Planning a trip to or through Las Vegas?
Hoover Dam is located about 30 minutes south of Las Vegas, Nevada and it’s a “dam” good family-friendly attraction in a city that is not known for its family attractions. It’s educational too!
We have visited Hoover Dam twice, about five years apart and our experience was similar – and positive – both times. Here’s what you can expect from a stop at Hoover Dam, without a tour.
What to Do
Hoover Dam straddles the Nevada-Arizona state line. The road over the dam used to be part of the main highway through that area, but now it ends on the Arizona side. It is easy to spend an hour or more just walking on and around the dam itself.
The dam is an engineering marvel. Lake Mead and the surrounding mountains are scenic. The state line marker is a popular photo op and it’s fun to get a good look at Lake Mead on one side and then wonder at HUGE drop down the concrete wall on the other.
There is a statuary on the Nevada side where you can get an idea of just how challenging Hoover Dam was to build and how many lives were lost for it. There is a gift shop and cafe.
It costs nothing to visit Hoover Dam. There is a charge to take a tour and see the visitor center. Admission to the visitor center is included with a tour, or can be purchased separately.
We would like to take a tour and see the visitor center, but we haven’t yet. On one trip, our kids were younger, and kind of grumpy on the day we visited. On the other, we arrived too late in the day for a tour, but our visit was still well worth our time.
Don’t Miss the Bridge
About a mile before you reach Hoover Dam, look for a parking lot near the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. This bridge, which was completed in 2010, spans the gorge in front of Hoover Dam. The bridge is an engineering feat on its own and there is an informative foot path up to the bridge and a pedestrian walkway across it.
You can get great photos of the bridge from Hoover Dam and of Hoover Dam from the bridge. Standing over that much air was a little unnerving for me, but still pretty neat. Hang on to your hats! It’s quite windy on the bridge.
On our last visit, we spotted several mountain sheep just above the bridge, across the road from the Welcome to Nevada sign. Bonus!
There is only one small parking lot at the bridge, compared with hundreds of spaces at the dam. To beat the crowds, consider stopping at the bridge first if you arrive in the morning, or last if you arrive in the afternoon.
Hoover Dam has a multi-level parking garage on the Nevada side and several parking lots on the Arizona side. The parking garage charges $10 per vehicle and it is the most convenient parking option for the dam. Your car will be shaded from the sun, which will be nice on a very hot day. There is no parking charge for those with accessible plates and placards.
Additional parking is available on the Arizona side of the dam. There is a pay lot just on the other side, but if demand is low you may be able to park there for free. That was the case on our most recent visit. Additional free parking is available in several places up the hill. Oversize vehicles are required to park on the Arizona side.
Parking will fill up on busy days, so arrive early or late in the day if you can.
What to Bring
Hoover Dam is located in the desert and temperatures will usually be hotter than 100 degrees (F) in the summer. It was 90 degrees (F) on our last visit in early April.
Bring plenty of drinking water with you, especially if you plan to park in the free parking on the Arizona side. You’ll be walking uphill on the way back to your car. The walk across the dam is a half-mile, round trip.
Wear sunscreen and sun hats on the dam. There may be little shade.
I recommend bringing your own snacks and picnic. The cafe at Hoover Dam serves lunch, bottled water and cold treats, but they are not cheap.
Good to Know
Where: Hoover Dam is located approximately 30 miles southeast of Las Vegas, on the Nevada-Arizona border. From Las Vegas, take US Highway 93 to Nevada State Route 172. From Boulder City, follow the signs.
When: Open year-round except for Thanksgiving Day and Christmas. Parking garage open from 8 AM – 5:15 PM. Visitor Center open from 9 AM – 5 PM First tour at 9:25 am.
How Much: It’s FREE to walk or drive across Hoover Dam and the Colorado River Bridge. However, there is a charge for parking, the visitor center and tours:
- $10 for parking. If you don’t mind walking, free parking is available farther up on the Arizona side.
- $10 per person (ages 4 and up) for the visitor center
- $12-15 per person for 30-minute Powerplant tour (includes visitor center)
- $30 per person for 1-hour Hoover Dam tour (includes visitor center)
How Long: 1-2 hours without the visitor center or a tour
Amenities: Free access to restrooms, gift shop and cafe.