Visiting the Hoover Dam ~ What You Should Know in Advance

Updated:

Visiting the Hoover Dam and seeing this momentous structure is even more awe-inspiring when you consider laborers built it during the Great Depression.

Plan a road trip when you are in the area or make it your destination.

It’s worth the drive and is easy to see on any budget.

Natural Wonders of North America to Visit

Family fun at the Hoover Dam

What’s great about visiting at the Hoover Dam is kids and adults will enjoy it.

Maybe the kids won’t appreciate the engineering feat; however, they will enjoy walking over the water and looking down. It was also fun to see the birds and watch the water flowing.

Fun fact:

There is enough concrete in Hoover Dam (4.5 million cubic yards) to build a four foot wide sidewalk around the Earth at the Equator.

Hoover Dam Intake Towers
Hoover Dam Intake Towers

How much time to spend at Hoover Dam

It’s really up to you how much time you want to spend at Hoover Dam. We spent two hours which included the walk from and back to our car and walking around.

You can spend as little as an hour at Hoover Dam and still be able to feel like you were there.

After parking, we took our time walking along the sidewalks. We took pictures of the dam, read the signs, and enjoyed being outside.

It wasn’t crowded — we visited in the fall — and we were able to stop often to marvel at the construction and engineering as well as the views.

Our mistake at the Hoover Dam

Our intent was to visit the Visitor’s Center in the time we had. However, we didn’t realize there was a fee.

I’m sure it would have been worth paying to see the Visitor’s Center, but for us at the time, having allotted just two hours for us to spend at the Hoover Dam, we didn’t pay to go in.

By the time we made our way to the center, we had already been there for over an hour.

As we were waiting in line deciding what to do, we decided it wasn’t worth it to spend $40 for the four of us when we only would have been there for a short time. (We had a long drive ahead.)

The next time we visit, we will plan better. Learn from our mistake!

Next time we will take one of the other tours for the difference in price.

We talked to someone who worked there who explained them to us. More on the Hoover Dam tours below.

MAP: https://www.usbr.gov/lc/hooverdam/images/2018%20Hoover%20Dam%20Map.pdf

Where to park at the Hoover Dam

Coming from Las Vegas, you will see parking garage signs as you approach the Hoover Dam area. The parking garage has RV parking as well.

If you park in the garage, you will be closer to the Visitor Center and where the tours are.

We went past the signs, past the Hoover Dam, to the other side.

On this side there are various spots for parking, all different distances and lots. We paid $10 for parking. At this end, you will be farther away from the Visitor’s Center.

What do you do after you park?

We walked about 8 minutes to get to the Hoover Dam area. This is a through-street with sidewalks on both sides. You can walk on either side and easily cross the street if you want to see something on the other side.

While there were people everywhere, it wasn’t particularly crowded when we visited. We visited on a weekday in October.

Hoover Dam costs

Something we wish we knew before we went to the Hoover Dam is the costs. We would have planned more time at the dam and would have paid for the Visitor Center or for a tour.

Hoover Dam Spillway
Hoover Dam Spillway

There are a few options you will have. After paying to park, you have the option to pay to get into the Visitor’s Center and/or for a Hoover Dam tour.

Hoover Dam tours

You will have three options for tours.

Self-Guided Visitor’s Center Tour

Time needed: at least 30 minutes to make it worth your while

It’s $10 to visit the Visitor’s Center. You can only purchase these on-site, not online.

There are narrated exhibits as well as access to the Observation Deck. From the Observation Deck, you can see Lake Mead, the Hoover Dam, the Colorado River, and the Hoover Bypass Bridge.

If it were free, we would have taken the time to check out the Visitor’s Center. However, because we were on a time schedule and didn’t think it would be worth the money for to be able to just stay for 20 – 30 minutes, we didn’t do it.

Guided Power Plant Tour

Time needed: at least two hours

You can purchase tickets up to 90 days in advance online. What’s nice about this is while you choose the day, you don’t have to choose a certain time.

