Hidden Hikes Near Hoover Dam
Lake Mead Recreation Area has a reputation for diverse landscapes and activities. More than seven million people visited the site last year, attracted to the sparkling blue lakes, mountains, canyons and sandstone cliffs spread across 1.5 million acres. Visitors can also tour inside Hoover Dam, or get a close-up look from the waters of the Colorado River on our Black Canyon Raft Tour. The 3-hour trip takes guests from the base of Hoover Dam through beautiful Black Canyon to Willow Beach, a little over 11 miles downriver.
The area around Hoover Dam is filled with scenic hikes. If you’re looking to venture off the beaten path after your rafting adventure, here are some of our favorite hotspots in Lake Mead Recreation Area.
Looking for a little exercise? This difficult hike is 4.5 miles long and takes a good four to five hours to complete, in and back. The first major obstacle is a large rock wall about one-and-a-half miles from the trailhead. Here, you’ll need to hold onto straps anchored into a large boulder. Once you make it down the steps, continue forward, using the fixed ropes to help you with small climbs and bouldering until you reach the former hot spring pools. Most have dried up, but hikers are rewarded with pristine, postcard worthy views of the Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. Tip: The Gold Strike trail is closed to the public June through September. Head here in late fall for the smallest crowds.
Officially designated a National Historic Trail in 2015, the Historic Railroad Trail contains the only standing remains of the area’s original 1931 railway that aren’t under water. It’s an easy trail to find, yet isn’t as popular as many of the other trails in Lake Mead Recreation Area. From the Hoover Dam parking garage, travelers can take the marked tunnel path 3.7 miles through 25-foot-wide passageways carved out to help the dam’s builders cart supplies to construction sites. The railroad was dismantled in the 1960s, and the site later used as a filming location for the Clint Eastwood flick, The Gauntlet. This is a great hike for all ages; kids love playing in the dark, 300-foot-long tunnels.
Located on the Arizona side of Lake Mead Recreation area, the hike to Liberty Bell begins at White Rock Canyon Trailhead. Like many of the hikes here, the trail is closed to travelers during the scorching summer months. Come mid-September, guests are free to roam across sparsely vegetated desert landscape, past old mines and mining equipment and down to the signature feature, the Liberty Bell Arch. One glance at this stunning rock features formed over millions of years and you’ll see why the nickname. The bell-shaped arch even has a dent at the bottom resembling the clapper – the round ball that makes a bell’s distinctive peal. Continue after the arch to Black Canyon Overlook for a stunning view of the emerald green waters of the Colorado River.
Constructed over a five-year period in the 1930s and dedicated by FDR, Hoover Dam is the most visited dam in the world. While the dam is the man-made showpiece of Lake Mead Recreation Area, it’s not the only site worth viewing. Enjoy rare views of the Colorado River and Black Canyon from the comfort of our motorized raft, then head to shore for an afternoon hike at one of our suggested sites. For tour reservations, call 800-455-3490 or visit the Black Canyon River Adventures website.