On our first full day in Vegas, we decided to take a short trip out of town to Hoover Dam.
Like I’ve said many times now, I’ve never been to Vegas before. So it also makes sense that I’ve never been to the Hoover Dam before either. I know it’s a touristy thing to do, and that people often say that it’s smaller than you think, but that’s ok. The Hoover Dam is a feat of engineering, especially at the time of its construction. And it’s something that I kind of always wanted to see anyway, so why not? Plus the drive to Hoover Dam is less than an hour from the SLS Las Vegas. Easy.
Getting to Hoover Dam
Being on the north end of the Las Vegas strip, our journey to the Hoover Dam was a little bit easier. After a few minutes on the surface streets we joined the I-515 and headed east, southeast towards Arizona. From there, it was a straight shot to US 93, and then onto the Hoover Dam Access Road. But even if the route wasn’t easy, a very good navigation system is included for no extra charge with Silvercar!
A word of caution: once you get onto Hoover Dam Access Road, be mindful of the speed limit. It is a really low speed limit, but there are very frequent patrols by law enforcement officials, and I did see a number of people being cited. Yes, 20mph or even 15mph is excruciatingly slow, but nothing spoils a drive or vacation like a citation!
Parking for the dam itself is only available in a poorly designed, cramped parking structure. The stalls are fairly packed in there, much like parking lots in Hawaii! And most were taken by the time we got there around midmorning, and we ended up parking near the top of the structure in the sun. It costs $10 for the privilege of parking here. Cash only too. Boo.
Hoover Dam straddles the boarder between Nevada and Arizona. On top of it is a two-lane road, which used to be the only way to travers the Colorado River in this area.
But today, most bypass the Dam crossing in favor of the much quicker route on US 93 over the Boulder Dam Bridge, which the Hoover (Boulder) Dam has a great view of.
From up top, you can also view a portion of the power plant that fronts the main dam. And if you’re brave, you can peer straight down the side of the dam.
Cross the road, and the other side of the dam has a view of Lake Mead and its low water levels.
There’s also a plaque declaring the dam a modern engineering wonder of the U.S. The plaque also marks the state line, which is why everyone likes to take a picture with it.
Visitor Center + Turbines
You can and probably should take the opportunity, while here, to explore the interior of the dam. We were going to, but I had my pocket knife on me (a tiny Swiss Army one), and those aren’t allowed. Now wanting to walk all the way back up to the car, I decided against visiting the interior. So make sure, when visiting, you have no knives of any kind on you no matter how small!
It’s no secrete that the construction of Hoover Dam had a high cost both monetarily and in terms of human lives. Many workers died in the construction of the dam, and so on the Nevada side, there’s some monuments and memorials.
Gift Shop + Cafe
Mrs. Island Miler and I like to buy a little trinket from wherever we go. So even in at a tourist attraction such as the Hoover Dam, we’ll make it a point to check out the gift shop. And while the gift shop here is a good sized one, it lacked any Hoover Dam specific items like a miniature model or snow globe. Bummer.
The cafe is connected to the gift shop too, though there didn’t appear to be anything special on the menu. We wanted to check out 800 Degrees for lunch back at the SLS anyway, so we decided to skip the cafe.
Boulder Canyon Dam Bridge
If you want to actually see the dam itself, the best way to do this is to walk the bypass bridge. In order to do that, you’ll need to park at the Boulder Canyon Dam Bridge parking lot (that’s what it’s called on Google Maps). From there, it’s a short hike up to the highway and onto the bridge.
It was hellishly hot when we did this, but just look at that view. Totally worth it!
Hoover Dam Final Thoughts
Visiting the Hoover Dam while in Vegas is a no-brainer. It’s easy to get to and can take up as little or as much time as you’d like. There’s even trails in the immediate area you may enjoy too. Just remember to bring cash for the overpriced parking and some water, especially if you’ll be doing any hiking. Oh, and leave your pocket knife at the hotel or in the car. Oops. Maybe next time I’ll go back and take a look around inside.
My First Las Vegas Adventure