Just a short drive outside Las Vegas is one of the nation’s most spectacular parks. With features like the Liberty Bell Arch, marinas, and countless hiking trails, the Lake Mead National Recreation Area is one of the most popular attractions in the Las Vegas Area.
The largest capacity reservoir in the US, Lake Mead is the section of the Colorado River held back by the mighty Hoover Dam, located downstream and a couple hours west of the Grand Canyon. The surrounding national recreation area, the very first in the US, opened in 1964, making this year its 50th anniversary.
Today, the park at Lake Mead offers countless activities for pretty much any kind of outdoor enthusiast. Open year-round, the lake itself is a favorite destination for boaters, beach loungers, fishermen, and even divers. The marinas give visitors a choice of places to eat, while areas throughout the park provide places for those who prefer to picnic.
Away from the lake, the area is criss-crossed by hundreds of trails for hiking and cycling, as well as campgrounds and picnic areas. Canyons, desert flats, and mountains dominate the landscape, providing plenty of stunning photo opportunities of complex geological forms (including gravity-defying stone arches), desert wildlife, and awesome panoramas.
A first-time visit to Lake Mead will almost surely include a stop at Hoover Dam, as well. An unbelievable feat of engineering, the dam provides electricity for nearly 1.5 million people and stores water for cities throughout the southwest, including Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Los Angeles. The views are stunning, both at the dam itself, and from the bypass bridge that now crosses high above and just downstream of the dam.
Lake Mead has undergone many changes in recent years as water levels have dropped significantly. Before heading out, make to check the Lake Mead park website for any warnings or notices of closures. Use extra caution when boating, because shallow water might hide unexpected rocks or other hazards. Also, keep in mind that the area is hot and arid, so pack plenty of water and sun protection before hitting the hiking trails or beaches. Above all, have fun!