Recently, I traveled with my son to Nevada, California, and Arizona, taking advantage of some of the cheap one way car rentals into Arizona. We flew in Sunday night to Las Vegas, and early Monday morning, we stopped by to visit Hoover Dam, located on the Colorado River and the border between Nevada and Arizona.
What to do when you visit Hoover Dam
Those of you who know me will know that I’m not big on paying for things in general, and when I decided I wanted to visit Hoover Dam, that was no exception. Looking through the official US Government site, there are a few things that you can pay for (which you can choose to do if you want)
Costs at Hoover Dam
- 30 minute Powerplant Tour – $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and $12 for kids 4-16
- 1 hour Hoover Dam Tour – $30 for everyone; kids 8 and under not allowed
- Visitor Center admission – $10 for everyone 4 and up
- Parking – $10 in the parking garage
Note too that similar to Mt. Rushmore, the Every Kid in a Park pass will NOT work here, as admission to the actual site (the dam) is free, and that’s the only thing that the Every Kid in a Park pass is good for – it doesn’t work on parking fees, tours and visitor center admission.
(SEE ALSO: Every National Park free? Not THIS one 🙁)
Visit Hoover Dam for free
Personally, when I decided to visit Hoover Dam, I was most just looking to drive on it, take some pictures and see the views. I’m not sure there’s a ton of value in some of that stuff that you can’t get from reading online if you wanted to. Here are my top 3 tricks to visit Hoover Dam for free
Trick 1: Pick your time to visit Hoover Dam carefully
This is something that may or may not be under your control, but just know that if you arrive during the middle of the day, during summer vacation, it is going to be super crowded. We visited at about 7 a.m. / 8 a.m. (since Nevada and Arizona are in different time zones, technically the time changes when you cross over the dam!)
Trick 2: Know that there are other options for parking
There is not access from US 93 on the Arizona side – no matter which direction you’re coming from, you need to get off on Exit 2, Nevada state route 172 and wind your way down to the dam. Here’s an annotated map I made
This shows a few things that I found helpful. First, know that regardless of if you’re coming from Las Vegas or from Arizona, you must exit off of US 93 on the Nevada side. There is no access to anything you’re able to see from the Arizona side – that has been closed down.
So as you’re coming along on Hoover Dam Road, after you go through a security check, the first thing you’ll see is the parking lot that takes you to the walkway up to the bypass bridge (more on that later). As you wind your way down, the first big parking option is the parking garage, which costs $10
But if you continue on over the dam, there are a few places that you can (as far as I could tell) park for free. I’m sure these fill up QUITE fast during popular times, but when we were there (early on a Monday morning in November), there was nobody there – here’s us at Parking Area 10
Also know that you CAN drive across the dam for free, but you can’t stop on the dam, and you’ll probably get in trouble if you try to pull over anywhere except the designated parking areas. So if you just want to drive across the dam, you can do that, but then since there is no access to US 93 on the Arizona side, you’ll need to turn around and come back over the dam to the Nevada side.
Trick 3: Consider walking across the new Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman bypass bridge (just not on Monday mornings!)
As I mentioned before, one of the first parking areas is where you can park and walk up to the bypass bridge. Our plan was to drive across the dam and back, park here, and then get some good views from the bypass bridge.
This parking area is only open from dawn to dusk. We got there a little before official sunrise, and as you can see, the area was closed.
While we were waiting for it to open, we could see a guy up on the walkway (you can see the walkway up to the bypass bridge snaking back and forth in the background). He appeared to be using a leaf blower to clean off the walkway.
After 20 minutes or so of waiting, a police car came up and let us know that Monday mornings they clean this area, so it wouldn’t be open for another few hours.
So pro-tip, if you’re planning to visit Hoover Dam, don’t come early on Monday morning!