Grand Canyon, Left and Hoover Dam, Right

Grand Canyon, Left and Hoover Dam, Right

Can You Visit the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon on the Same Day?


Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon. Two iconic, bucket-list places to visit. Can you combine them? Can you even do them both in one day?

Well, the answer is yesand no. Depending on two factors: How much time you choose to spend at Hoover Dam, and which rim of the Grand Canyon you want to visit. 

Let’s dig into the details.

What part of the Grand Canyon is closest to Hoover Dam?

Hoover Dam was built in the picturesque town of Boulder City, Nevada (although half of the rim is actually in Arizona). From Hoover Dam, the closest rim of the Grand Canyon is the West Rim. Which is approximately 96 miles –  under two hours – from Hoover Dam. So…it’s doable in a day to see both, if you choose Grand Canyon West. 

On the other hand, the more popular North and South Rims of the Grand Canyon, as well as Horseshoe Bend in Page, are all about a five-hour drive from Hoover Dam and are much better done over the course of several days, with overnight visits at those locations. 

map of hoover dam to north rim, south rim and horseshoe bendMap Source: Google Maps

In fact, if you’d like to take road trips specifically tailored to Hoover Dam & Lake Mead, or to the Grand Canyon North Rim, South Rim, or Horseshoe Bend and Page, AZ, I’d highly recommend you download the Shaka Guide app with tours of each of these destinations. These are incredibly detailed and loaded with information, entertainment, and even road-trip music.

Is it free to go to the Hoover Dam?

First of all, neither is run by the National Park Service (NPS). Grand Canyon West is on the grounds of the Hualapai Tribe Reservation. And Hoover Dam is run by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

So that means that you have to pay parking and admission fees for both, and neither will accept your National Park Pass. That said, it is possible to see Hoover Dam free of charge if you want to skip the museum and guided tours

Below is my ideal itinerary for planning a visit to Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon West. It requires a day of ‘prep’ beforehand, and an optional bonus day afterward. But if you truly only have one day, then scroll down to the one-day version of how to see Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon in a day.

RELATED: Hoover Dam History: Why Was the Hoover Dam Built?

3-Day Itinerary: Hoover Dam + Grand Canyon 

Day One: Las Vegas to Boulder City

las vegas on left image while hoover dam on right imagePhoto from Unsplash by Grant Cai

First things first - take care of business! Fly into Vegas (the best airport location for navigating these landmarks), pick up your rental car, then drive the 30 minutes to Boulder City. 

Boulder City is known as “The Town that Built Hoover Dam.” Stay overnight in the historic, downtown area of Boulder City. I highly recommend the Boulder Dam Hotel with the free Boulder City-Hoover Dam museum inside – which will save you time on Day 2 of stopping at the Hoover Dam Museum

Another great hotel that I highly recommend in the historic walking district of Boulder City is the Best Western Hoover Dam Hotel.

Once you have checked in at either of these hotels, this historic section of town is walkable for shopping, dining, and entertainment. And if you happen to have time on your hands around dusk, drive over to the picturesque little Hemenway Park for your first glimpse of Lake Mead and especially to see the bighorn sheep come out to graze! 

The beauty of getting to Boulder City (aside from how adorable the town is) is that you roll out of bed the next morning already right down the street from Hoover Dam, saving you a chunk of time in your quest to see it and the Grand Canyon in a day. After all, you’ve already gotten your flight, rental car, and the drive to Boulder City out of the way. 

Day Two: Hoover Dam & Grand Canyon

left image is a boulder city restaurant while right image is grand canyonShutterstock Image
Get an early start, perhaps with breakfast at the Southwest Diner (to avoid having to eat at the time-sucking Hoover Dam cafe) then drive the short distance to Hoover Dam – arriving before the crowds (warning: by 10 a.m. the dam’s already brimming with tourists.) 

Getting there early will also save you a bunch of time looking for parking or waiting in line for guided tours. Once you see everything you want to at Hoover Dam (see the list below) hop back in your car and drive to Grand Canyon West. 

If you time it right, you could have quite a few afternoon hours left to see everything at the Grand Canyon. 

Directions from Hoover Dam to Grand Canyon West:

  1. On your way out of Hoover Dam, follow Access Road Hwy 172 to Hwy 11 (you’re heading southeast and following signs to Hwy 93 S.)
  2. Cross the Hoover Dam Bypass bridge and the highway will turn into Hwy 93 S.
  3. Take Hwy 93 S  (71 miles), then turn left onto Pierce Ferry Road/Hwy 25.
  4. Turn right onto  E. Diamond Bar Road/261 to Grand Canyon West.

