It might be hard to imagine Southern Nevada as anything but neon signs and blackjack tables, but in reality, it is an outdoor-lover’s mecca. In May 2019, Matt and I got the opportunity to spend a weekend in Boulder City, Nevada, and of course, we couldn’t say no!
It all started a few months ago, when I was mindlessly perusing Instagram and came across an amazing giveaway from Travel Nevada. Now, ya girl very rarely passes up an opportunity to enter a giveaway, and this one was no exception! The giveaway included a two-night stay at a Boulder City hotel, a zipline tour, a rail-bike tour, two gift cards to local restaurants and a bunch of Southern Nevada/Boulder City gear! Obviously, I had to enter.
A week later, I received a surprising DM – I had won the trip!! “Excited” was an understatement. We quickly scheduled our trip for early May – the perfect time to visit Boulder City!
LOCATION: Southern Nevada, about 20 miles southeast of the Las Vegas Strip
SIZE: 208 square miles
BEST TIME TO VISIT: Like most desert cities, the average temperature in Boulder City varies drastically. In the summer, the average temperature stay well over 100 degrees; however, in the winter, the temperature usually sits around 40 – 60 degrees. The best time to visit Boulder City really depends on what you want to do – if you are trying to spend all day on the lake, you’ll want to visit in the summer (obvi); however, if you are trying enjoy the city and the (non-aquatic) sights, you’ll likely want to visit when it is a little cooler out – spring and fall would be perfect!!
GETTING THERE: Unless you are driving in from Arizona, you’ll likely have to drive through Las Vegas to get to Boulder City. Even driving in from Los Angeles, we drove through Los Angeles instead of driving through Searchlight on US-95. (PRO TIP: If you are coming from Los Angeles, take US-95 through Searchlight on the way home – it’ll let you avoid the inevitable traffic going into Primm when I-15 goes from 3 to 2 lanes! It shaved off a good hour from our drive!). If you aren’t in a place to drive to Boulder City, the closest commercial airport is McCarren International Airport in Las Vegas, about 20 miles away.
DAY 1: ARRIVAL
Our trip began on Friday night after we both got off work. Although you could easily fly into Las Vegas and drive to Boulder City, we decided to save a little bit of money and drove from Los Angeles. As expected, we hit quite a bit of weekend traffic driving to Las Vegas, and didn’t arrive at our hotel until after midnight.
Hoover Dam Lodge
Our hotel for the weekend was the Hoover Dam Lodge! The Hoover Dam Lodge is actually located a few miles outside of Boulder City, along US-93 on the way to Hoover Dam. Surrounded by red rocks and lake views, the Hoover Dam Lodge had the perfect location to take advantage of all of the activities that the area had to offer. Only four miles from Hoover Dam, 3.5 miles from Lake Mead Marina, and 4.5 miles from the “downtown” area in Boulder City, you really can’t go wrong by staying here.
Not only did I love the location, but I really loved the hotel itself! The Hoover Dam Lodge takes a lot of pride in the history of Boulder City and the construction of the Hoover Dam. They had a ton of different exhibits, photographs, and sculptures depicting that history, and as a complete history buff myself, it was such an awesome touch!
Fun fact: gambling is actually prohibited in the city limits of Boulder City, making Boulder City one of only two locations in Nevada that does not allow gambling! Fortunately for any gamblers out there, the Hoover Dam Lodge does not reside inside of the city limits, so the first floor of the hotel is a casino. I was a little bummed that they only had video gaming machines (rather than live tables), but that didn’t stop us from blowing through a few bills when we arrive on Friday night!
The rooms were big, and from what I could tell, every room had a pretty great view of the surrounding area. Other amenities at the hotel include multiple restaurants, a gym, a pool and spa, an arcade, and plentiful boat parking! Most important of all though, is that there is a trailhead on the northeast side of the hotel’s parking lot to the Historic Railroad Tunnel trail (discussed below)! We used the trailhead on Sunday morning to get down to the tunnels, and the connector trail was in really great condition.
DAY 2: BOATING ON LAKE MOHAVE AND EXPLORING BOULDER CITY
On Saturday, we woke up bright and early to go boating on Lake Mohave! Lake Mohave is a reservoir on the Colorado River, located about an hour south of Boulder City. Although much smaller than Lake Mead, Lake Mohave boasts an impressive 237 miles of shoreline. With terrain ranging from sheer cliffs to sandy beaches, Lake Mohave has no shortage of secluded places to explore!
