nevada. Pat Tillman was a successful NFL defenseman who put his football career on hold when he volunteered for the armed services in 2002 (immediately following his honeymoon). He participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, and in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2004. As many know, he was killed by friendly fire in April 2004.

I spoke at length with a veteran who was within 50 yards of him when he died. Not to get all conspiratorial, but it doesn’t sound like the truth of what happened ever came out. RIP Pat Tillman. You were a brave patriot and an inspiration to us all.

The view from the bridge is fantastic and not to be missed. Park at the lot (MAP) and walk out to the middle of the bridge for the best look.

8. Lookouts on the Arizona Side

Visiting the Hoover Dam
Do I sit or stand when Visiting Hoover Dam?

Some of the best views at Hoover Dam are on the Arizona side. Here you will get an entirely different perspective. Hoover Dam looks much different from the backside. The odd, Brita filter-looking towers add some intrigue. And Lake Meade is beautiful.

9. Historic Railroad Hiking Trail

Visiting Hoover Dam

If you want to make a full-day out of you Hoover Dam experience, try some dam hiking on the historic railroad trail. The full trail is 3.7 miles. Here’s a (MAP). If you’re more interested in the elevated view above the dam and don’t feel like walking a couple of hours, you can cut off 75% of the distance if you start HERE.

10. Big Horned Sheep near Hoover Dam

Hemenway Park — Visiting Hoover Dam

I used to think big horned sheep were these elusive creatures that required good fortune and impeccable timing to catch a glimpse. Truth is, we’ve seen these things everywhere — Zion National Park, Valley of Fire State Park, Antelope Island… and now here, beside a basketball court in a neighborhood park outside Boulder City Nevada.

The place is called Hemenway Park. Here’s a (MAP). It is our understanding that the big horned sheep on hanging around most of the time. The park has a beautiful view, as well.

An Honest Conclusion for Visiting the Hoover Dam

Parker — Our son with Autism

Visiting Hoover Dam is one of the better excursions to get yourself out of Las Vegas. The dam itself is a marvel and easy to recognize as such. The lake and canyon setting is pretty spectacular as well.

We were slightly disappointed with our experience, however. Sometimes our excursions surprise us, and sometimes they underwhelm. This was one of those times the sizzle wasn’t worth the steak. Can’t really say why, either. Maybe it was the overcast skies and low lake levels. Perhaps it was the $10 visitor center charge — come on, people. It could have been that I looked at too many photographs before I got there, and visiting Hoover Dam was exactly like the photos.

Do not let us discourage you for having your own dam experience. There is plenty to like here. At the very least we hope you feel better prepared to visit Hoover Dam when you do.

Thank you for stopping by our website! We are the Hoffmann family, a full-time RV family that has split residence in Seattle, Washington and San Antonio, Texas. We have special needs children that we homeschool, and work travel assignments for the Veteran Affairs Hospital. If you would like to learn more about us, check out our Start Here and Biography pages. In the meantime, God bless and travel happy!

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