6 Fun Activities to Do on Lake Mead

5 min read
Lake Mead Marina Activities

A lot of fun can be had on and around Lake Mead, especially in the summer when temperatures in Las Vegas can soar to over 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 degrees Celsius). This massive reservoir is a picturesque blue jewel in the middle of miles of empty desert, and can be visited either as a day trip from Las Vegas or as a pit stop on the way to the Hoover Dam.

While there are a lot of things to see and do at Nevada’s largest reservoir, we’ve narrowed down the list to six of the most popular.

Lake Mead at a Glance:

But first, what is Lake Mead? And why should you visit?

Lake Mead is an astounding 112 miles long and 532 feet deep, making it the largest reservoir in the United States in terms of water capacity. Though the lake covers land in two states (Arizona and Nevada), unofficially, it is considered part of Las Vegas by most Nevadans, as it is only 24 miles outside of the city.

The lake is more than just a pretty tourist attraction, however; it’s a vitally important water source for the American southwest. While water levels have dropped drastically in recent years (the lake is currently at less than 40 percent of its full water capacity), the reservoir continues to provide water to Nevada, Arizona, California and even parts of Mexico.

Hike the Historic Railroad Trail

Railroad trail Lake Mead

The Historic Railroad Trail is an ideal way to view the lake, as the trail is located at an elevation that provides a birds-eye view of a slice of the southern portion of the reservoir. Because of the trail’s easy access and flat, smooth terrain, it is popular with joggers, dog walkers, cyclists and novice hikers. It’s such a smooth path, in fact, it’s considered wheelchair accessible.

The trail was once a railway system used during the construction of the Hoover Dam. But after the dam was completed in 1935, there was no further need to transport equipment, and the railway was closed. In 1962, the tracks were removed and all that remains of the historic railway is the trail and the tunnels. The trail’s five tunnels are each 300 feet in length and 25 feet wide.

The trail is long—3.7 miles one way—but you don’t have to walk the whole thing. There are picnic tables a little over half way down the trail, which can serve as a good resting and turn-around point.

Boating, Kayaking and Jet Skiing

Lake Mead Boats

What better way to explore all of the hidden nooks and crannies of the lake than by boat? After all, Lake Mead has more than 290 square miles of water, and much of it is impossible to see by car alone. While Lake Mead has seven official boat launch ramps, you don’t need to have your own motor boat or jet ski in order to partake in the fun. Several of the marinas offer motor boat, canoe, kayak, paddleboard and jet ski rentals as well as guided tours. They even rent houseboats for those looking for a weekend-long adventure. 

If you enjoy kayaking (or are in the mood for an adventure), paddling down the Black Canyon National Water Trail is an exciting way to explore the Colorado River (one of the rivers that feeds into Lake Mead). The Water Trail encompasses 30 miles of beaches, caves, coves and hot springs. And if you’re lucky, you may even spot some wildlife, such as the big-horn sheep that can be found grazing along the cliffs. You can kayak the Colorado River on your own, but it’s recommended that you take a guided tour, as one of the best sites is the base of the Hoover Dam, which is only accessible for those with a permit.

Take a cruise

Lake Mead Cruise

If you’re looking for a boating experience that’s a little more low-key than a kayak or jet ski, Lake Mead Cruises offers lake tours on their Mississippi-style paddlewheeler. The Desert Princess sets sail several times a day, giving you the option of cruising the lake while you enjoy a champagne brunch or dinner under the stars. The brunch cruise includes an all-you-can-eat buffet as well as complimentary champagne. The dinner cruise departs at 5:30pm (just in time to catch the spectacular desert sunset) and the menu includes several options, including fish, prime rib or pasta.

And no need to worry about the heat. The three-story paddlewheeler also has two enclosed decks with air-conditioning, so guests can escape the sun or summer weather. Lake Mead Cruises also offers a Hoover Dam Sightseeing cruise every afternoon.


Lake Mead people fishing on the side

Fishing enthusiasts may be excited to learn that Lake Mead is home to a variety of species of fish, including striped bass, rainbow trout, catfish, sunfish, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and crappie. And with 290 square miles of water, you could fish every day for years and never fish in the same spot twice.

It should be noted that Lake Mead straddles both Nevada and Arizona, and each state has different fishing laws, so be sure to read up on the fishing regulations before you go.

Popular fishing spots include: Hemenway Fishing Pier, Willow Beach Fishing Pier and Katherine Landing Fishing Pier.


Lake Mead Camping in the Nevada Desert

Las Vegas has several terrific camping sites a short drive outside of the city, including Red Rock Canyon, Mt. Charleston, and Lake Mead. Lake Mead has 15 different camping locations and a total of 900 tent and RV sites. All of the official campgrounds offer restrooms, grills and more. But guests are also welcome to set up camp elsewhere along the lake as well.

The Boulder Beach Campground is one of the more popular sites, as it is located in a wooded area close to two of the main entrances, and within walking distance to the water.

Tour the Hoover Dam

Tourists taking in the Hoover Dam Tour

Many assume Lake Mead is a natural body of water, but it is actually man made. The lake was formed in 1935 with the creation of the Hoover Dam. To create the reservoir, entire towns were evacuated and miles of desert were flooded, including the Mormon settlement of St. Thomas, which at one point sat under 60 feet of water. It took five years and thousands of workers to build the dam, and if you visit, you’ll see why. The dam is massive. At 726 feet tall, it is twice the height of the Luxor Casino.

The Hoover Dam provides guided tours. Choose from several tour options, all of which include admission to the Dam’s Visitor’s Center.