There are two full-service resorts on Lake Mohave: Katherine Landing in Arizona and Cottonwood Cove in Nevada. Both resorts offer lodging, RV parks, campgrounds, restaurants, and marinas. Fortunately for us, my sister and her husband live in Las Vegas and have a pretty sweet speedboat, so they met us out there with their boat! If you do not have a boat, both Cottonwood Cove and Katherine Landing offer boat rentals.
Not only was the lake perfect for high-speed boating, but it had HUNDREDS of different little coves to explore. We ended up exploring this cove that had the greenest water I’ve ever seen! Because we were there in early May, the temperature of Lake Mohave was still kind of chilly, but since the cove was much more shallow than the lake, the water in the cove was the perfect temperature for swimming. Although it was shallower in the cove, it was still pretty deep, and the vertical walls would have been perfect for cliff-jumping – we just couldn’t find a way up. From the cove, we also spotted a herd of bighorn sheep up on the sheer cliffs!
Boulder Dam Brewing Co.
After a long day at the lake, we were starved! We decided to head up to the “downtown” area of Boulder City to explore a little bit. We obviously couldn’t pass up stopping at Boulder Dam Brewing Co. for dinner… and it was only icing on the cake that we had a gift certificate for the brewery from the giveaway!
Not only did Boulder Dam Brewing Co. have an impressive beer list, but they had a full menu as well. We both had burgers – bleu cheese for me – and it was absolutely delicious! Matt decided to get a pint of the High Scaler Pilsner, while I elected to get a beer flight. It was a great way to taste all of the Boulder Dam brews!
Boulder Dam Brewing Co. had an awesome outdoor patio, and in early May, the weather was perfect. Warm enough to sit outside all night, which ended up being completely ideal, because they had live music! The brewery often has live music and events – check out their website for the full schedule.
Boulder City at Night
After our dinner at Boulder City Brewing Co., we decided to take a quick walk around town. Like the Hoover Dam Lodge, the city of Boulder City takes a lot of pride in their history. Boulder City was actually created for the sole purpose of housing 5,000 of the men who built the Hoover Dam in the 1920s and 30s, and the city very much reflects that.
I didn’t want to talk much about Vegas in this post, but it really was fascinating to see how quiet and quaint Boulder City was, especially considering that Las Vegas is only about 20 minutes to the west. If you are ever in the Las Vegas area, I highly suggest that you take a quick trip to Boulder City – even if just for the day. It truly is a breath of fresh air.
Although Boulder City ultimately radiates dam history, it also has a funky, extraterrestrial side to it. The Flying Saucer, one of the most prominent storefronts in Boulder City, is dedicated to to aliens and UFOs, and is owned by a family of ghost hunters and psychic mediums! Other souvenir stores boast selling extraterrestrial merchandise and dead cows… but most of all, I hear they have “alien beer” and “alien tequila.” If any of y’all try some, be sure to report back!
DAY 3: HIKING, ZIP-LINING, AND VISITING THE HOOVER DAM
Hiking the Historic Railroad Trail
As I mentioned above, there is a trailhead to the Historic Railroad Trail straight from the parking lot of the Hoover Dam Lodge! But, if you aren’t staying at the hotel, the trail starts from the Lake Mead Visitor Center.
This flat and easy trail travels through five old railroad tunnels, originally used from the 1930s to the 1960s. From the Hoover Dam Lodge, it is about a half of a mile to the first tunnel; if you are starting from the Visitor’s Center, you’ll have about a mile before you hit it.
The trail is flat, level, and smooth. We saw other hikers, runners, and even bicyclists on the trail! The tunnels are super unique, in that all five tunnels are exactly 300 feet in length and 25 feet in diameter. The tunnels were originally created to transport equipment to the Hoover Dam. Quite some time after the dam was completed, the railroad tracks were removed, and the old track was turned into a hiking trail!
Not only does the trail highlight the old railroad path, but it also offers panoramic views of Lake Mead! Created by the Hoover Dam, Lake Mead is 112 miles long, has a depth of 532 feet at its deepest point, and has a capacity of 26.12 MILLION acre feet of water. The Lake Mead Marina offers boat rentals, scenic boat tours to the dam, and one of the hungriest catfish populations in the world (probably). I couldn’t even count how many lake days I’ve spent at Lake Mead in my day – to see it from above on the Historic Railroad Trail was such a treat!
