Know Before You Go, Shaka Guide's Hoover Dam & Lake Mead Tour
Shaka Guide’s Hoover Dam and Lake Mead Tour covers a lot of ground. From iconic stops in Las Vegas to Boulder City, “The Town That Built Hoover Dam,” and Lake Mead National Recreation Area, this tour is chock full of adventure.
To get as much out of this Shaka Guide tour as you can, you’ll want to start as early in the morning as possible – preferably around daybreak. Otherwise, you may have to choose some options for today, while saving the rest for another day. You’re the captain of your ship on a Shaka Guide tour…but we’ll arm you with all the info you need for an incredible road trip!
- We’ll get up close to iconic signs and landmarks, experience scenic drives, overlooks and hiking trails, visit museums and exhibits, and walk along Hoover Dam and the bridge that towers over it.
- This tour begins along Las Vegas Boulevard near Mandalay Bay.
- The tour is a large loop, returning along the same road you started on.
- We suggest you plan to spend the full-day touring if you want to visit all 14 stops.
- Remember: Hoover Dam is a major tourist attraction that gets very crowded.
- The first stop, the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Sign, can also get extremely crowded, with the parking lot filling up and a line forming to grab a selfie next to the sign. Again, the earlier the start, the easier things are, and the less traffic. Las Vegas is crowded!
- We recommend you stop at downtown Boulder City for supplies. You’ll find a grocery store, gas station, and multiple options for packing a cooler full of water, food and snacks for the day. We’ll be on the road for a while after we leave Hoover Dam. There isn’t another place to pick up supplies once we are inside Lake Mead or all the way back to Las Vegas.
- The Boulder City-Hoover Dam museum is free and located inside the lobby of the Boulder Dam Hotel. Parking for the museum is also free in the town plaza right next to the hotel, the museum is open 365 days a year from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and all you do is walk through the lobby to get to it.
- There is another gas station on the same street as Hemenway Park in Boulder City, if you didn’t top off your tank while in the downtown historic district, here’s your chance.
- You’ll go through a Nevada Security Checkpoint upon approach to Hoover Dam. All vehicles are subject to inspection.
- Hoover Dam has some free parking lots on the Arizona side if you don’t mind a ten-minute-or-so walk.
- The two closest parking lots (a garage on the Nevada side and Parking Lot 9 on the Arizona side) cost $10. The parking garage is open from 8 a.m. to 5:15 p.m., and Parking Lot 9 is open from 8 a.m to 4 p.m. (Motorhomes and other high-clearance vehicles must use the Arizona lots.)
- Admission to Hoover Dam is free but there are guided and self-guided tours that range from $10 - $30. Tickets for these tours are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
- You can purchase Power Plant Tour tickets here.
- Hoover Dam is open daily from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. (except for Thanksgiving and Christmas Day). Tours run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with the last tour departing at 3:45 p.m.
- The parking lot and pedestrian bridge at the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge (aka the Hoover Dam Bypass) are both free. Bring sunscreen and a light jacket - it’s sunny and windy.
- The entrance fee for Lake Mead (paid at the Fee Booth between the Visitor Center stop and the Boulder Beach stop) is $25 per vehicle, good for 7 consecutive days. Your annual National Park Pass is also accepted here.
- The Little White Chapel allows anyone to walk inside and check things out when the doors are unlocked. The parking lot is free and there is no admission. Hours vary. Or, just grab a photo out front with Elvis and that pink Cadillac.
- There is free parking at The Strat, which is highly unusual for Las Vegas! So grab your tickets (or try to purchase them when you get there) and head to that Observation Tower!
What to Expect
Photo by Lizzie Gerecitano
To Spend 8 - 12 Hours Exploring
Although you could drive straight through today’s tour route in under two hours, there are actually 14 stops planned for today, and if you want to take advantage of everything there is to do, you’ll need at least eight hours, if not more, to experience everything. Or, you decide which stops to make, and which to skip.
Should you have two days available to spread out this Shaka Guide tour, check out our 2-Day Itinerary for Hoover Dam and Lake Mead.
