Hoover Dam

Boulder City, NV

Since we are only eight miles from one of the greatest dams in the world, we thought maybe we should take a day to visit the Hoover Dam.  So one day we parked the Jeep in a parking lot next to the Historic Railroad Trail and headed out on our bicycles.  The trail follows the path of a railroad built in 1931 to move supplies to the construction site of the dam.  The trail goes through five tunnels that are  25 feet in diameter.  They were oversized to fit huge penstock sections and large equipment being transported to Hoover Dam.

Along the trails there are a number of spots with great panoramas of Lake Mead.


After about three and a half miles the trail ends at the upper deck of the parking garage near the visitor center.  From there you can walk along the sidewalks that cross the dam on either sides of a two lane road.

The road across the dam looking west

Looking north up the Colorado River before it forms Lake Mead – drought has the water 150′ below maximum

Looking at the Colorado River below the dam

Up until 2010 US Rt. 93 crossed the top of the dam as it ran south into Arizona on the east side of the river.  Through traffic combined with pedestrian and tourist traffic at Hoover Dam itself led to major traffic congestion on the dam and on the approaches to the dam.  A bypass had been discussed since the 1960s but never got past the discussion stage.  After 9/11, authorities expressed security concerns and the Hoover Dam Bypass project was expedited.  Pending the completion of the bypass, restricted traffic was permitted over Hoover Dam. Some types of vehicles were inspected prior to crossing the dam while semi-trailer trucks, buses carrying luggage, and enclosed-box trucks over 40 feet long were not allowed on the dam at all, and were diverted to U.S. Rte 95 on the Nevada side of the river.  The four-lane Hoover Dam Bypass opened on October 19, 2010.  It includes a composite steel and concrete arch bridge, the Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, 1,500 ft downstream from the dam. With the opening of the bypass, through traffic is no longer allowed across Hoover Dam, dam visitors are allowed to use the existing roadway to approach from the Nevada side and cross to parking lots and other facilities on the Arizona side.

The Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge

Outside a gift shop/restaurant by the parking area is a sculpture of a “high scaler.”  While suspended from the top of the canyon with ropes, high-scalers climbed down the canyon walls and removed the loose rock with jackhammers and dynamite.  To protect themselves against falling objects, some high scalers took cloth hats and dipped them in tar, allowing them to harden. When workers wearing such headgear were struck hard enough to inflict broken jaws, but sustained no skull damage, the construction company ordered thousands of what initially were called “hard boiled hats”  and strongly encouraged their use.  This is the first use of what later became known as “hard hats” in construction.

After checking out the dam, we returned to the bikes and road a short distance to where pedestrians can use a sidewalk to go out on the new bridge.

From the middle of the Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge you get a great view of the Hoover Dam and the water held behind it.

The Historic Railroad Trail is a nice, almost flat 3.7 mile hike/bike ride one way.  The trail is great for walking or riding a mountain bike.  Our bikes are street bikes so it was a bit rough going in some places, but we made it without much difficulty.  A visit to the new bridge and dam are a must do activity for visitors to the Las Vegas area.  OK, cross that off our list!


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30 Responses to Hoover Dam

  1. Gay says:

    It is on our list! We did the Hoover Dam last year, but never did the tunnels or the new bridge…nice view of the dam from there!

  2. Nan & John says:

    You just beat us. We will be there this week…..now, what am I going to say??? hehehe

  3. RV Cheaper! says:

    I didn’t know about the historic trail, adding that to my list! Great photos, thanks!

  4. jcgc50 says:

    We rode that trail last December. Saw bighorn sheep just above the sign about the sheep! Did you see any?

  5. So glad you posted this with pictures of the new bridge.When we drove to Hoover Dam from Las Vegas in 2007 the bridge was still under construction and looked like it still had a long way to go before completion. It’s amazing they finished it in 2010.

  6. Janna Clark says:

    Driving across that bridge makes my stomach flip upside down, I don’t think I’m going to be walking out there!

  7. Love those last couple of shots with the lake and dam in them…shots that weren’t available to the general public before the new bridge was built…very cool!

    I bet you guys are enjoying the cool down as much as we are!

    • placestheygo says:

      We are very excited about the cool down, for sure, Lisa. It is suppose to be back in the 80’s by the weekend, though. I guess this is unusually warm for this time of the year. Thank goodness there isn’t any humidity.

      You and Hans will need to visit this area. There is tons of hiking besides the dam and the beautiful lake:)

  8. cathy says:

    We are taking our bikes with us when we head east next week, hoping to bike a few Rails to Trails…a new thing for us.

    • placestheygo says:

      I would say your bikes will be a valuable asset heading east just to tour places. We use our bikes when ever we visit a city or university. Great way to see a lot, and you can park a little further away. Also, every town seems to have bike paths now. Enjoy your trip east:)

  9. Jodee Gravel says:

    Definitely a must-see! Love the info on the hard hats (had no idea). While the new bridge solves a lot of issues for the dam, it also gives a wonderful view of the dam without a helicopter 🙂

  10. Lindsay says:

    Excited about our visit now, hurrah … this time next week we’ll be in Nevada ready to trace your footsteps courtesy of your wonderful blogs … promise to leave us a bit of warm weather for our vacation, pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeease! 🙂
    Happy travels xx

  11. Lenore says:

    Thanks for the info about that tunnel trail. We’ve seen it but never hiked or biked it. But now we will for sure.

  12. Rick Doyle says:

    Great info on the tunnel trail – never knew about that. Thanks for all the great pics of Hoover Dam and the new bridge. This is one of my all-time favourite places to visit. When we were there a few years ago the new bridge was still under construction with the middle part no where to be seen!

  13. Laurel says:

    We’ve crossed the dam and the bridge many times, but have never visited the dam. (In fact, we had to cross the dam just after 9/11 and our vehicle was searched by armed military. KInd of scary.) Next time through, we’ll stop and visit the dam! Very interesting about the hard hats — I can’t imagine doing that kind of work, much less without head protection. The bike trail looks like a great way to explore!

    • placestheygo says:

      Yes, Laurel, you must stop and visit the dam. Taking the bike trail is a great way to see the lake and the dam and get exercise. Besides, it cost $10 to park your car at the dam!!

  14. Erin says:

    What great memories you brought back. Hoover Dam is the very first one we saw after arriving in the US in 1982. Looking down from the rim was so impressive; and then we went on a tour that took us to the bottom and I looked up … WOW. I remember wishing for a better overlook to see the dam … now there’s the sidewalk on the new bridge. All the more visit to repeat our visit.

    • placestheygo says:

      Yes, Erin, I would say a repeat visit should be in your future plans:) John did the tour down under on our last visit to the dam. I was suffering from severe claustrophobia so I didn’t join him. He really enjoyed the tour. But the view from the new bridge is amazing!

  15. LuAnn says:

    We have been to Hoover Dam many times but never done the bike trail. Your images are wonderful. 🙂

  16. Its great to know that we can bike there. We have crossed the dam and took a tour inside it in the late 90’s. With your recent post we have all the reason to go back again.

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