12 Amazing Things to Do at Lake Mead, Nevada: Top Attractions to Visit

by Jen
Amazing Things to Do at Lake Mead, Nevada
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Just a short drive from the neon buzz of Las Vegas, Lake Mead awaits as an adventurer’s haven. It’s a unique landscape where the desert’s rugged beauty meets the cool expanse of water, creating a playground for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. At Lake Mead, the options are as vast as the horizon. Hiking enthusiasts will find miles of trails winding through dramatic desert scenery, while anglers can enjoy some of the best fishing in Nevada. For those who love the water, the lake is perfect for swimming, kayaking, and even scuba diving, offering a refreshing respite from the desert heat.

And of course, there’s the Hoover Dam. Not just a powerhouse of electricity, but also a monument to human ambition, it’s a must-see for anyone visiting the area. The views from the dam are spectacular, and the history is as deep as the lake itself.

I’ve scoured the shores and trails to bring you a list of activities that Lake Mead has to offer. This guide is your ticket to uncovering the hidden gems and popular spots of this desert oasis.

So lace up your boots, grab your water bottle, and get ready to explore the diverse offerings of Lake Mead. Whether you’re seeking thrills or serenity, you’ll find it here against the backdrop of stunning desert landscapes. To help you make the most out of your next trip, here are my top 12 things to see and do in Lake Mead, Nevada.

The amazing places to visit in Lake Mead, Nevada right now
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Best Places to Visit in Lake Mead

Ready to jump into all the coolest things to do in Lake Mead? As noted above, there’s something for everyone at this relaxing vacation spot in Nevada. So keep reading to discover all these unique Lake Mead places to visit.

Are you looking to experience boating, fishing, hiking, and wildlife watching amidst the stunning natural surroundings? Or would you prefer to try water sports and do picnicking outdoors? Whatever you’re planning, these must-sees in Lake Mead can accommodate your needs. Here’s all the best attractions in Lake Mead that you should know about.

1. Boulder Basin

Boating ranks high among the best things to do on Lake Mead, and Boulder Basin is a prime spot to start your aquatic adventure. This expansive area of the lake, known for its clear waters and scenic views, is perfect for all kinds of boaters. At the Hemenway Harbor marina, you can rent a variety of boats. Choose from sleek powerboats to spacious pontoons, perfect for a family outing.

As you navigate the waters, the Boulder Basin offers more than just open space. It serves as a gateway to the lake’s many treasures. You can cruise to the base of the towering Hoover Dam, marveling at its grandeur from a unique vantage point on the water. For a quieter experience, steer towards the secluded coves along the shoreline. Here, you can anchor and enjoy a peaceful picnic or a swim in the refreshing waters.

The area is also a hotspot for fishing enthusiasts. Anglers here can cast their lines for a variety of fish. Striped bass, channel catfish, and rainbow trout provide an exciting challenge and potentially a fresh-caught meal.

Remember to plan ahead for your boating excursion. Check the weather, ensure you have the necessary safety gear, and familiarize yourself with the local boating regulations. With a little preparation, a day on Boulder Basin can be an unforgettable highlight of your Lake Mead visit.

Exploring Boulder Basin is one of the amazing things to do at Lake Mead, Nevada.
Boulder Basin offers clear waters and stunning views, a spot for boating adventures.

2. Historic Railroad Trail

Hiking the Historic Railroad Trail ranks as one of the top activities at Lake Mead, Nevada. It’s a perfect way to explore the area’s history while enjoying spectacular views. This trail is unique as it follows the old railroad route that once carried supplies for the construction of the Hoover Dam. The hike is easy to moderate, welcoming hikers of all fitness levels. Along the trail, you’ll find original tunnels and information plaques that detail the dam’s construction history.

The trail stretches about 3.7 miles one way. As you walk, panoramic views of Lake Mead and the surrounding desert landscape unfold before you. The path is well-maintained, ensuring a safe experience for families. It’s also a favorite among photographers eager to capture the Mojave Desert‘s beauty.

