Hoover Dam/ Photo by Lizzie Gerecitano

Hoover Dam/ Photo by Lizzie Gerecitano

Shaka Guide's Hoover Dam and Lake Mead Itinerary


Hoover Dam is the biggest reservoir in the United States and a feat of engineering. It is also one of the biggest tourist destinations in America.

It spans the Colorado River and Lake Mead, and two states (Nevada and Arizona.)

It’s only about 25 miles east of Las Vegas, so people from all over the world who are flying into the city for gaming and entertainment also choose this day trip. 

Whether by renting their car or taking one of the many tour buses that offer transportation. 

With Shaka Guide, you get to navigate through so much more than a tour bus would, and on your time frame, by making your own choices.

tourists watching the beauty of hoover damShutterstock Image

And what others may not tell you is that there is so much more to see than ‘just’ Hoover Dam.

Although everyone can see Lake Mead from the rim of Hoover Dam, many don’t realize all that the Lake Mead National Recreation Area has to offer.

And still others don’t know much about Boulder City, either. (It’s the town that Hoover Dam calls home. And the historic downtown district has a lot to offer.)

hoover dam downlaod tour map

This Shaka Guide tour gives you options for a little bit of everything:

  • A few iconic spots in the city of Las Vegas at the beginning and the end of this tour
  • some things to do in Boulder City
  • Hoover Dam itself, along the incredible bridge that towers over it, and
  • then some awesome scenic driving overlooks, and hikes at Lake Mead

On the way back to Las Vegas, you’ll be treated to a special Shaka Guide route through the Mojave Desert, complete with lava-capped mountains and so much more to feast your eyes upon.

If you were just driving straight through today’s tour route, you could do the whole thing in under two hours.

However, you’re here to explore and experience, right? With 14 stops on this tour and 27 points of narration, you’re more likely to need a full eight hours to enjoy all of the activities and points of interest that Shaka Guide will suggest. 

1. The “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign

las vegas signPhoto by Lizzie Gerecitano

Approximate time: 10 minutes

The iconic “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas'' sign is pretty cool to pose in front of for a photo.

This stop is so popular that it's even got its own dedicated, free parking lot smack in the median of the Las Vegas Strip!

Busloads of tourists stop to see the sign and line up for a photo with it, and, from what I hear, if you get there during popular daytime hours, hawkers are trying to charge you for a photo.

But if you decide to start this Shaka Guide tour at daybreak, you not only have the sign to yourself for a photo, but you also get a beautiful sunrise silhouette of the private jets across the street that the celebrities use to fly in and out of Vegas.

In any case, since it’s a free parking lot, it doesn’t hurt to pull in no matter what time you start your day, just to see if there’s an open space.

You could always stand off to the side and take your own selfie without choosing to wait in line to get up close for a photo.

2. The Boulder City-Hoover Dam Museum

boulder city museum signPhoto by Lizzie Gerecitano

Approximate time: 45 minutes

The Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum is free and open to the public seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., 365 days a year.

This is a very special little museum, in the heart of where the construction workers who built Hoover Dam lived.

This museum tells the true story of those who braved the desolate Mojave Desert to create a settlement for their families during the years that they were building the dam since they surely couldn’t ‘commute’ every day from far away places.

This incredible museum is three-dimensional, with interactive displays and exhibits.

There are amazing photos, artifacts, and even sound effects!

It is such a worthwhile stop on the way to Hoover Dam that it gives you the option of skipping the exhibits that you’d have to pay for at the crowded dam site itself.

They’re both good exhibits, but it’s good to know that the free exhibit covers everything. It’s located inside the Boulder Dam Hotel.

There is free parking in the plaza next to this pretty little hotel, then just walk inside and past the lobby, straight back to the museum!

3. Hemenway Park

overview of lake with goast resting in the mountainsShutterstock Image

Approximate time: 15 minutes

This park is something you’d picture in a watercolor painting.

When you pull up and get out of your car, step foot in the lush, green grass, and look out in the distance.

You'll get the most glorious first view of the Black Mountains and Lake Mead in the background.

And if you’re lucky, you’ll get to see Bighorn Sheep grazing and hummingbirds buzzing by.

It’s so beautiful that it’s worth a stop on the way to the dam.

(Some say the bighorn sheep are most likely to be there in the late afternoon/early evening, but ya never know!) 

4. Hoover Dam Lookout

lookout for hoover damPhoto by Lizzie Gerecitano

Approximate time: 10 minutes

Driving across Hoover Dam to the Arizona side, this is a worthwhile first look at the entirety of the dam before parking your car.

