Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

The Ultimate Guide to Lake Mead National Recreation Area

November 25, 2020

Are you looking for information about the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, and how to make the most of your time there?

Lake Mead National Recreation Area offers much to do for the avid nature traveller. With plenty of amazing photo opportunities, huge lakes and hikes, there is no shortage of things to explore.

With many of the activities within the Lake Mead National Recreation Area being free or low cost, it’s a great outdoor exploration trip that you can complete on a budget.

As the USA’s first national recreation area, Lake Mead draws millions of visitors each year who flock to the desert area for fishing, swimming, water skiing and more. Lake Mead National Recreation Area has lots to offer, as you’ll discover!

Whilst the lake may be the main attraction here, there is more to this spot than meets the eye…

Things to do in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area

In this part of our ultimate guide to the Lake Mead National Recreation Area we’ll talk about all the amazing things there are to do in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. As you’ll find out, this isn’t just any old lake – there are activities for all ages and interests on offer!

Railroad Tunnels Trail

First on my list of things to do in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, it’s the Railroads tunnel. One of the top things to do at Lake Mead has to be the famous Railroad Tunnels Trail.

Remnants left over from the days of locomotive shuttles from the Hoover Dam can be explored by guests. The Railroad Tunnels Trail takes hikers through five mountains that were once traversed by trains. The 3.7-mile trail is awesome and ends up near the Hoover Dam Parking Garage.

A relatively flat trail, you won’t have too much of an issue getting around. As the tunnels are around 25 feet high and 300 feet long, there’s plenty of room for groups to look around. 

Along the way, you’ll learn about the area’s history, and if you’re feeling good about the trails, you can even tack a few miles onto your hike to reach the Hoover Dam itself!

Gold Strike Hot Springs

A challenging hike that is much more difficult that the Railroad Tunnels, the Gold Strike Hot Springs trail rewards trekkers with a bunch of hot springs and pools at its finish. If you continue along the whole trail, you’ll find the Nevada Hot Springs and the Colorado River.

A scenic route for travellers to Lake Mead, you’re sure to be rewarded for your fitness efforts here.

The trail starts outside the National Recreation Area, south of U.S 93. This is another great option for things to do in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.


Kayaking on Lake Mead is an absolute must-do! Kayaking is a great way to explore any lake, and it’s one of those activities that is both adventurous and relaxing. Spend the day on the lake, finding different picnic spots and enjoying different views around the water.

One tip I discovered (which is so budget-saving if you love visiting lakes often) is to buy yourself an inflatable kayak for paddle exercise. You can get some pretty awesome inflatable kayaks now – and packing them up is super easy and efficient.

kayaking in lake mead

Anniversary Narrows Canyon

Another must-do activity whilst you’re in Lake Mead National Recreation Area is the Anniversary Narrows.

A slot canyon bounded by steep walls made from layered sediments, it provides a unique natural setting for visitors to explore. With a great hike available along the narrows, you’ll be able to go into the canyon and explore its true beauty. 

Las Vegas Boat Harbor and Boulder Beach

If you’re looking to get on the water, Boulder Beach and the Boat Harbour offer easy access to Lake Mead.

Boulder Beach has a great coastline, and there’s a ton of great campsites nearby should you be looking to camp on the waterside. Another great choice for things to do in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

The Hoover Dam

Arguably, you’d not be in your right mind if you visited the Lake Mead area without paying a visit to the Hoover Dam (click here for my favourite day trip to the hoover dam).

The source of the lake itself, this 726-foot high dam that was constructed between 1931 and 1936 is a massive feat of engineering.

These days, you can either drive to the dam and park to look or take the designated bike trail to visit. No matter your thoughts on the dam itself, you can’t help but marvel at the sheer size of the thing, particularly when you look all the way down!

Rent a boat (or a jet ski!)

Getting out on the water is one of the best things about visiting the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. It’s such a large expanse of water, but it’s also really calm and quiet too – so there’s plenty of space to try out boating or jet skiing for the day.

You can rent them from various companies based in Lake Mead, so just find the one for you and then have some fun!