Birdwatchers will also find this trail rewarding, as the area is home to a variety of desert birds. Keep your eyes peeled for sightings and your ears open for the calls of the local avian population.

Before you set out, make sure to wear comfortable shoes, carry plenty of water, and check the weather conditions. However, the trail offers little shade. It’s advisable to hike early in the morning or later in the afternoon during the hotter months. This hike is not only a way to stretch your legs but also to connect with the historical significance of Lake Mead, Nevada.

Experience Historic Railroad Trail, an easy-to-moderate hike with original tunnels offering spectacular views.
Experience Historic Railroad Trail, an easy-to-moderate hike with original tunnels offering spectacular views.

3. Black Canyon

Kayaking to the Black Canyon is a treat for those who love the water and the quiet swish of a paddle. It’s one of the coolest activities at Lake Mead, Nevada. Your adventure starts at the Hoover Dam‘s base. Here, you can launch your kayak into the Colorado River and begin your journey through the dramatic and secluded canyon.

The Black Canyon water trail spans a 12-mile stretch. It provides a serene kayaking experience, perfect for beginners and seasoned kayakers alike. As you paddle, the towering canyon walls rise on either side, displaying a stunning array of colors and formations. Keep an eye out for hot springs along the way, where you can stop and enjoy a natural spa experience.

Wildlife is abundant here, with chances to spot desert bighorn sheep, great blue herons, and even bald eagles. The quiet of the kayak makes it easy to approach these animals without disturbing them, providing excellent opportunities for wildlife photography.

This kayaking trip can be a half-day excursion or a full-day adventure, depending on how much of the canyon you wish to explore. You can find rentals and guided tours easily. They provide all the necessary equipment and expertise for a safe and unforgettable time on the water. Remember to pack out all your trash and keep the Black Canyon pristine for future adventurers.

Explore the secluded beauty of Black Canyon starting from the base of Hoover Dam.
Explore the secluded beauty of Black Canyon starting from the base of Hoover Dam.

4. Valley of Fire State Park

A visit to the Valley of Fire State Park is a must-do when you’re at Lake Mead, Nevada. This state park is just an hour’s drive from the lake. It’s renowned for its stunning red sandstone formations, aged over 150 million years. The park’s landscape, with its fiery colors and bizarre rock shapes, looks like something from another planet.

The Valley of Fire offers numerous trails that cater to all levels of hikers. The Fire Wave trail is a favorite, leading you to striped waves of orange and pink sandstone. For those interested in history, the park also features ancient petroglyphs carved into the rock faces by Ancestral Puebloans.

Wildlife in the park includes desert tortoises, bighorn sheep, and a variety of bird species. The park welcomes visitors year-round. However, it’s best to visit in the cooler months or early morning in summer to escape the intense heat.

With its otherworldly terrain and easy accessibility, the Valley of Fire State Park provides a great day trip for Lake Mead visitors. It’s a place where you can hike, take incredible photos, and enjoy the quiet of the desert. Just remember to bring plenty of water, wear sunscreen, and have a good map on hand as you explore this natural wonder.

Valley of Fire State Park boasts fiery red sandstone formations aged over 150 million years.
Valley of Fire State Park boasts fiery red sandstone formations aged over 150 million years.

5. Underwater Ghost Town (St. Thomas)

Diving into Lake Mead isn’t your typical underwater excursion. Here, you can explore the remnants of a time gone by at the submerged town of St. Thomas. Once a bustling settlement, it now rests silently beneath the lake’s surface, offering a dive experience that’s as intriguing as it is unique.

The town became an aquatic relic after the Hoover Dam’s construction, and today, it’s a playground for divers keen on exploring history hands-on. As you navigate through the clear waters, you’ll encounter structures and artifacts preserved in their watery grave. It’s an eerie yet fascinating window into the past. This activity stands out as one of the more unique things to do on Lake Mead, Nevada.

Local dive shops cater to all, whether you’re a seasoned diver or a beginner. They provide the necessary gear and guidance for this underwater adventure. These shops ensure you’re well-informed about the site’s history and help you make the most of your dive.

