Lake Mead Visitor Center | What to Expect and Other Must-Do Activities
Getting out and about is something we all crave, especially after long winter stretches in temperate climes. Heading to sunny days and cool water is a lovely change from rain or clouds. On the other hand, those of us who enjoy year-round sun still appreciate a watery adventure, which is why Lake Mead is such a popular destination for families across America … and across the globe.
This 158,147-acre reservoir, formed by the Hoover Dam, is the ideal place to enjoy water sports, hiking and outdoor activities of all kinds. Situated on the lovely Colorado River and bordering both Arizona and Nevada, it makes for the perfect destination for families, couples, RVers, the elderly and pretty much everyone else.
At Lake Mead Mohave Adventures, we think the options for enjoying this scenic wonderland are endless, but naturally you’ll have to pick and choose a bit. Here are some of our favorite recommendations for what to enjoy during your Lake Mead stay!
The Lake Mead Visitor Center: What to Expect
First up when visiting the Lake Mead National Recreation Area is to stop by the Visitor Center. There you can learn more about the area and pick the adventures that appeal most to you and your family. Rangers are on hand to distribute maps and brochures, and they can help you plan hikes or discover the best beaches or boat launches. Little ones can become junior rangers, and everyone can get a National Park passport stamp to memorialize the trip.
Into the education side of things? There is a large topographical map in the exhibit room that shows the mountains surrounding Lake Mead, as well as the layout of this huge body of water. You’ll also enjoy “Life in the Desert,” an award-winning film dedicated to sharing the wonder of this beautiful natural area. Learn more about wildlife, ecosystems and everything else that abounds in these protected lake and desert environs.
Chances are you will also enjoy the park store. Shop for Native American crafts, local jewelry, clothing, posters and postcards, and additional maps. Run by the Western National Parks Association, the store is entirely tax-free, and all the money goes right back into the parks! Plus, it’s located next to the Visitor Center, so it’s all a one-stop shop.
Check ahead of time to see when the center is open and view the ranger station hours.
The Hoover Dam Lookout
Next, many people head to the Hoover Dam. Built in the 1930s, it is an absolute marvel of human ingenuity and engineering. Shaped like the head of an ax, narrower at the bottom and curving inward against the force of the Colorado River, it is a mighty edifice. It is more than 700 feet tall and remarkable viewed both from river level (you’ll have to take a rafting tour) or from land.
If you opt for the latter, you have choices. You can see the dam from the Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, one of the parking lots adjacent to the Hoover Dam Visitors Center, or the officially named Hoover Dam Lookout. The latter has some of the most stunning views of Lake Mead and surrounding areas you could wish for.
To get there, you can climb either stairs or a winding ramp to reach the top level, where you will find amazing photo ops of the dike, as well as toilets and a gift shop. There is also a lower viewing level as well. Tourists do report it being both sunny and frequently cold, so wear your sunblock and dress in layers.
Temple Bar Resort Marina
Looking for lake-view lodging? RV parking? Watercraft rentals? Easy access to a restaurant and bar?
You’ll find it all and more at Temple Bar Resort Marina. This beautiful Lake Mead location offers access to hundreds of coves and beaches within short walking or boating distance. It’s the perfect launching point – no pun intended – for a huge variety of adventures, and all for affordable rates.
Cycling the Lake Mead National Recreation Area
One of the best ways to see a lot of the park is on a bicycle. Cyclists have access to a huge variety of roads, some dedicated to bikes and others used by cars as well. Many of the trails are also bike accessible, though you’ll have to watch out for signs to make sure they aren’t pedestrian-only.
Both the Historic Railroad Trail and the River Mountains Loop Trails are great places to start. They are located along the edge of the lake, offering endless fantastic views. The former is a pathway carved along the edge of the mountain to provide materials to the building site during construction of the Hoover Dam, and still boasts some of the huge tunnels to prove it. It’s short, only a few miles, so is perfect for biking (or walking) with the family.
The latter is an easy 34-mile trail that begins at the Historic Railroad Trail and winds through Henderson, Boulder City and the Las Vegas Valley, along with offering views of the Hoover Dam.
Willow Beach Watercraft Rentals
Looking to explore from the water? Willow Beach Harbor is a great place to start. They offer a campground, RV park and boat slips, so no matter how you’re traveling, you’ll find space there. WiFi will keep you connected as you plan other adventures in the area, and the restaurant and gift shop will keep you fed and souvenired during your trip.
Best of all, if you don’t have a boat yourself, you can rent a variety of watercraft there. From pontoons to skiffs, canoes to kayaks to paddleboards, deck boats and more, you’ll have your pick of the litter. Life jackets are provided on all boats, with additional ones for a $15 fee apiece, so even non-swimmers will remain safe. For those who love swimming, the boat is a perfect launching point.
If you’re renting by the day, you can make reservations ahead of time. For those who want to rent hourly, it might be a good idea to get there early, as they are first come first serve.
Horses are one of the best ways to see lots of backcountry and isolated areas. If your goal is to maximize wildlife viewing, it’s a good idea to get as far into the canyons and washes as you can. Places far from human habitation are most likely to gain you glimpses of bighorn sheep, desert tortoises, bald eagles and more.
The hinterlands also contain spectacular views of mountains, rock formations and desert flora. Whether you’re a photographer or just want to get away from it all, a horse is just the vehicle to help you do that.
At Lake Mead Mohave Adventures, we recommend planning ahead when horseback riding. You must ensure plenty of water, both for you and for the animals, as well as food and proper dress. Choosing a route ahead of time and making a reservation will simplify your experience and enhance your safety.
Cottonwood Cove Resort Marina
Cottonwood Cove brings the houseboat game, with a huge variety of floating accommodations for groups large and small. Stay on beautiful boats that you can motor into the lake during the day and relax on at night, in the company of television, WiFi and even mini bars, depending on the model you choose.
Even if you don’t go the houseboat route, you still have access to daily watercraft rentals, an RV park and more at this beautiful stretch of shoreline, within a stone’s throw of the Colorado River and Laughlin, Nevada.
Come Visit Beautiful Lake Mead!
In short, there’s no limit to what you can do at Lake Mead, so get started planning your adventure today!