Since there isn’t a view of the entire dam site from the Nevada side, it takes only a couple of minutes longer to drive across the dam to this overlook for the view and some fabulous photos.

It shows you where you can park for free and helps you see how far you'd need to walk if you choose a free parking lot instead of a paid one near the dam.

5. Hoover Dam

Approximate time: 2 hours

It is difficult to estimate how much time you will spend here since there are so many variables.

It is a very personalized experience and without knowing what you wish to do on this visit, I can’t predict how much time you’ll be here.

You could spend many hours, or you could see the whole thing in under an hour.

If you want to experience the rest of the Shaka Guide tour stops in one day, then you might just choose to park and walk around Hoover Dam without spending extra time and money on the exhibits and the guided tours.

It gets very crowded here, and the cafe/grill at the dam could really sap precious time from your day. 

6. The Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge

overview of bridge from hoover damPhoto by Lizzie Gerecitano

Approximate time: 45 minutes


This is an amazing experience! It's exciting and maybe a bit scary to be so high up, but it's safe.

The parking lot to walk to the bridge is almost as high as the bridge, so you don't have to climb up really high to reach it.

Through a series of switchback walking ramps, with photo displays of the bridge being built, you get to the top in very little time.

Then, when you walk out onto the pedestrian walkway of the bridge, you’ll be rewarded with the most jaw-dropping, literal birds-eye view of Hoover Dam.

The question is, are you brave enough to whip out your phone for a photo, or are you hanging onto the railing for dear life?

You’re almost 900 feet above the Colorado River, with 18-wheelers flying by and usually a gusty breeze, so I wouldn’t necessarily call it ‘peaceful’ up there, but – that view!!!

 This stop is totally free – no charge for parking or for walking across the bridge.

7. Lake Mead Lakeview Overlook

Approximate time: 10 minutes

This is a quick stop. Look for the “Lakeview Overlook'' sign. It gives you yet another stellar view of Lake Mead – this time close up, and with the marina and boats.

If you look to your left from there, you’ll see the opening to the last of the historic railroad tunnels (we’ll be heading to that trail next.)

8. Lake Mead Visitor Center and Park Store  

Approximate time: 20 minutes

This is a really pretty place and a nice stop. First of all, there are restrooms, which is always a plus.

Inside, there is:

  • a great exhibit about Lake Mead
  • a wonderful gift shop with native-made crafts for purchase
  • a staff of volunteers and park rangers who will deputize your kids as Junior Rangers
  • hand you maps
  • recommend trails based on your levels and the weather
  • answer any other questions you may have

Be sure to ask for maps, directions, and advice for the Owl Canyon and the Northshore Summit hikes if you’re considering taking these trails.

Better to have them in your car in case you need them, than try to find the trailheads on your own later.

Most importantly, the volunteers can also point you in the direction of the trailhead for the Historic Railroad Trail, because that’s the trail most worth taking, and it’s an easy one. 

9. Historic Railroad Trail

Approximate time: 1 ½ hours

This hike begins from the Lake Mead Visitor Center’s parking lot or the very next parking lot past the Visitor Center.

If the weather is good, and you can hike a flat surface, I highly recommend at least going as far as the first couple of tunnels.

Walking through these tunnels is an unusual experience, and the scenery along the way is drop-dead gorgeous, with a view of Lake Mead.

You’re not at ground level, though, so make sure you remain on the path! And bring water and sunscreen.

There is no shade unless you’re inside the tunnels, where it’s markedly cooler.

10. Boulder Beach

beach with wildflowerPhoto by Lizzie Gerecitano

Approximate time: 20 minutes

After all of those views from afar of Lake Mead, it’s about time we get to see the lake up close!

It’s a rocky shoreline and beach, though, so watch your step. Maybe you’ll want to collect a few pretty little shells as souvenirs.

Considering that the life of Lake Mead is a big question mark due to so many years of drought conditions, you may one day be telling others that you got to dip your toes in it…while it still existed.

Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that, but still, it’s worth a stop.

11. Sunset View Scenic Overlook

Approximate time: 10 minutes

As we meander Lakeshore Road and take in the beauty of Lake Mead National Recreation Area, head up to Sunset Overlook and just take it all in – the view of the lake and mountains that surround you is astounding.