Before you plunge in, make sure you’re dive-certified and aware of the day’s conditions. Lake Mead’s underwater ghost town is not just a dive spot; it’s a lesson in history and a testament to nature’s power to reclaim and transform.

St. Thomas Ghost Town, a historic relic of abandoned structures and remnants frozen in time.
St. Thomas Ghost Town is a historic relic of abandoned structures and remnants frozen in time.

6. Willow Beach

Willow Beach, located in the Black Canyon region of Lake Mead, is a prime fishing spot known for its cool, clear waters and abundant fish populations. Anglers here frequently catch species like striped bass and rainbow trout. These fish thrive in the nutrient-rich currents of the Colorado River.

This spot is particularly appealing for its accessibility and family-friendly atmosphere. You can rent a fishing boat at the Willow Beach Marina or simply cast your line from the shore. The marina also offers bait and tackle for those who need to stock up on supplies.

Early mornings at Willow Beach are peaceful, with the water surface often as smooth as glass, reflecting the surrounding desert scenery. The allure isn’t just the potential for a good catch. Visitors also come for the outdoor enjoyment and the river’s tranquility.

Before setting out, obtaining the latest fishing report is smart. It’s also important to understand the regulations, which change with the seasons and fish species. Willow Beach is perfect for any angler, novice or expert. It offers an ideal setting for a day of fishing at Lake Mead, Nevada.

Exploring Willow Beach one of the amazing things to do at Lake Mead, Nevada.
Willow Beach boasts fishing boat rentals at the marina for all your angling needs.

7. Callville Bay

Embarking on a sunset cruise from Callville Bay is a tranquil way to experience Lake Mead’s splendor as the day ends. Callville Bay enjoys a central location on Lake Mead, Nevada. From here, the expansive views are particularly stunning at sunset.

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Local operators at Callville Bay Marina have sunset cruises that take you out on the water just as the colors start to change.

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The cruises are intimate, often capped at a small number of passengers to ensure a serene experience. As you drift along, the fading light casts a warm glow over the desert landscape and the water, creating a picturesque setting.

These cruises are not only about the views but also about the atmosphere. In the evening quiet, the lake’s sounds become clear. You can hear water lapping against the boat and the distant calls of desert wildlife.

Adding a sunset cruise to your list of Lake Mead things to do is a decision you won’t regret. It’s a chance to slow down and soak in the moment, a contrast to the more active pursuits around the lake. When stars pepper the sky, the serenity of the desert evening envelops you. Such moments create memories that stay with you well beyond your trip. Don’t forget your camera – the photo opportunities are unmatched.

Experience a tranquil cruise from central Callville Bay, offering stunning views.
Experience a tranquil cruise from central Callville Bay, offering a stunning view.

8. River Mountains Loop Trail

Cycling the River Mountains Loop Trail offers an active way to take in the sights around Lake Mead, Nevada. This 34-mile trail loops around the River Mountains, connecting Lake Mead with Boulder City and the Hoover Dam. It’s a challenging ride, but the views and the sense of accomplishment are well worth the effort.

The trail is well-paved and marked, providing a safe route for cyclists of all skill levels. You’ll climb through the mountains, coast down to the lake, and enjoy panoramic views that are simply unmatched. Along the way, you might spot some of the local wildlife, like bighorn sheep and desert foxes.

Bike rentals are available in Boulder City, where you can pick up a trail map and some local tips. The trail also features several rest stops with benches and shade, so you can take a break and enjoy the scenery.

Cycling here isn’t just about the exercise; it’s about connecting with the landscape. You’ll pass through areas of stark beauty, with the vast Nevada sky overhead and the rugged terrain stretching out before you. It’s a perfect way to spend a day outside, pushing your limits, and seeing a side of Lake Mead that many visitors miss.

Cycle the challenging 34-mile River Mountains Loop Trail for stunning views, offering a rewarding ride.
Cycle the challenging 34-mile River Mountains Loop Trail for stunning views, offering a rewarding ride.

