Want to see the most famous dam in the American West? Book a tour of Hoover Dam from Las Vegas. For just a few hours, you’ll be able to get out of the city, discover the surrounding area and visit a most impressive dam.
We did it with Amélie on our last vacation to Las Vegas. Discover tips and information, along with our photos and review of the outing.
What is Hoover Dam?
Hoover Dam is a huge dam built in the 1930s near Boulder City. For this reason, it was also named in the past, and some still do, Boulder Dam. So, if you see both names on booking sites, remember that they’re the same thing.
Gigantic, at 221 meters high, its erection required a 5-year worksite involving several thousand workers working 7 days a week.
Its creation triggered the creation of Lake Mead. This artificial lake, also used for water-based recreation, is above all a water reservoir for the inhabitants of Arizona, Nevada and California.
The purpose of the dam and lake was to regulate the inflow of water from the Colorado River. After the snow melts, a large flow of water descends. Regulating the flow of water prevented natural disasters and ensured that it was put to good use. Without the dam, a city like Las Vegas, located in the middle of the desert, would never have survived.
Today, the infrastructure is essential for supplying drinking water to over 20 million people. However, serious dangers are looming. Between growing demand and a sharply dwindling water supply due to global warming, the lake is at an extremely low level.
Our guide showed us this phenomenon. When you’re at the dam, traces on the rocks and structure show the former water levels. The same can be seen at Lake Mead. The difference is considerable, and the future looks uncertain.
Many locals, like our guide on the tour, are very worried about the future, while others have faith in the ability of Americans to innovate and find solutions to make up for shortcomings…
Which company did we work with on the Hoover Dam tour?
Many companies offer tours from Las Vegas to Hoover Dam.
As for our helicopter flight in 2018, we chose Papillon. Renowned and experienced in these activities, they are a sure bet for your excursions from Las Vegas.
Other bus companies should take you to Hoover Dam, but we haven’t looked into that. There are also alternative means of transport for small-group visits via other types of vehicles, and even helicopter flights close to the dam.
How do I get to the Hoover Dam Tour bus?
The advantage of a bus tour is that you don’t have to worry about getting to the start of the excursion. When booking, you specify where you’re staying. The bus then picks you up either directly from your hotel or from a nearby hotel.
So we stayed at the Paris Las Vegas hotel and took the bus to the Bellagio, just across the street.
How long does the Hoover Dam Tour last?
We boarded the bus at 9:15 a.m. at the Bellagio. It then made two more stops to pick up customers, and we officially started the tour at around 10:00 a.m.
The outward journey took almost 1h45, as we made several stops or detours to admire other things (I’ll talk about them later in the article). We stayed at Hoover Dam for 1.5 hours, and then the return trip took a little less time than the outward journey, at 1.15 hours.
The Las Vegas – Hoover Dam bus tour therefore lasts around 4h30.
How much does the Hoover Dam coach tour cost?
When compared to the average cost of activities in Las Vegas, the price of the Hoover Dam tour is very inexpensive.
We paid $54/person. This price includes everything: the bus ride, free bottled water, the guide, access to Hoover Dam and on-site visits.
It is also customary to tip the bus driver, who is also the guide, at the end of the tour. However, this is not compulsory and many people, including Americans, don’t do it.
Book your tickets with free cancellation on GetYourGuide.
What can you do at Hoover Dam?
As mentioned above, you’ll be at Hoover Dam for about 1.5 hours. This is not too long. On the contrary, we didn’t have time to eat what we wanted because we put too much time into the activities.
Arriving at the dam, the bus driver walked through the building, telling us a few interesting facts about the construction or important things to look at. Then he made a U-turn to the park in the bus parking lot. Once you’re off the bus, you’re on your own. You have a maximum of one hour to return to the bus and organize your time as you wish.
On the way down, he handed us a ticket to the Hoover Dam Visitor Center. While we were expecting a small museum with information panels, we were surprised to get a most comprehensive tour.
It all begins with a short film showing the reasons for the dam’s construction and the means employed.
Then your group takes an elevator down into the depths of Boulder Dam. You go underground to the dam’s turbines. Someone explains a few technical points to you.
Then you take the elevator back to the engine room and get further explanations.
You’re in the United States, so even in the depths you see a big flag!
I can’t remember the exact information I received, but it concerns flow rates, materials, power levels, the current work of the people on the site…
Then it’s on to the next floor, with more information on Hoover Dam and, best of all, outside access to a magnificent view of the dam. This is where you’ll take the best photos of the dam.
You have the dam on one side and, on the other, a view of the base of the gigantic Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge.