Ziplining with Flightlinez Bootleg Canyon
The next adventure of the day was a zipline tour with Flightlinez Bootleg Canyon. The tour starts with an indoor safety and instruction class, where you will also get fitted with your harness. After everyone is fitted and understands how to work the ziplines, you will all pile onto the bus to take you to the top of Red Mountain. Our group had thirteen zipliners and 6 guides.
The drive up to Red Mountain is a bumpy, (slightly) hair-raising, 20-minute ride up a windy, single-lane, dirt road through Bootleg Canyon. And it is awesome. The tour guides keep you entertained for the whole ride, spouting off different facts (and jokes!) about the area. Aside from being the #1 area in Boulder City to go zip-lining, Bootleg Canyon is also a world-renowned mountain bike park! It was SO COOL to watch the mountain bikers zip across the trails!
Once you get to the top of Red Mountain, everyone piles off the bus and begins a short hike to the first platform. The views up here are BEAUTIFUL. Not only can you see Boulder City, but you are also treated to views of Lake Mead, Las Vegas, and the surrounding mountains. I could have stayed up there all day!
Unfortunately for us, once we got off the bus, the guides became a little nervous as to how windy it was. We began the short hike, however, within a few minutes, they had us all stop and wait for a guide to go take measurements of the wind at the platform to see if we could fly. While we were waiting, Matt and I started chatting up one of the guides who had stayed down, and he mentioned that if it was too windy, you’ll either get stuck on the ziplines due to a headwind, or you won’t be able to break because of a tailwind. The ziplines are designed for you to fly at speeds up to 60 mph, and if you add a 40 mph tailwind… well, you get the picture.
Within a few minutes, the guide taking the wind measurements reappeared and had to break the bad news… Winds at the top platform were exceeding 45 mph. We could not fly. Before we started heading back to the bus, he asked two other guides to accompany him to help out the tour that had started an hour before us… apparently that tour was experiencing crazy headwinds, and every single person who “flew” needed rescuing from the middle of the zipline, as no one could make it down to the platform on their own. Although I was bummed that we couldn’t take our tour, getting stuck on every zipline didn’t exactly sound like a blast, so I didn’t mind that the tour was canceled. Upon arriving back at the storefront, everyone was given the option of a refund or a raincheck. We decided on a raincheck!
If you decide to go ziplining with Flightlinez Bootleg Canyon on your next trip to Boulder City, just be flexible. One of the guides mentioned to us that they had lost 25% of their business last year due to winds – the desert gets windy!
Visiting the Hoover Dam
What trip to Boulder City would be complete without a trip to the Hoover Dam? Considering the fact that Boulder City was created for the sole purpose of housing many of the Hoover Dam workers, we had to make a quick trip to gawk in her grandeur.
Finished in 1936, the Hoover Dam is the highest concrete dam in the Western Hemisphere. It stands 725 feet above the Colorado River on one side, and is strong enough to hold up to 26.12 million acre feet of water on the other.
In 2010, another grand architectural feat was completed – the Mike O’ Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. Connecting Nevada to Arizona (and letting travelers on US-93 avoid the traffic on the dam), it stands over 900 feet over the Colorado River!! Visitors can park and walk over the entire bridge – while we didn’t walk across the bridge this time, we have done it in the past, and it truly is a spectacular view.
If you visit the Hoover Dam on your next trip to Boulder City, I would highly recommend parking on the Arizona side and walking over the dam to the visitor center and restaurant, in order to avoid the $10 parking fee! This walk also lets you check out the emergency spillways! Last used in 1983, the emergency spillways surely are a sight to see – they just look like GAPING, building-sized holes in the surrounding rock. It is incredible that they allow water to travel all the way down to the Colorado River below!
We didn’t have a lot of time to spend at the dam, but if you have a bit more time, consider taking a tour! The one-hour Hoover Dam tour takes you down into the powerplant and passageways, and (as of the date of this blog) is only $30 per person!
Even before we began our trip, we knew that we were going to come back in the fall. One of the gift certificates that we won was for a Rail-bike Tour with Rail Explorers Las Vegas, and unfortunately, those tours don’t run during the summer. And now, we have another reason to visit in the fall – to retake our zipline tour! We can’t wait!
We had SUCH an amazing trip to Boulder City. A HUGE thank you to Travel Nevada for getting us out there and encouraging us to explore Southern Nevada. We really can’t wait for our next trip next fall!
If you have any questions about anything that I did on my trip to Boulder City, please feel free to leave a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you visit BC (as the locals call it), let me know how your trip went!