9. Alan Bible Visitor Center

For a laid-back day at Lake Mead, pack a lunch and head to the Alan Bible Visitor Center for a picnic with a view. The visitor center is both informative and a prime location for picnics around the lake. It features tables, grills, and a panoramic view of the area.

The lawns here are green and well-maintained, offering a soft spot to lay down a blanket and relax. It’s an ideal location for families, with plenty of space for kids to play and explore safely. The visitor center itself provides exhibits on the area’s natural and cultural history, adding an educational twist to your visit.

After lunch, take a stroll on the nearby trails, or just sit back and watch the boats glide by on the lake. The center is conveniently located, making it easy to combine your picnic with other activities in the area.

Enjoying a picnic at the Alan Bible Visitor Center is a simple pleasure. It offers a break from adventure to savor the tranquility of Lake Mead, Nevada. A visit to the center is a reminder that sometimes the best way to experience a place is to sit still and let its beauty unfold around you.

Visit the Alan Bible Visitor Center, which provides an educational touch on the area's history.
Visit the Alan Bible Visitor Center, which provides an educational touch on the area’s history.

10. Lake Mead Astronomical Observatory

When the sun sets, one of the best things to do in Lake Mead is to look up. The Lake Mead Astronomical Observatory offers some of the clearest night skies in the region, making it a haven for stargazers. The observatory lies far from city lights, offering a clear view of the cosmos. They host regular stargazing events that the public can attend.

The observatory’s location takes full advantage of the area’s dark skies. Here, you can see constellations in incredible detail, spot planets, and even catch meteor showers on the right nights. Observatory staff are both knowledgeable and enthusiastic. They are ready to guide visitors through the night sky and deepen their starry knowledge.

For a solitary stargazing experience, Lake Mead has many suitable spots. You can set up a telescope or simply lie on a blanket to watch the celestial display. The desert’s dry air and the lake’s wide-open spaces create ideal conditions for stargazing.

Bringing a telescope isn’t a necessity; the naked eye can see plenty in this celestial theater. Just make sure to check the weather and moon phases for the best stargazing conditions. Spending a night under Lake Mead’s stars is humbling. It reminds us of the universe’s vastness and our own place in it.

Explore the Lake Mead Astronomical Observatory for a secluded haven, hosting an immersive cosmos experience.
Explore the Lake Mead Astronomical Observatory for a secluded haven, hosting an immersive cosmos experience.

11. Hoover Dam

Touring the Hoover Dam is an essential experience at Lake Mead. This massive feat of engineering not only provides power to three states but also offers a deep dive into American history and ingenuity. Visitors can participate in guided tours that explore the depths of the dam. Inside, you’ll learn about its construction, function, and importance in regional water management

The powerplant tour is particularly fascinating, as it allows you to see the inner workings of the dam, including the massive generators. The visitor center features exhibits and displays about the dam’s history. Additionally, the observation deck offers stunning views of Lake Mead and the Colorado River.

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For those interested in architecture and engineering, the Hoover Dam presents an unparalleled learning opportunity. The guides are full of interesting facts and stories, making the tour both educational and entertaining.

Remember to bring a camera, as the art deco design and the panoramic views from atop the dam are worth capturing. And while the Hoover Dam might be a man-made marvel, it’s also a testament to the natural beauty of the area.

Tour the Hoover Dam, an engineering marvel powering three states.
Tour the Hoover Dam, an engineering marvel powering three states.

12. Eldorado Canyon

Eldorado Canyon, just a stone’s throw from Lake Mead, is a prime location for ATV enthusiasts looking for a mix of history and adventure. This area is steeped in mining history and scattered with remnants of the old West. It boasts a network of trails ideal for an off-road adventure.

Local outfitters at Eldorado Canyon provide guided ATV tours that cater to all experience levels. They’ll equip you with all the necessary gear and give you a rundown of ATV handling before you hit the trails. As you traverse these trails, you’ll be enveloped by the stark beauty of the Nevada desert. You’ll also have the opportunity to visit historic sites like the Techatticup Mine.