The Hoover Dam Visitor Center tour lasted between 30 and 45 minutes. On the way out, we walked over the dam for a few more photos before returning to the bus park.
Near the parking lot, you’ll find a rather small souvenir store. We didn’t buy anything, but there was a wide choice of clothes, magnets, mugs, decorative items…
Adjacent is a fast-food restaurant.
What are the other stops on the Hoover Dam Tour?
The Las Vegas – Hoover Dam bus tour doesn’t just stop at the dam. What’s more, the guide is a real mine of information. As soon as you leave Las Vegas, the guide/driver starts telling you all about Las Vegas and the surrounding area, then hardly stops until the end. So, even on the bus, you’re never bored.
Of course, he speaks in English, so you’ll need a good level to understand everything. However, with just the basics, it’s still possible to grasp a lot.
The first stop is on the way out of town. We stopped for 5 minutes at the famous “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” entrance sign.
You don’t have the time to queue up and take the most beautiful photo right in front of the sign, but you can take some from afar. In any case, queuing up for a sign in full sunlight seemed a bit absurd. So photos from a distance were more than enough.
Then, after a bit of driving, the driver made a detour to Boulder City. This old town was once home to the employees who worked on Hoover Dam. Some of the houses and buildings in this town are very old, and the main street has an atypical look. Once again, the guide accompanies the tour with anecdotes and facts. We don’t have time during the tour to walk around Bouler City, but take the bus for about ten minutes.
The bus then takes you to the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. This four-lane arched bridge is new. It was built in 2005. Its purpose is to divert traffic from the Hoover Dam area.
A short walk takes you to the bridge. Protected from the road by a wall and from the void by railings, you can move forward. At a height of 270 meters, the view can be frightening, and we came across a man unable to move forward. The bridge offers a unique view of the Boulder Dam. It’s probably the place with the widest view of the dam. Closer to the dam, you’ll be more into the details and won’t be able to take an overall picture of the building.
This is the last stop before the 1h30 stop at the dam. After the dam, we made one last short stop closer to Lake Mead. With a bird’s-eye view of the lake, you can better define its contours and water level.
The bus ride back to Las Vegas is quicker. The guide continues to talk a bit (you need to be healthy to be a guide!) and drops you off at the same hotel as in the morning.
How to equip yourself for the Hoover Dam Tour?
The only requirement is that you bring proof of identity.
Unlike other bus tours, you are not allowed to bring a backpack. Security has been stepped up since the attacks of September 11, 2001. In fact, the bus is quickly searched by a security guard just upstream from the roadblock.
Bottled water is available at every stop.
In terms of clothing, Boulder City is generally a little warmer than Las Vegas. In October, I wore a t-shirt, shorts and a cap, and I got pretty hot, especially when you’re walking on the full dam exposed to the sun. In summer, conditions must be tough!
Do we need to provide refreshments?
Since you can’t bring a backpack, you don’t have any food. So the little restaurant at Hoover Dam is a welcome addition. But watch your schedule!
After taking our time on the tour, I wanted to order a burger at the restaurant, but the 30-minute wait was incompatible with the time we had to get back to the bus. So we had a pretzel and a soda.
Is it physically difficult to do the Hoover Dam Tour?
No, the effort is limited. The walk to the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge is probably the biggest effort, and consists of a few hundred meters on foot on a slightly sloping road. So even if you’re in poor condition or physically handicapped, you can still make the tour.
Is the Hoover Dam Tour a good one?
Yes, and I’d go so far as to say it was an excellent visit! A few days later, Papillon and I took a bus tour to the Grand Canyon. While we thought this second visit would be the best, it was the opposite.
The Hoover Dam Bus Tour is a pleasant surprise. Close to Las Vegas, the dam is an architectural marvel. You’re dazzled by its size, and the tour is very comprehensive. I didn’t expect to make so many stops, to have such an interesting guide and to discover such a Visitor Center.
Seeing the engines and gaining access to the bowels of the dam is a unique experience. The price seems derisory to me for the outing when you sometimes pay a similar sum for a 10-minute virtual reality experience in Las Vegas…
Without being boring, it’s also a visit that sheds light on water issues. Knowing that the 3 large marinas on Lake Mead have become a single marina that hundreds of meters of water have been washed away in record time, and that the dam is handling ridiculous flows compared to the past, makes you feel a little pooped.
As a tourist, you go to Las Vegas, a city that consumes a lot of energy, and when you take the bus, you discover that…
But let’s end on a positive note: if you’ve got one short excursion to make during your trip to Las Vegas, this is it!
Book your tickets with free cancellation on GetYourGuide.