Adults (17 – 61 years) pay $15

Seniors (62+), U.S. Military w/ ID, and Juniors (4 – 16) are $12

Plant tours are from 9:15am – 3:45pm but an employee told us it’s best to check in before 3pm.

In their 30 minute guided tour, you will have the opportunity to see the commercial generators in the Nevada Powerhouse. You will get to walk through the original construction tunnels.

There is also a 10 minute movie on the Hoover Dam’s history.

Audio and film presentations, exhibits,

You will be able to visit the viewing platform to feel the vibration from the water rushing through the pipe.

This tour also gives you access to the Visitor’s Center package.

Hoover Dam Memorial
Hoover Dam Memorial

Guided Dam Tour

Time needed: 2 hours and 15 minutes – 3+ hours for the full experience

This is their most extensive tour. It gives you access to the two above as well (Visitor’s Center and Power Plant Tour).

It’s the most expensive tour at $30. You can only purchase this in person. It’s first come, first served.

If you want to the Guided Dam Tour, pay for this as soon as you can after you park.

This is what we’d like to do the next time we visit because you will get to ride the original elevator to the top of the Hoover Dam.

Note, the minimum age for the Guided Dam Tour is 8 years old.

You also get the chance to see the Colorado River through the inspection ventilation shaft.

In addition, you can walk through the original inspection tunnels at the Hoover Dam’s center.

This includes viewing the 10 minute movie on the history of the Hoover Dam as well as the 60 minute guided tour.

What’s free at the Hoover Dam

Our family enjoys visiting national and state parks as well as sites from the Bureau of Reclamation and other government entities.

They offer so many amazing opportunities for visitors.

At the Hoover Dam, you can walk on either side of the road to see the dam and the construction.

Hoover Dam Cafe
Hoover Dam Cafe

You can also walk over the bridge which is in a different part. There are some statues and signs with information.

Tips for visiting Hoover Dam

There is walking involved. You will be closer to the buildings and the dam itself if you park in the parking garage.

It wasn’t crowded when we were there in October but there were definitely people all around. There was plenty of time to take pictures as enjoy walking around.

Visiting the Hoover Dam in the summer will likely be hot and crowded. Plan for the off-seasons, when kids are still in school.

In addition:

  • Wear good walking shoes
  • Bring a filled, reusable water bottle
  • Bring cash in case you need it for parking
  • We recommend sunglasses and sunscreen
  • Leave your hat in the car if it’s windy
  • Reserve a tour time in advance if you know when you will be there
  • Don’t bring pets
  • Bring easy-to-eat snacks or eat at your car

Know that there are cars passing by the area the actual dam is. Be sure to mind young children.

We didn’t see dogs. I don’t recall seeing benches or anywhere to sit until you get to the main area with the buildings.

However, there were (I believe two sets of) bathrooms on the south side of the street on the side the Hoover Dam is. They were surprisingly clean and decent.

We were disappointed we weren’t able to access the gift shop. It’s always fun to look around and see interesting things.

Where is the Hoover Dam

The Hoover Dam is located on the border between Nevada and Arizona. It’s in Black Canyon on the Colorado River.

Hoover Dam address

The Hoover Dam doesn’t have a street address but it’s easy to get to.

If you have a smart phone or are using a GPS, you can put in “Hoover Dam”, and it should come up.

Hoover Dam coming from Las Vegas
Hoover Dam coming from Las Vegas

Hoover Dam from Las Vegas

We made our visit to the Hoover Dam on our way to Arizona after our road trip to Las Vegas, Nevada.

Located approximately 30 miles southeast of Las Vegas, it will take about 45 minutes to drive to the Hoover Dam from Las Vegas.

If you are planning a roadtrip from Las Vegas, it’s easy to do in one day.

Even if you have to rent a car to head back to Vegas, it’s definitely worth seeing.