The trails here are diverse, offering everything from smooth, sandy washes to challenging rocky paths. You’ll get to navigate through terrain that’s as varied as it is exciting, with panoramic views of the Colorado River and Lake Mead in the distance.

The terrain you’ll navigate is as diverse as it is thrilling. Along the way, you’ll enjoy panoramic views of the Colorado River and Lake Mead. An ATV tour through Eldorado Canyon offers more than excitement. It’s a deep dive into the history and natural splendor of the area.

Exploring Eldorado Canyon is one of the amazing things to do at Lake Mead, Nevada.
Eldorado Canyon’s diverse trails offer thrilling terrain, from sandy washes to rocky paths.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Amazing Things to Do in Lake Mead

Looking for more content on the top things to do in Lake Mead? Here are some popular questions (and answers) I get that will help you plan your trip to Lake Mead:

What if I don’t have a boat? Can I still enjoy Lake Mead?

Definitely! Lake Mead isn’t just for boaters. It’s a haven for hikers with trails like the Historic Railroad Trail, and there are ample opportunities for picnicking, swimming, and wildlife watching. The visitor centers are rich with educational exhibits, and the scenic drives offer breathtaking views of the vast landscape.

Are there any underwater adventures to be had at Lake Mead?

Yes, Lake Mead is a diver’s delight, especially with the underwater ghost town of St. Thomas. It’s an eerie yet fascinating dive site where you can glide through the remnants of a once-bustling town, now a silent aquatic relic beneath the lake’s surface, providing a unique blend of history and underwater exploration.

Is Lake Mead a good destination for families?

Lake Mead is an excellent choice for family outings. With designated swimming areas, gentle hiking paths, and interactive visitor centers, the park caters to all ages. Families can enjoy educational programs, spot local wildlife, and engage in various water sports, ensuring a memorable experience for both kids and adults.

Sunset view on Lake Mead's diverse hiking trails.
Sunset view on Lake Mead’s diverse hiking trails.

What types of wildlife might I encounter around Lake Mead?

The Lake Mead area is teeming with wildlife. On any given day, you might spot desert bighorn sheep navigating the rocky terrain, coyotes prowling in the twilight, or a diverse array of birds, from waterfowl to raptors. The more secluded areas are particularly rich with opportunities for wildlife observation and photography.

Does Lake Mead offer any guided tour experiences?

Yes, Lake Mead’s guided tours are as diverse as the landscape. You can embark on a kayaking journey through the Black Canyon, join a fishing expedition, enjoy a leisurely cruise with stunning views, or delve into the history and engineering marvel of the Hoover Dam with expert guides leading the way.

What are the best stargazing spots at Lake Mead?

For stargazing, the Lake Mead Astronomical Observatory is your go-to spot, with organized events and clear night skies. Alternatively, find a secluded area away from the lights, such as a quiet beach or an open desert spot, to gaze up at the dazzling array of stars and constellations that adorn the night sky over the lake.

Is Lake Mead worth visiting?

Absolutely, Lake Mead is a must-visit destination. With its vast waters perfect for boating, kayaking, and fishing, to its dramatic desert landscapes offering hiking and biking trails, there’s something for every outdoor enthusiast. The area’s rich history, visible in sites like the Hoover Dam and the submerged town of St. Thomas, adds depth to its natural beauty.

Final Thoughts on Exploring Lake Mead

Exploring Lake Mead in Nevada is an adventure that offers more than just a glimpse into the great outdoors. It’s a place where every visit can be different, from the thrill of catching a striped bass to the quiet awe of stargazing in the desert night.

The lake’s vastness welcomes boaters and swimmers, while its surrounding landscapes beckon hikers and bikers. History buffs will marvel at the Hoover Dam and the stories etched into the land at places like St. Thomas.

Whether you’re here for a day trip or a week-long excursion, Lake Mead serves up a slice of adventure that’s as varied as the terrain it covers. It’s a testament to the natural and human-made wonders that define Nevada and a reminder of why we explore.

The amazing things to do at Lake Mead, Nevada for all types of travelers
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