Lake Mead is a massive and stunning reservoir formed by the engineering marvel - the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River. The lake is only 24 miles east of the Las Vegas Strip and the largest reservoir in the United States when measured by water capacity.

Lake Mead is an outdoor playground and perfect for a whole range of activities including, swimming, boating, hiking, cycling, camping, and fishing. It is both a great holiday destination in itself as well as a great outing while living it up in Sin City.

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About Lake Mead

Lake Mead came into being on September 30, 1935, as the lake started filling behind the massive Hoover Dam then still under construction. Today it is immensely important, providing sustenance to nearly 20 million people and large tracts of farmland.

Currently, its water level is exceptionally low, it has remained below full capacity since 1983 because of droughts and increased water demand. As of June 30, 2021, it was only at 35.17% of full capacity.

Today the Lake Mead National Recreation Area is operated by the National Park Service. It includes all of Lake Mead as well as the smaller Lake Mohave (which is formed by the Davis Dam) as well as a large amount of surrounding desert and wilderness.

  • Lake Mead Visitor Center Address: 10 Lakeshore Road, Boulder City, Nevada
  • Fun Fact: There Is A Boeing B-29 Superfortress At The Bottom Of Lake Mead That Crashed In 1948

Related: Not Only Is The Grand Canyon Kid Friendly, But Here's How To Plan A Day The Family Will Love

Boating On Lake Mead

One of the favorite pastimes of Lake Mead is boating. One can bring one's own boat or rent a boat at the marina. One of the rental companies is Boating Lake Mead. They offer a variety of Lake Mead boat rentals so that visitors can relax water skiing, tubing, cruising, fishing, or just enjoying the sights. They are located at Las Vegas Boat Harbor - just a short boat ride from the Hoover Dam and Cathedral Rock. Below is a selection of their boat rentals available see their website for more information:

Sport Boats

Great for water skiing and other water sports.

  • Size: 22-Foot Open Bow
  • Engine: 250hp Mercruiser
  • Capacity: Seats Up To 8 People
  • Price: $570.00 Per Day

Pontoon Patio Boats

Great for time with family and friends as well as picnicking, sightseeing, and (of course) fishing. Comes with a shade canopy.

  • Size: 24-foot Deluxe Pontoon Boat
  • Engine: Mercury 4 Stroke Engines
  • Capacity: Up to 10 People
  • Price: $390.00 Per Day

Personal Watercraft (aka Jetski)

  • Capacity: Up to 2 People
  • Price: $250.00 (4 Hours) or $400.00 (Per Day)

Kayaks

  • Per Hour: $25.00
  • 4 Hours: $65.00
  • Per Day: $100.00

Camping In The Recreational Area

While many folks will be based out of Vegas and just want a day's excursion, others will be keen to camp and really experience this stark landscape. The Lake Mead Recreational Area includes over 900 camping and RV sites at 15 different locations. They offer running water, dump stations, grills, picnic tables, and of course, restrooms. See the National Park Service for more information.

  • Cost: $20.00 Per Site (only $10 If One Has An Interagency Senior and Access Pass)
  • Reservation: Varies, Some Are First Come, First Served. Others are Reservable

First-Come, First-Served Lake Mead Campgrounds

  • Boulder Beach Campground
  • Las Vegas Bay Campground
  • Echo Bay Campground

Reservable Lake Mead Campgrounds

  • Boulder Beach Group Campground
  • Callville Bay Campground

It camping is a bit too spartan, one can enjoy one's vacation glamping by the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

Horseback Riding

Horseback is permitted by the NPS in the recreational area. The rugged landscapes, the isolated backcountry, eye-watering views of Lake Mead, the sheer cliffs, the dry washes, and mosaics of different vegetation combine to make this a horse-riding paradise.

Lake Mead boasts many trails for riding (stick to the trails as desert ecosystems are fragile. When desert soils are disturbed they can take years to recover). See here for why horseback riding is one of the must-dos in the Grand Canyon.

  • Caution: This Is Desert And There Is A Lack Of Drinking Water For The Rider And The Horse
  • River Mountains Loop Trail: About 50% Is Open To Horses

Note: The Are Many Prohibited Areas - See The National Park Service

Related: 20 Random Things Travelers Should Know Before Visiting The Grand Canyon

Hiking

While the main attraction is of course Lake Mead, the recreational area protects a vast area of the eastern Mojave Desert. One of the best ways to really get out and explore this desert is by foot. See the rock formations that boast all the colors of the rainbow. Explore canyons and washes.

  • Season: Hiking Is Year-Round But The Best Season is November Through March When Temperatures are Cooler
  • Warning: Temperatures In Summer Can Reach 120 Degrees F in the Shade. Hiking Then Is Not Recommended - Take Plenty Of Water
  • Ranger-Guided Hikes: Offered Year Round (In Summer In The Evenings)

Next: This Is The Best Month To Visit The Grand Canyon, And Which Tour To Take While You're There