Once you’re heading back to Vegas, if you reach the big bypass bridge overlooking Hoover Dam and still have daylight on your side, you might consider either (or both) these two awesome experiences: 

(1.) Park in the dedicated lot for the Hoover Dam Bypass bridge and walk across it for a heart-stopping view overlooking Hoover Dam. 

(2.) Visit tiny Hemenway Park in Boulder City to watch the bighorn sheep come down off the mountain to graze – an experience you won’t find anywhere else, with an idyllic view overlooking Lake Mead with the volcanic mountains in the distance. 

Then, I’d recommend spending a second night in Boulder City before heading back to Vegas. Here’s why:

RELATED: Shaka Guide’s Hoover Dam & Lake Mead Tour Itinerary

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Day 3: Lake Mead National Recreation Area

lake mead overlook viewShutterstock Image

Take a stupendous scenic drive back to Vegas through the jaw-dropping Lake Mead National Recreation Area featuring jaw-dropping overlook viewpoints and hiking trails through the spectacular Mojave Desert, plus water activities in Lake Mead itself.

This park does accept your National Park Pass, and there’s also a great Visitor Center near the entrance for souvenirs, exhibits, free maps, and advice from park rangers.  

Here’s my recommended scenic route back to Las Vegas through Lake Mead National Recreation Area: 

  1. Take Rt. 93 West to Lakeshore Road 
  2. Enter the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
  3. Follow Lakeshore Road through Lake Mead until you reach Northshore Road.
  4. Turn right on Northshore Road.
  5. Then, turn left onto East Lake Mead Boulevard to head back to Las Vegas (You’ll see the skyline from the desert before reaching the city limits. It is quite the sight!)

I highly recommend that, for the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead portions of your trip, you download the Shaka Guide Hoover Dam & Lake Mead Audio Tour. It’s a treasure trove of information about things to see along the drive to and from Vegas.

And even though the West Rim of the Grand Canyon isn’t featured on the Shaka Guide tour, you’d just ‘pause’ the tour while you drive out to the West Rim, and ‘unpause’ it again on your way back across Hoover Dam. Trust me – you will thank me later for this piece of advice.

RELATEDThe Ultimate Hoover Dam Travel Guide

One-Day Itinerary: Hoover Dam + Grand Canyon

hoover dam on left side while grand canyon on right sideShutterstock Image

If you have just one day to see Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon West Rim and are heading out from your Las Vegas hotel room, my only additional advice is a reminder to get a very early start (we’re talking the crack of dawn) in order to beat the crowds at Hoover Dam. This way you can get in and out of there quickly and won’t have to feel rushed once you get to the Grand Canyon West Rim. Just follow all of the advice listed above, but cram it all into a day!

Your itinerary will look something like this: 

  • 6:00 a.m. - 6:45 a.m.: Drive from Las Vegas to Boulder City
  • 6:45 a.m. - 7:30 a.m.: Breakfast in Boulder City
  • 7:30 a.m.- 10:30 a.m.: Explore Hoover Dam 
  • 10:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.: Drive to Grand Canyon West Rim 
  • 12:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.: Grand Canyon West 
  • 3:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.: Drive to Lake Mead National Recreation Area
  • 5:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.: Explore Lake Mead
  • 6:30 p.m. - 7:15 p.m.: Drive Back to Vegas 

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And if you won’t have a rental car to make the drive yourself, there are other options for seeing both Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon. You can find any number of bus tour trips out of Vegas, as well as helicopter tours. Personally, I like the idea of a road trip and the freedom to make my own choices along the way.

Now for the details of what to see and do at Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon West Rim. 

Things to Do at the Hoover Dam:

Just so you know, it is possible to park and walk around Hoover Dam without paying. But if you do want a guided tour, I recommend the Power Plant tour. It’ll take you through the underground tunnels to see the generators and show you exactly how the dam works. You can walk the rim of the dam on your own, without paying. And you can park for free on the Arizona side if you’re willing to walk a little. Here’s a rundown of what  you’ll want to see and do at Hoover Dam:

1. Hoover Dam Lookout:

hoover dam lookout

First, before you even park, drive all the way across the rim of Hoover Dam to the Arizona side. Take the road as far as it allows (it’s not far but the views are tremendous) and then when you get to the end, park at the Hoover Dam Lookout for an incredible view of the entire dam. You won’t get another view like this.

After that, wend your way back toward the dam and park in any of the free lots that you pass if you don’t mind walking down to the dam. Keep in mind, though, that you’ll have to walk uphill on the way back to your car, possibly under the hot sunshine of a desert day. So have sunscreen and water on hand if you plan to do that.

