How to Tour Hoover Dam

Whether you find yourself anywhere in the vicinity from Las Vegas, Nevada, or you’re doing a Las Vegas to Denver road trip, the Hoover Dam is an attraction must, and here are my tips on how to tour Hoover Dam to get the most out of your visit.

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The Hoover Dam: An Attraction Must

Despite how you may feel about the role of dams in our environment, the Hoover Dam is an engineering marvel and a famous landmark in the U.S. A friend and I visited Hoover Dam while staying in Las Vegas, and I’m very glad we did. It was not only a nice getaway from the city, but it provided for an amazing scenic and educational experience. I would recommend seeing the Hoover Dam to anyone, including families with children. If you decide to go, here are some helpful tips on how best to tour Hoover Dam.

How to Get to Hoover Dam

Located 35 miles southeast of Las Vegas, the dam is an easy 40-minute drive down Highway 93.  Although the dam straddles the Nevada and Arizona state lines, the only point of entry and exit is on the Nevada side.  After completing an automobile inspection, you can still drive across the dam to park on the Arizona side. Parking is limited compared to the number of visitors the dam receives every day.  To prevent any issues, ensure to refer to the driving, inspection and parking details.

Parking on either side of the dam is $10; however, there is free parking further up the Arizona canyon side, but note this requires some walking.

Hoover Dam clock towers Arizona
Hoover Dam

When to Go to Hoover Dam

The Hoover Dam is open daily, except Thanksgiving and Christmas, from 9am to 5pm.  Last tours start before 4pm.  The area can experience brutally hot weather in the summer, as I note in my Arizona travel guide.  If you visit during the summer months, I would recommend visiting the dam early in the morning.  The dam draws on average 3,000 tourists daily – yet, another reason to get there early in the day.

Additionally, the Hoover Dam’s busiest day of the year is the day after Thanksgiving.  We found this out on that same day.  Thankfully, we got there very early.  Overall, I recommend avoiding a visit to the dam the day after Thanksgiving, if you can, unless you can get there at least by the time tours start.  Otherwise, you could be stuck in traffic waiting for a parking spot in the parking garage, which could ruin your day. We left the dam by noon and the access road to the parking garage was a parking lot itself.  Please avoid this if you can.

Hoover Dam Tourists
Hoover Dam

Hoover Dam Tours

Built during the Great Depression from 1931 to 1935, the 60-story dam was the largest dam ever built at that time. The Bureau of Reclamation has much to tell about this awesome structure – all can be heard (or not) on the different dam tours available.

Visit Hoover Dam for FREE

If you wish to go unguided, you can still see the Hoover Dam. And for free!  If you are lucky to score the free Arizona-side parking, you can always walk down and around the dam at your leisure.  When done, don’t forget to drive back to the lot closest to Highway 93 and walk across the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge for fabulous views overlooking the dam.

View of Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge from Hoover Dam
Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge

Self-Guided Visitor Center Tour

Again, if you wish to go unguided, but want access to the Visitor Center and all of its facts and exhibits, just pay $10 (adult admission) for access.  This can also be done at your leisure before or after you walk around the dam.

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Guided Powerplant Tour

Personally, I recommend a tour that goes down into the dam structure itself.  Very cool! Why wouldn’t you want this guided experience?  There are two tours that allow you to do this: The Guided Powerplant and Guided Dam tours.

The catch is, only the Guided Powerplant Tour admission can be bought in advance.  For only $15 (adult admission), which includes access to the Visitor Center, you get a shorter tour than the Guided Dam tour, but it’s still very informative: you see a 10-minute movie on the dam, the 30-minute tour is presented by Reclamation guides, and you go into original construction tunnels.  We did this tour and were very pleased.  If you want this tour, I recommend buying tickets in advance for the first available tour of the day, as well as arriving at the dam by 8am when the parking lot opens, so you can spend more time wandering the dam afterwards with less people there.

*If you suffer from claustrophobia, this tour may not be for you. 

Tourists in Hoover Dam tour tunnel
Hoover Dam tour

Guided Dam Tour

This is the tour I really wanted to do.  You get all of what the Guided Powerplant tour offers, but you get to see more of the internal structure and the guided tour lasts an hour.  Adult admission is $30. Yet, this tour admission is only first come, first serve. We went to the dam the day after Thanksgiving not knowing about it being the heaviest tourist day of the year.  We arrived at 8am when the parking lot opened. As soon as we arrived at the ticket line well before the ticket office opened, not many people in front of us. Yet, we were told we’d have to wait 2 hours for the Guided Dam tour!  Yes, it fills up that quickly.  We opted for the Guided Powerplant tour, of course.  So, if you wish to do the Guided Dam tour, get there EARLY!

*If you suffer from claustrophobia, this tour may not be for you. 

Other Hoover Dam Tours

Don’t wish to drive to the Hoover Dam or want to add more adventure to your Hoover Dam visit? Trip Advisor points out other popular types of tours offered, from mountain biking or helicopter tours, to a Lake Mead tour, or simply taking a shuttle from Las Vegas.

Let Me Hear From You

I would love to hear if this was helpful to you. Post me your thoughts or questions in the Comments section below!

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Gwen is the Founder of CORR Travel and a global traveler and photographer with over 25 years of solo travel experience. She is also the Founder of the sustainability blog. Travel is her passion and environmental sustainability and biodiversity protection is her "religion".

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