12. 33-Hole Overlook and Owl Canyon

Approximate time: 15 minutes (the optional Owl Canyon hike would take longer)

Even if you don't like hiking and climbing rocks to see owls, you can enjoy the view from the Owl Canyon viewpoint.

The road also goes to the 33-Hole viewpoint, where you can see the mountains and the lake.

Plus, there are picnic tables here if you bring food and want to eat with amazing views surrounding you.

13. Northshore Road

Approximate time: (optional and variable)

You are only on this road for a couple of minutes and then you’ll be making a left onto Rt. 147/East Lake Mead Blvd. for a beautiful scenic drive back to Las Vegas.

That said, Northshore Road is arguably one of the prettiest scenic drives in all of America.

You can see mountains with lava on top, colorful red rocks, and a long hiking trail called Northshore Summit Trail, which is 16 miles away.

If you keep going, you'll reach St. Thomas Ghost Town on the right or Valley of Fire State Park on the left.

These places are about an hour past our turn to go to Las Vegas at East Lake Mead Blvd.

Plan Ahead

As nice as it would be to drive up the scenic Northshore Road if you don’t have enough gas in your tank or food and snacks with you, you better not chance it.

There is no place to get food, and only one place to get gas – Echo Bay – about 28 miles from here.

Plus, once you got up there, you’d probably want a few more hours to explore.

So it’s best left for another day so that you can start the day prepared with a full tank of gas and a supply of food and snacks.

That said, there’s no harm in driving a few miles up the road and back if you want a glimpse of it. 

Choosing Your Route Back to Vegas

If you want to stay on the Shaka Guide tour, turn left on East Lake Mead Blvd.

It's a cool way to go back to Vegas, much better than the highways you used before.

If you choose to drive on Northshore Road, make sure to return to the turnoff for Rt. 147/East Lake Mead Blvd.

Then, head west to hear more stories and do more things on the Shaka Guide tour once we get to Vegas!

14. A Little White Wedding Chapel

white chapel for weddingPhoto by Lizzie Gerecitano

Approximate time: 15 minutes

This is just a fun, kitschy thing to do, “when in Vegas.” It’s something that will have you chuckling and is sure to put a smile on your face.

This is an iconic Las Vegas wedding chapel, after all, featured in so many movies and TV shows, and so many celebrities (ahem, Jlo and Ben Affleck - not to name drop) have gotten hitched here.

From the adorable chapel inside to the drive-in wedding tunnel, you may wonder why the heck you’re stopping here, but then you’ll be thanking me later that you did – just because of the sheer fun of it!

Go ahead, try the front doors. If they’re open, you can walk right in for a glimpse! 

15. The Strat Observation Tower

Approximate time: 45 minutes (or as long here as you like since it’s our last tour stop.)

First of all, there’s free parking, a rarity in Las Vegas. The Strat Observation Tower has been voted "Best Place to View the City" year after year.

At the tippy-top, The Strat (aka Stratosphere) is 1,149 feet tall with expansive, 360-degree views of the Las Vegas Strip and valley from both indoor and outdoor observation decks.

  • Level 112 is a 'selfie spot' – the highest spot in Vegas for viewing the city (at 909 feet).
  • Level 109 is the outdoor observation deck (at 866 feet).
  • Level 108 is the indoor observation deck (at 855 feet).

Tickets for the SkyPod Observation Deck Experience –  just for the observation decks (without any of the rides) – are $20 per person and include both the indoor and outdoor observation decks.

And there are viewfinders on the outdoor deck to zoom in on the city.

You can get your tickets in advance online. Hours of operation are 10 a.m. - 1 a.m. daily.

The Strat has a free parking garage where you can park your car.

But if you want a closer and more convenient spot, like on Level 3 with a walkway to the casino, you can pay for it.

From Las Vegas Boulevard, turn onto W. Bob Stupak Ave. for the Self-Park Parking Garage.

In addition to the observation decks, there are thrill rides, shopping, and dining options up there. (And, of course, gaming and alcoholic beverages for those 21+)  

Prices are subject to change. 

Final Thoughts

And, hey…that’s all folks! But Vegas is open most of the night, so be sure and check out our Highlights for lots of other things you can do if you’re still pumped for Vegas activities!

If you happen to have allotted two days to explore this area, I will offer you my personal opinion, as your tour researcher and writer, for the best way to spread this tour out over two days.

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So, if you're ready to experience all this, be sure to take our Hoover Dam & Lake Mead tour!

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.


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

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

The Ultimate Lake Mead Travel Guide

Why Was the Hoover Dam Built?

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