The Hoover Dam is a whole lot of concrete and whole lot of history. And luckily for us gravel types, there’s a scenic way to get to the dam which starts along the shores of Lake Mead, twists up through a series of impressive tunnels, and then ends up at the dam. So skip taking the tour bus …
The basics on the Hoover Dam: thousands of workers built it in the 1930s and it is located in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River. Over a million people a year visit the Hoover Dam which means getting there on the gravel backroads is just all that cooler. The dam generates power for customers across Nevada, California, and Arizona. The Hoover Dam sits smack dab on the border between Arizona and Nevada. For more fun facts on the Hoover Dam, Wikipedia seems to offer quite a lot along with the Bureau of Reclamation website.
This is a pretty simple route to follow and if you get off course it will become evident quickly. **Read More
The first two miles are on a paved bike / hiking path heading east. It is the River Mountains Loop trail. It is slightly uphill. When nearing the Lake Mead visitor center and curving around a parking lot, look for a wide dirt trail leading left. After ~ 50 yards on this trail it will connect in proper with the Historic Railroad trail. Along the Railroad trail there will be a number of placards discussing the history of the area and the construction of the dam. We encourage you to take the time to read each.
Along the Historic Railroad trail, you will pass through a set of tunnels and after the fifth and last tunnel, you will come to a bit of an industrial complex (~ mile 4.4) The trail is to your left.
At ~ mile 5.1 you will come to a junction with an option to go right or left. Go left for the more scenic and less steep route. You will wrap around a small butte in a clockwise direction. Continue past the first left which drops down quickly to the trail below and instead continue straight for another 75 yards and make a sweeping U-turn. Head towards the electrical power distribution blocks. The trail will split the blocks and bring you to a parking lot. From the parking lot, go right for ~ 25 yards until connecting with Hoover Dam Access road. Take the road to the left.
The speed limit for cars is 15 mph. Part way down to the dam, at the horseshoe bend is a good vantage point of the Colorado river. Continue down the grade, just before you cross over the dam, the visitor center will be to your left. Cross the dam, and climb the eat grade to the top. Here, at the parking lot make a U-turn and reverse your course.
The route can be made longer by two options:
(1) By starting at the west trailhead for the River Mountains Loop trail. The trail is scenic and paved from the trailhead to the Boulder Beach picnic area. The total distance added (round trip) is 22 miles and 1500 feet of gain. Click here for the mapped route, shown in the west to east direction only. (Cue Sheet, GPX file, TCX file)
(2) By continuing past the turn around point on Kingman Wash road (gravel) you can to a boat launch on Lake Mead. The total distance added (out & back) is 9 miles and 1300 feet of gain. We have ridden this extension. It is very enjoyable and desert scenic. Click here for the mapped route. (Cue Sheet, GPX file, TCX file)
Adventure / Gravel Route
– Out & Back: 16 miles / 1400 ft gain
– Surface: ~ 50% gravel, 25% paved bike path, 25% paved road
– eBike Friendly: No
– Location: ~ Las Vegas, Nevada
– Course by: Captain “O”
– Published: November 2019
When we like to ride this …
Spring, Fall, Winter. Heed the warning signs! This route can be very hot in the summer.
Boulder Beach Picnic area / Boulder Beach Campground.
Lat / Long: 36.039123, -114.803375
Food / Water
Visitor Center just before the dam.
Red = paved road
Brown = gravel / dirt road