Lake Mead Recreation Area, NV: Historic Railroad Trail

Explore an abandoned railroad used to build the Hoover Dam on this 7.8-mile trail-and-tunnel route through the Aztec Sandstone Mountains of southeastern Nevada.
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Explore an abandoned railroad used to build the Hoover Dam on this 7.8-mile trail-and-tunnel route through the Aztec Sandstone Mountains of southeastern Nevada.

This 7.8-miler chugs along an old railway bed, through five dynamite-blown tunnels to the Hoover Dam, a 726-foot-tall concrete plug in the Colorado River. From the visitor center, hike east on the Historic Railway Trail. In 1 mile, the trail dips into the first of five railroad tunnels blasted through the Aztec Sandstone Mountains in the 1930s. This rail line transported much of the supplies to build the second largest dam in the United States.
One of the best overlooks to Lake Mead is near tunnel 5. See the islands? Those are the tips of massive mesas. After the last tunnel, the trail descends 300 feet in 1.6 miles to the Hoover Dam. If time permits, check out the visitor center and tour the dam.

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 6.3

Waypoints

Trail

Location: 36.0164680480957, -114.741790771484

Road Crossing

Location: 36.0166320800781, -114.751625061035

Trail

Location: 36.0158386230469, -114.753204345703

Hanging out

Location: 36.0134086608887, -114.78450012207

Powerstation

Location: 36.0174713134766, -114.745819091797

Lake Mead

Location: 36.0131874084473, -114.787673950195

Gate

Location: 36.0168838500977, -114.762756347656

Make sure you return before nightfall

Hoover Dam

Location: 36.0161476135254, -114.741317749023

Tunnel #1

Location: 36.0179557800293, -114.776809692383

Inside the Tunnel

Location: 36.016918182373, -114.773384094238

Access Gate

Location: 36.011058807373, -114.790878295898

Picnic Tables

Location: 36.0175590515137, -114.743392944336

Seasonal Flowers

Location: 36.0161285400391, -114.754081726074

Overlook

Location: 36.0166969299316, -114.764457702637

WPT001

Location: 36.0114479064941, -114.794044494629

From the visitor center, hike east along the Historic Railroad Trail.

Note: No water on trail. Pack extra as temperatures can soar above 100 degrees F.

WPT002

Location: 36.0111389160156, -114.790870666504

Continue straight through access gate and head northeast towards Lake Mead.

WPT003

Location: 36.0132369995117, -114.787712097168

Overlook: Crest the top of a small hill and enjoy sweeping views of Lake Mead, mesas, and the marina. The white bathtub ring on the sandstone shows how high the water level used to be.

WPT004

Location: 36.013355255127, -114.784561157227

More views of Lake Mead from several benches along the trail

WPT005

Location: 36.0179672241211, -114.776901245117

Tunnel 1: Pass through the first of five tunnels over the next 1.2 miles. These tunnels were blasted through the Aztec Sandstone Mountains. Unable to climb the steep gradient, heavy-loaded trains zigzagged across the desert to and from Boulder City.

WPT006

Location: 36.0169486999512, -114.762672424316

Tunnel 5: The final one. Choices: Continue east to the Hoover Dam, or turn around to return to your car. Plan accordingly. The gates ahead are locked after dark.

WPT007

Location: 36.0158538818359, -114.753074645996

Path winds down to the Hoover Dam. Jackrabbits, bighorn sheep, and seasonal flowers dot the desertscape.

WPT008

Location: 36.0167045593262, -114.751495361328

Turn left at 3-way junction and continue on the Historic Railroad Trail.

WPT009

Location: 36.018928527832, -114.749824523926

Turn right at 3-way junction

WPT010

Location: 36.0175399780273, -114.745147705078

Cross under crackling powerlines and go straight at 4-way junction with a service road.

WPT011

Location: 36.0172843933106, -114.742782592773

Final descent to Hoover Dam

WPT012

Location: 36.0162353515625, -114.741508483887

Trail ends at dam parking area. Return to your car, or walk the Hoover Dam and stop into the visitor center.