Distance from Grand Canyon

It’s amazing to think you could see the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon in the same day.

It’s approximately 250 miles which should take about four hours.

While you could, you probably wouldn’t want to visit the Grand Canyon and the Hoover Dam in one day unless you planned to spend an additional day/days at the Grand Canyon.

If you are coming from the west, you could spend the morning and early afternoon at Hoover Dam, and then drive wherever you are staying near the Grand Canyon.

Likewise, if you were coming from Grand Canyon, you could visit it in the morning, then set out for the Hoover Dam.

What is the Hoover Dam

The Hoover Dam is a concrete arch gravity dam. It’s 726 feet tall.

Highway 93 Bridge bypassing Hoover Dam
Highway 93 Bridge bypassing Hoover Dam

It was built to harness the power of the Colorado River. The water produces hydroelectric power as well as water for irrigation.

Hoover Dam facts

The Hoover Dam was built over five years during the Great Depression. Between 1931 and 1936, laborers worked tirelessly to tame the Colorado River and connect Nevada and Arizona.

There was a big push to utilize the powerful waters of the Colorado River to help aid in the expansion of the country.

It served the dual purpose of giving laborers work and giving new communities the tools they needed to thrive.

The work to build the Hoover Dam was very dangerous.

From 1931 – 1936, during construction, 96 men were killed in industrial accidents. Many workers perished in the tunnels or fell to their deaths from the dam itself.

The dam was eventually finished and has stood strong for nearly a century.

It’s amazing to think that during peak electricity periods, there is enough water running through the generators to fill 15 20,000 gallon swimming pools in one second.

Plan a trip to the Hoover Dam

According to the Bureau of Reclamation, you can visit the Hoover Dam every day between 5am – 9pm.

Make sure you check with the Hoover Dam Visiting Center if you will be visiting on a major holiday.

It’s a fascinating, family-friendly place where you can appreciate all of the hard work that was put into the dam, and see some of the inner workings for themselves.

Related:

Make the absolute most out of your trip to the Hoover Dam.

The Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge is a great place for pictures

The Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge is located right near the Hoover Dam and is a wonderful place to take pictures.

Cross the bridge to a panoramic view of the dam itself, and a bird’s eye look at all of the stunning natural landscape that surrounds the region. You can also turn it around and get some great pictures of the bridge from the Hoover Dam.

Mike O’Callaghan - PT Tillman Memorial Bridge Highway 93
Mike O’Callaghan – PT Tillman Memorial Bridge Highway 93

Be aware of potential high temperatures

The Hoover Dam is located in the southwestern part of the United States.

Temperatures skyrocket during certain times of the year. The dry desert heat can be intense if you are not prepared.

Remember that temperatures regularly exceed 90 degrees on the hottest days, and bring lots of water with you.

There is very little shade at the dam itself — the areas around the bathrooms are the only areas that come to mind when you are near the dam.

Make the most of the history

The Hoover Dam is simply full of history, and you should immerse yourself in all of it while you are there.

The Hoover Dam Visiting Center can point you in the right direction of the “How the West was Won” exhibit; a must-see for anyone who has ever been interested in the history of the American frontier.

Also, you can see the generators in action, and learn about the specific way the Hoover Dam effectively moves water.

Make sure that you dig deep into the educational aspects of the Hoover Dam.

The Hoover Dam is one of the most memorable man-made attractions in the United States, and you will find your experience to be both enjoyable and unforgettable. Make sure that you put the Hoover Dam on your family’s bucket list.

Visiting Hoover Dam is an easy day trip from nearby Las Vegas.

This will surely be one of the highlights of your family’s vacation. It’s one of the most iconic man-made monuments to American ingenuity that exists.

When you consider it was constructed during the darkest days of the Great Depression, it’s even more awe-inspiring.

The dam provided thousands of out-of-work contractors with work when there was none elsewhere.