Otherwise, pay to park in the Arizona-side lot, or drive back across the dam and pay to park in the main parking garage. Keep in mind this is one of the most-visited tourist attractions in America and those lots can fill up by 10 a.m., so plan to arrive much earlier than that if you want a more peaceful visit!

2. Walk Along the Dam’s Rim: 

Once you park in the lot, walk across the rim of the dam on both sides. One side faces Lake Mead, and the other side faces the Colorado River. You’ll want photos from both viewpoints. 

3. Hoover Dam Bypass or Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge

mike o'callaghan - pat tillman memorial bridge sign

That huge bridge you see above the Colorado River from the rim of the dam is the one you’ll be driving over to get to the Grand Canyon. Although it’s commonly referred to as the “Hoover Dam Bypass,” its official name is the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge.

And you can actually park and walk across this bridge if you have the time…and the guts! (But since you’ve still got to get to the Grand Canyon, you might want to save that bridge walk for the way back.)

Look for the marker halfway across the rim of Hoover Dam that indicates the state line between Arizona and Nevada (and the change in time zones!)

4. Visitor Center and Power Plant Tour

hoover dam visitor center

Head down the escalator to the Visitor Center and for the Guided Power Plant Tour. (You can purchase tickets for this online, but you’d have to know exactly when you’re arriving since they’re for specific time frames.) 

5. Boulder City Hoover Dam Museum 

boulder city museum signboard

Pro Tip! Walk through the free Boulder City Hoover Dam Museum inside the Boulder Dam Hotel. It’s open to the public whether you’re staying at the hotel or not. It’s every bit as good as the museum at Hoover Dam! 

6. Gift Shop

hoover dam gift score

Visit the gift shop for souvenirs but not the cafe.

INSIDER’S TIP: Don’t waste too much time eating in the snack bar and grill … if you order food that needs to be cooked, you could lose valuable time. When the cafe is busy, it takes a ridiculously long time to get your food.

You are much better off having a nice breakfast in Boulder City than packing snacks and drinks (you can get both, plus a portable cooler, at the Albertson’s grocery store in town before you head to Hoover Dam).

RELATEDHoover Dam & Lake Mead Weather: When’s the Best Time to Visit?

Things to Do Grand Canyon West Rim

Once you arrive, you’ll have to park your car, pay your entrance fee, and then take a free shuttle to the sites, since they don’t allow private cars on the property. Things to see: 

1. Eagle Point

Stupendous views plus Native American walking tours, an amphitheater with tribe performances, and a gift shop featuring Native American art, jewelry, and crafts.

2. The Skywalk

A horseshoe-shaped glass viewing platform extending 70 feet out over Eagle Point. So you can look straight down 4,000 feet into the Grand Canyon!

3. Guano Point

An almost 360-degree view of the Grand Canyon and Colorado River atop a rocky pyramid-shaped point. You get there by hiking over slightly rough terrain, so wear appropriate shoes. You’ll also spot what’s left of a historic tram that, at one time, stretched way out across the canyon and led to a mine.

4. Hualapai Ranch

Think western ranch – cowboys, wagon rides, roping, and quick-draw demonstrations.

5. The Zipline… 

If you dare! (You can choose to raft the river and other things, too, if you have the time and money.)

Extend Your Trip and Explore More

So, folks, that’s how you navigate Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon West in a day … or three. 

If you have several days to visit Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon, you’d be able to visit Hoover Dam and then spend the rest of the day driving to either the North or South Rim of the Grand Canyon instead of the West Rim. But you’d need to stay a night or two in a hotel there in order to have enough time to explore the sites at these larger national parks and see all there is to see before heading back through Boulder City to Vegas. 

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We hope that we’ve given you all the information you need to make the most of your day. Your vacation is extremely important to us so if you have any questions feel free to reach out at aloha@shakaguide.com.

For more detailed information to help you plan, check out our Hoover Dam Itinerary and Know Before You Go article.

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image of hoover dam on the left side while grand canyon on the right

If you do, be sure to download Shaka Guide’s Las Vegas Day Trips and Arizona Tour Bundles with tours in Hoover Dam and the North and South Rim!


Las Vegas to Grand Canyon: The Must-Stop Gems Along the Way

The Ultimate Hoover Dam Travel Guide

2-Day Itinerary: Hoover Dam + Lake Mead

Hoover Dam & Lake Mead Weather: When’s the Best Time to Visit?

Las Vegas to Hoover Dam – How to Get There

Why Was the Hoover Dam Built?


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