I absolutely love jet skiing, so I definitely recommend trying it out for a day, it’s such a fun way to explore the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

Visit Las Vegas

When you’re visiting Lake Mead National Recreation Area, you’re so close to Las Vegas, it would almost be criminal not to visit!

As you’re in the state of Nevada, you might wish to take a short detour trip to Vegas! Even if you just visit for the day – it’s great fun and only a short drive from the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

If you’ve never seen the famous Strip, it’s at least worth a drive and a few dedicated hours to gawking at its crazy sights and hotels. Whether you want to hit the slots or take in a show, there’s an endless number of things to do in Vegas.

The Lake Mead Cruise

Next on my list of things to do in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, it’s the lake mead cruise.

If you want to get out on the water but don’t have your own boat, you can take a short trip on one of the Lake Mead cruises. The Desert Princess Cruise offers a 90-minute trip across the water, and there’s also a Hoover Dam tour that shows you the best of the area!

Northshore Drive

A cool road trip for nature lovers, Northshore Drive is a must-do if you’ve got the time!

Located on the way to the Valley of Fire State Park along the north-western part of Lake Mead, it’s a 50-mile journey that shows you the best of the area. Make sure you sneak a peak at Northshore Summit Trail for a great view from the top of the mountain!

Go fishing

You can take fishing tours in Lake Mead National Recreation Area (where a professional takes you out and you learn all the best spots for fishing) or you can bring your own equipment and do it yourself.

Whichever route you go down, fishing in Lake Mead is a really popular activity and you’re bound to have great fun and meet lots of people too.

Places to stay near Lake Mead

One of the most popular accommodation options near Lake Mead is camping, and there are a few campsites and RV sites dotted around the place, which we’ve rounded up and put into a list below.

Lake Mead RV Village Boulder Beach

If you’re looking for a lakeside spot, you can’t get much better than this. With spacious sites and clean surroundings, you can have a full RV hooked up with the amenities that you’re after. You can either reserve or just rock up, but it’s highly recommended to reserve for obvious reasons. 

Westin Lake Las Vegas

For a more luxurious stay, the Westin Lake Las Vegas Resort is a popular pick. Located on the north-western edge of the recreation area, this place has two pools and a private beach. It’s super spacious too, so there’s no sense of feeling too cooped up here. 

Hilton Lake Las Vegas Resort and Spa

Similarly, the Hilton Lake Las Vegas Resort is a great pick for the luxury traveller. With Mediterranean-inspired architecture and a bunch of great restaurants, it’s sure to give you a relaxing place to settle after a long day exploring the lake. 

What is the weather like in Lake Mead National Recreation Area?

Lake Mead National Recreation Area tends to have great weather all year round, especially compared to other states in the USA. Infact, the weather is similar to that of Las Vegas, where things do get cool in the winter – but it rarely snows.

Spring is a popular time to visit, as the weather and heat is mild and pleasant, perfect for outdoors activities.

In the summer it’ll be really warm (and you’ll likely want to shelter from the sun during the midday heat).

In the autumn things cool off a little, but it’s still really pleasant weather to enjoy the outdoors.

In the winter in Lake Mead National Recreation Area, it does cool down, and there is a chill in the air. However, you could still enjoy plenty of outdoor activities.

What should you pack for a trip to Lake Mead National Recreation Area?

When packing for your trip to Lake Mead National Recreation Area, I find the best thing to do is think about the kinds of activities you’ll be enjoying and participating in during your visit.

If you’re visiting in the spring or summer, bring:

  • Light clothing / summery clothing
  • Swimwear (several choices)
  • Sun protection
  • A swimming rash vest (to protect against sunburn)
  • Swimming shoes
  • Hiking shoes (incase you decide to explore)
  • An outfit for Vegas!

If you’re visiting in the autumn or winter, it’s wise to bring extra layers for warmth, incase it’s windy or chilly. A wind proof jacket is a good idea, as it a scarf and maybe hats and gloves. It’s unlikely to be that cold – but it’s better to be prepared!

The Lake Mead National Recreation Area is truly a beautiful area to visit, and I hope that this list of things to do has helped with planning your trip!

Read more about visiting Nevada: 30 fun things to do in Reno, Nevada

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