Top Tips for Visiting Lake Mead

Hoover Dam is bathed in golden sunlight. The Desert Princess is on on the left hand side of the photo and a small boat and two buoys are in the water.

We’re back with another list of our top tips of things to do, this time at Lake Mead! Lake Mead National Recreation Area is one of the most unique spots in the Las Vegas area. It’s also only 24 miles from the Las Vegas Strip and has a variety of outdoor activities to choose from which makes it great for anyone who wants to skip the slot machines and get outside. Keep reading to see our top tips for visiting Lake Mead, including where to go and what to do.

General Information for Lake Mead

Lake Mead is a reservoir that was formed in 1935 when Hoover Dam on the Colorado River was built. The average depth of the lake is 182 feet but in recent years it’s seen a significant drop in water levels (more on that later). Lake Mead supplies water to people in several states and also offers numerous opportunities for recreation. The lake is part of Lake Mead National Recreation Area which is located in both Arizona and Nevada. It also has the distinction of being the United State’s first National Recreation Area.

Lake Mead Visitor Center

10 Lakeshore Road
Boulder City, Nevada 89005

Best Things to Do At Lake Mead

Take a Cruise on the Desert Princess

It's sunset at Lake Mead and the Desert Princess is docked. The streetlights on the deck are lit up and the mountains in the background are glowing with an orange light from the sunset.
Take a cruise on the Desert Princess for an unforgettable experience at Lake Mead.

One of the best things to do at Lake Mead is to take a cruise on the Desert Princess. The Desert Princess is a three-level paddle wheeler with a bar, climate controlled decks, large picture windows for easy viewing of the scenery, and numerous places on the outdoor deck for catching a little sun and taking some photographs.

We set sail on both the Hoover Dam Sightseeing Cruise and the Dinner Cruise. Both were a ton of fun and gave us a unique opportunity to experience Lake Mead.

Hoover Dam Sightseeing Cruise

The Hoover Dam Sightseeing Cruise is a 90-minute cruise that will help you get a unique perspective of the dam. The Desert Princess makes its way from Hemenway Harbor to Hoover Dam and upon reaching the dam, lingers there for several minutes before starting to make its way back giving you ample time to take a photo.

Both the bar and the Paddlewheel Grill are open while the boat is underway so come thirsty and hungry.

Bonus: A photographer will take your photograph before boarding the Desert Princess with the option to purchase the photo during your cruise. Purchase is not necessary and a decision can also be made after seeing the photograph.

Dinner Cruise on the Desert Princess

A flatlay photo of the dinner on the Desert Princess on Lake Mead. A woman's hand holds a beer in a cup and two pieces of garlic bread are wrapped in a red napkin. There is a salmon filet with a lemon slice on top of one of the plates as well as a scoop of mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables. The other plate has chicken with mushrooms and gravy, mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables.
Come hungry! The Dinner Cruise on the Desert Princess on Lake Mead is sure to fill you up.

The Dinner Cruise on the Desert Princess on Lake Mead is one of the best things you can do while visiting Lake Mead National Recreation Area. The cruise lasts two hours and in that time you will not only get to sightsee the lake and get a great view of Hoover Dam, but you’ll also get a delicious meal!

We started with a fresh garden salad and garlic bread. It was actually on the table waiting for us when we arrived! After about fifteen minutes, we then got to choose our entree. Options included a prime rib cooked medium, a grilled herb chicken breast with sauteed mushrooms, broiled lemon pepper salmon, or a pasta entree. Desert was a slice of cake. It was tough to make a decision because we liked all of the choices but Caroline opted for the chicken breast and I got the salmon.

The two of us really enjoyed the dinner cruise and think it’d make a great date night for locals who live in the Boulder City / Las Vegas Area as well as visitors to the area. There were two birthday parties the night of our cruise and one of the parties even brought their own photographer and Frank Sinatra impersonator! Oh, and in addition to birthday parties, we also learned that the Desert Princess also offers private charters for up to 200 guests and can be rented out as the perfect place to have your wedding!

Go Boating or Kayaking on Lake Mead

Lake Mead has 7 boat launch ramps: Hemenway Harbor, PWC Beach, Boulder Harbor, Callville Bay, Echo Bay, Temple Bar, and South Cove. Some of the ramps are concrete and some of them are dirt. Be sure to check online or call ahead before preparing to launch your boat as lake levels will determine ramp openings and access.

Take a Hike on the Historic Railroad Trail

Besides getting out on the water, there are some great opportunities to go for a hike in Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Our top pick for visitors who are near Hemenway Harbor is the Historic Railroad Trail. It’s about .3 miles from the Lake Mead Visitor Center and is pretty flat. Round-trip the trail is 7.5 miles long. It’s walkable, bikeable, and dog friendly but be sure to bring plenty of water as summertime temperatures can get up into the 90’s and 100’s.

Check Out the Lakeview Overlook

Tiny boats are lit up with the last golden light at sunset in the Hemenway Harbor of Lake Mead. The layers of mountains in the distance are also lit up with golden light.
One of the best things to do at Lake Mead is to catch a sunrise or sunset from the Lakeview Overlook.

If you drive up to the Lakeview Overlook, located off Hoover Dam Access road, you’ll get a beautiful, panoramic view down into Lake Mead and Hemenway Harbor. You should also be able to see Rock, Boulder, and Saddle Islands. It’s one of the prettiest spots around. Parking is limited though so get there early or after everyone has left for dinner. And hold onto your hat as it can get pretty windy up there!

Things to Know Before Visiting Lake Mead National Recreation Area

A view of the landing at Lake Mead. The mountains and the lake are in the background. A handful of people gather near the photographer on the landing. Three round, white tables with chairs are available for sitting.
Add a cruise on Lake Mead to your list of the best things to do near Las Vegas and be sure to check it out the next time you’re in the area!

Try to plan your activities around the heat if you are visiting during the summer. Aim to go hiking before 10 am and after 5 pm. Bring lots of water, drink it, and do your best to stay hydrated.

Cell service is limited at Lake Mead so if you are hiking or boating, be sure that you can navigate without your cell phone’s GPS.

Reservations are required for the cruises on the Desert Princess. Check online for availability and sailing times.

Lake Mead is experiencing historically low water levels. As such, boat ramp access and water recreation may be impacted. Check the NPS website for the most up-to-date information.

Top Tips for Visiting Lake Mead Recap

Like, pin, share, or save for later and if you’ve been here, please leave a comment below and let us know about your favorite and best things to do at Lake Mead!

Ready to book your cruise? Head on over to

Love days on the lake? Check out our stories on Lake Powell and Lake Tahoe! Ready to kick adventure up a notch and go whitewater rafting? Be sure to check out our stories related to Rafting on the Snake River and Rafting in the Grand Canyon.

Caroline Whatley and Erin McGrady of Authentic Asheville are currently traveling as Ambassadors for the Nation’s Vacation. To learn more about their expedition, head on over HERE.

Published by Erin McGrady

Erin McGrady is a filmmaker, photographer, and writer exploring Asheville and beyond. My work focuses on sharing about LGBTQ safe spaces, camper van life, and the outdoors.

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