The Historic Railroad Trail
During the construction of Hoover Dam in the early 1930s, they needed a way to get the enormous amounts of materials and gravel to the dam site. The solution was to lay 30 miles of railroad track from nearby Boulder City to the dam. After the dam was completed in 1935, the railroad was no longer needed, and the tracks were abandoned. Lucky for us, the U.S. government turned a section of the tracks into one of the most amazing biking and hiking trails in the country filled with history and the incredible destination, Hoover Dam.
The trail is 7.5 miles round trip and is located by the Alan Bible Visitors Center. The incline is gradual, and the entire trail is handicap accessible. You can park at the visitor’s center or drive a little further to a small parking lot with trailer parking and a vault toilet. There is another bike trail that starts here called the River Mountains Loop Trail. It’s a 34-mile trail, so make sure you get on the Historic Railroad Trail and not that one by accident.
To access the Historic Railroad Trail, you continue on the cement walkway just past the main information sign. You know you are going the right way when you come to this sign.
Head left onto the hard-packed dirt trail, and you are on your way. Just a little side note, this trail, while not very difficult, can get very hot in the summer months. Be sure to bring plenty of water and wear sunscreen.
Besides the fantastic views of Lake Mead and Hoover Dam, you also get to walk or ride under five amazing tunnels. They are larger than most railroad tunnels because they needed to be able to fit all of the giant parts for the dam. Each tunnel is around 300 feet long and 25 feet in diameter. You can take as much time as you want to explore them and see the history in the rough stone walls.
After passing through each tunnel, you are greeted with one stunning view of Lake Mead after the other. One thing I wasn’t expecting was how high up we were over the lake. You can see out for miles, and get a magnificent view of the Las Vegas Marina.
There are lots of benches to rest on and enjoy the view along the entire path, and near the end of the trail, you come to some vault toilets and a shade structure with picnic tables. It’s only about another mile or so after this small rest stop, and you come to some bike racks where you can leave your bikes and continue to Hoover Dam. Be sure to bring a bike lock as this area is next to a small side road. Also, if you don’t want to walk or ride your bike back, this is an area where someone can come pick you up.
After leaving your bike, you head down a ramp that surprisingly takes you to the top of the Hoover Dam parking garage. It’s easy to feel lost, but if you walk across the parking area and turn left, you will come to the elevator and stairs.
You start getting glimpses of the Memorial Bridge and Hoover Dam at this point, and once you get to the main level, you are officially at Hoover Dam. Head left, and you will come to the stairs to the Hoover Dam Visitor Center or continue to walk across the dam itself.
Hoover Dam is an amazing thing to experience and what I would call a must-see. Don’t drive past it without stopping for a visit whether you take the bike path to it or not. You get a fantastic view of Lake Mead, the Colorado River, and the Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge.
Speaking of the Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, once you’ve seen all you can see of Hoover Dam, you can get back on your bikes and take a short ride to the bridge itself. You will see the sign pointing you in the right direction from the area where you left your bikes.
You ride along the road for a little while then cross it when you get to the “Welcome to Nevada” sign. Once you’ve crossed the street, you ride up a dirt rail and leave your bikes at the foot of some stairs, which lead to the Memorial Bridge Walkway parking lot. In the parking lot, there are more vault toilets and a vending machine with water. Across the parking lot are the stairs and ramps, which lead to the bridge walkway.
Once you get out onto the bridge, you get a birds-eye view of Hoover Dam that is worth the extra time you took to go to the bridge.
Walking out on the bridge is cool too, not only for the fantastic views but the excitement of being so high up and learning about the history of the Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge.
After you’ve had your fill of breathtaking scenery and giant feats of engineering, you can hop on your bike and head back. Another great thing about taking the Historic Railroad Trail is you don’t have to pay for parking at Hoover Dam, and you can avoid some stressful driving situations. It’s a win-win experience.
Just past the Historic Railroad Trail parking lot is the Lake Mead National Recreation area. You can take a scenic drive along the lake and stop at some amazing picnic areas like Redstone and Rogers Spring, or camp for free at places like Government Point or Stewarts Point. You can even get to Valley of Fire State Park located near the North Entrance.