Your Guide to Visiting the Hoover Dam

your guide to the hoover dam

Hoover Dam is an impressive piece of modern engineering right on the border of Nevada and Arizona, about 35 miles from Las Vegas. Visited by millions of people every year, tourists come from all over the world to marvel at this massive concrete landmark that provides water and hydroelectric power to multiple states in the southwest since 1936.

Here’s everything you need to know if you’re considering a day trip to Hoover Dam from Las Vegas.

Why Visit Hoover Dam From Las Vegas?

To start, Hoover Dam is less than an hour’s drive from Las Vegas! It’s the ideal distance to get away from the Sin City lights for a few hours, but close to enough to easily make it back in time for an epic Las Vegas night on the town.

Hoover Dam is registered as a National Historic Landmark and a National Civil Engineering Landmark, so there’s so much to see and learn. Hoover Dam offers insightful exhibits and immersive behind-the-scenes looks at the innovation used to create and operate the dam.

Also, along with Hoover Dam comes Lake Mead, the man-made reservoir created by the dam and a sparkling oasis right in the middle of the desert.

How Far is Lake Mead From Hoover Dam?

Lake Mead is formed as a direct result of Hoover Dam’s effects on the Colorado River. It is the largest reservoir in the United States and sits just north of Hoover Dam. You can get to Lake Mead National Recreation Area from Hoover Dam in less than 20 minutes to enjoy water activities such as swimming, jet-skiing, and boating.

Check out more reasons you should take a trip to Lake Mead while visiting Hoover Dam.

Must-See Attractions at Hoover Dam

 hoover dam at night

There’s so much to see and explore at Hoover Dam. Here are some of the things you’ll want to check off your list while you’re there:

  • How the West Was Won” Presentation. While at the Hoover Dam Visitor’s Center, make sure you check out the video presentation on how Hoover Dam allowed for the settling of the western United States by providing a reliable source of water and power.
  • The Hoover Dam Power Plant Generators. Guests can access special elevators that will take them down 500 feet into the tunnels of Black Canyon. This is where you’ll find the Nevada side of the power plant complete with eight giant generators fueled by the flow of the Colorado River.
  • The Exhibit Gallery. This part of the Visitor’s Center features immersive exhibits, stunning artwork, and educational displays that highlight the history of Hoover Dam and the region, as well as how the dam and power plant operate.
  • The Nevada Intake Tower. This section of Hoover Dam is where the water from the Colorado River enters the massive pipes in order to generate electricity by operating the turbines. There’s also some impressive artwork by the tower elevators.
  • Penstock Viewing Platform. Witness one of the huge pipes that carry almost 90,000 gallons of water per second from Lake Mead to the power plant. Each pipe has a diameter of 30 feet!
  • Walk Across Hoover Dam. There is no fee to walk across Hoover Dam itself, but you will need to pay to park your car.

Photo Opportunities at Hoover Dam

winged figures of the republic

Get your cameras ready! Hoover Dam offers some excellent photo opportunities, including:

  • The Winged Figures of the Republic. These bronze statues are a classic example of the stunning Art Deco design you’ll find throughout the Visitor’s Center and Hoover Dam. You definitely want to capture a shot of these as they juxtapose the surrounding rocky terrain.
  • The Hoover Dam Overlook. Take in the most stunning views of Hoover Dam and Lake Mead from the breathtaking observation deck. This is a great location to get a panoramic shot.
  • The Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. Although this bridge is not located at the Hoover Dam itself, it’s the best place to get a complete view of the dam from a short distance away. There is an area on the bridge where you can stop and walk around to take pictures.
  • Nevada and Arizona Look-Out Points. On the way to Hoover Dam from Las Vegas, there are several look-out points where you can stop to capture some great images of the surrounding desert and water.

Is Hoover Dam a Good Day Trip Idea for Families?

Hoover Dam is a family-friendly stop and offers exciting and interactive exhibits that kids will appreciate. The Visitor’s Center includes a museum with authentic historical artifacts from when the dam was being built and fun displays on how the dam works to help kids understand the purpose and impact of Hoover Dam.

There will be a fair amount of walking if you plan to tour Hoover Dam, so make sure your kids are wearing comfortable shoes and clothing. It could also be quite hot outside depending on the time of year, so make sure your family stays hydrated!

It’s also worth mentioning that Hoover Dam is a working hydroelectric plant. For this reason, please use caution when visiting with small children. Visitors will be with a trained tour guide and don’t have access to working areas that could be hazardous, but it’s still important to keep an eye on your children while touring the dam.

Are There Any Restrictions at Hoover Dam?

Because Hoover Dam is a functioning power plant, you can expect relatively tight security throughout the facility. Some items are strictly prohibited, including:

  • Outside food
  • Outside beverages
  • Chewing gum
  • Large bags or luggage
  • Pets
  • Weapons of any kind
  • Smoking or vaping inside the facilities

In addition, the Hoover Dam tour is not for everybody. The underground dam and power plant tour should be avoided if you or anybody in your group happens to:

  • Suffer from claustrophobia
  • Have a pacemaker or defibrillator

The underground tunnels can trigger anxiety in those who are sensitive to closed spaces. Also, the turbines and generators create electromagnetic frequencies that could affect those with electronic heart devices.

Parking at Hoover Dam

parking garage at hoover dam

There is a parking garage located on the Nevada side of the dam close to the Visitor’s Center where you can park for a fee. However, oversized vehicles and those with trailers must park in the open lot on the Arizona side of Hoover Dam.

During the busiest tourist season from June through August, you may struggle to secure parking in the covered garage due to larger crowds. January and February generally have less traffic and parking won’t be as difficult.

Historical Facts About Hoover Dam

If you don’t know much about Hoover Dam but are considering it as a day trip destination, here are some interesting historical facts that might help you make your decision:

  • Hoover Dam was completed well ahead of schedule and under budget during the Great Depression! It also played a significant role in history by providing jobs in southern Nevada during this time.
  • Massive diversion tunnels were constructed to redirect the Colorado River so the dam could be built on the dry riverbed.
  • Current day Boulder City was the original “Ragtown” home of the Hoover Dam workers and their families. It is one of only two cities in Nevada in which gambling is illegal.
  • The dam was called “Boulder Dam” until 1947 when the name was officially changed to “Hoover Dam” to honor President Herbert Hoover.
  • Hoover Dam contains enough concrete to build a highway that can stretch across the country.
  • Record heat during the first year of construction forced workers to operate under the scorching conditions of 119 degrees Fahrenheit in the sun, and sometimes even hotter conditions in the tunnels.

Hoover Dam Tours From Las Vegas

With Hoover Dam so close to Las Vegas, Gray Line Las Vegas offers a wide selection of tours to choose from that will pick you up directly from your Las Vegas hotel.

If you’d like to learn more about visiting Hoover Dam from Las Vegas, contact the Gray Line Las Vegas team today. We’ll walk you through our tour options and help you decide which Hoover Dam tour works best for you and your group. We look forward to connecting with you for an exciting and immersive Hoover Dam experience!