You’ll Be On Your Feet
At the Boulder City-Hoover Dam Museum, Hoover Dam and its exhibits and guided tours, the Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge, and trails like the Historic Railroad Trail will mean lots of walking and some hiking options.
Our goal is to deliver information and entertaining stories so that you’ll learn more than you expected about the places you’re visiting today, from the history of Hoover Dam to Mojave Desert geology and details about what lies under Lake Mead.
- Along with picking up a portable cooler to fill with lunch items, drinks and snacks for the day, and making sure you have a full tank of gas, here is the list of what you may need to spend:
- Hoover Dam Parking: $10 (but you do have the option of free parking)
- Hoover Dam Guided Tour Tickets: $15 - $30 (or you can choose to walk around the dam free of charge without taking a tour)
- Hoover Dam Exhibits: $10 (it is not mandatory to pay an entrance fee unless you want to see the exhibits.)
- Lake Mead National Recreation Area: $25 per vehicle (good for 7 consecutive days), or, your National Park Annual Pass is accepted
- The Strat SkyPod Observation Deck: $30 (or less – this price varies, but parking is free.)
Photo by Lizzie Gerecitano
- From May through October, you could experience some really hot weather in the Mojave Desert, where today’s tour stops take place. Even if the wind is blowing, the sun can be strong and protection is important. Bring sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat, and perhaps long sleeves and pants that have built-in sunblock.
- The desert can cause dehydration, so it’s important to have water on hand. You’ll do a lot of walking without shade at Hoover Dam, and at Lake Mead. And once we leave Hoover Dam, there won’t be anyplace to pick up supplies like extra food or water. So stock up in the town of Boulder City along the way.
- You should not hike in the months of June, July and August, but it can also get too hot during the day in the months of April, May, September and October. Only hike during those times if you are having cool enough early-morning weather.
- If you’re traveling and hiking alone, make sure to tell someone where you are, what hike you’re taking, and what time you plan to get back to your car. And always stay on the trails. There are dangerous creatures in the desert and some unexpected heights and drop-offs in the mountains.
Photo by Lizzie Gerecitano
- Here’s our recommended packing list, so that you’re prepared for the tour and more!
- Car charger - You’ll need a charging wire and adapter so that you can plug your phone into your car charger while you’re driving.
- Cell phone mount
- Charged, portable back-up charger - There is nothing worse than a dead cell phone when you’re in the middle of nowhere…or when you want to take photos.
- Hiking Boots - If they’re new, break them in before you take this tour. Dirt and gravel trails can actually be quite slippery even when dry, and rocks can become slick after a rain. The other reason for high-tops is that there are prickly cactuses low to the ground, so you want to protect your ankles from being stabbed with cactus spines on hikes in the desert.
- Sun Protection - Sunglasses, a large hat for shade and to protect your face from burning and sunscreen are essentials for this tour. And don’t forget lip balm with SPF, too.
- Long pants - Even if it’s hot, it is recommended when hiking in the desert that you keep as much of your skin covered as possible to help protect it from the sun, low-lying cactuses, dirt, dust, and quickly dropping temperatures.
- Long-sleeved shirt - Again, even if it’s hot, protect yourself from the severe sun and sudden cold gusts and changes in temperatures. When you’re walking around the rim of the dam, over the tall bridge, or later in the day on hikes, the winds and temperatures can change.
- Light jacket/layers - The desert can get surprisingly and suddenly cool or cold in the early morning and evenings, and very windy, too. Better to have a jacket on hand and shed it once you get warm.
- Personal Locator Beacon if hiking alone.
- Bug spray
- Small first-aid kit
- Insulated water bottles - Have at least two on hand, especially if you want to keep your water cool.
- Snacks - Keep a protein bar or some nuts and crackers in your backpack in case you get hungry in the middle of a hike.
- Wet wipes/sanitizer
- A good, positive attitude. I personally find this is always a good thing to ‘pack’ and bring with you on an adventure. Being able to adapt to unexpected situations is a real plus. But being prepared with all of the information you now have at your fingertips will go a long way in helping to have a successful day trip.
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For more details as you plan your trip, please check out our Shaka Guide Hoover Dam & Lake Mead Itinerary!