The Historic Railroad Trail, located near Lake Mead Visitor Center, is one of Nevada’s unique trail experiences. It brings us into direct contact with the history of Hoover Dam and the creation of Lake Mead. The mountain and the lake give you an eye-pleasing scenic view.
Take your adventure to the next level and experience history in this railroad trail. Also, if you are visiting the Boulder City of Nevada, this place is perfect for a nearby walk during the cold periods of the year.
Many railroads were made to transport the materials such as gravel supply and machinery needed for the construction of Hoover Dam in 1931. The dam was built for flood control of the Colorado river, irrigation, and hydroelectricity. When the dam was completed in 1935, it was as high as the 60-story building and was the tallest dam in the world during its time.
The operation in the dam ceased in 1962, and the railroad tracks were also removed. In 1984, the section from Boulder City to the dam was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. During the early 1990s, efforts were made to convert this into a hiking and walking trail.
In 2001, the fifth tunnel reopened to the public after being damaged by an arsonist.
The Five Tunnels
The five tunnels are approximately 25 feet in diameter and 300 feet in length. It is to accommodate the large equipment that passes through. Imagine how much force was needed to blast the path and to make the tunnels.
Just before tunnel 1, you can see the remains of the concrete plugs. The concrete plugs were formerly used to block the water intake from the dam until the turbines were installed. Nowadays, these plug remains serve as the footprints of the past project.
As you enter the 1st tunnel, you will be surprised at how huge it is. The size of the tube describes how massive the project was. By walking through it, you can imagine how loud the sound of the passing train is from before.
When you arrive in tunnel 2, imagine how big the rock that blocked the path before. Since it is a volcanic rock, it is not easy for them to dig it through. It took five months for the workers to finish this tunnel. They have to endure the 100-degrees heat and the falling debris of rock. The tube 3 supports a heavyweight from above, and fault lines are apparent just before the tunnel 4.
In 1978, tunnel five was burned and was forcibly closed for safety reasons. However, the whole trail experience will not be complete if one of the tubes is unavailable. The National Park Service, together with the Bureau of Reclamation, sought funding for the stabilization of the tunnel. They applied “shotcrete” to the ceiling and walls. And in 2001, the tube was made available to the public again.
Scenic View in Lake Mead
The multi-colored rocky mountain around Lake Mead reveals the wonders of the geology here on Earth. The combination of the mountain views and deserts that surround the Historic Railroad Trail give joy to the heart.
The Muddy Mountains are composed of limestones that have developed and cultured precious marine life in the area. The result of many lava flows created the top black basalt of the Fortification Hill from five million years ago.
Saddle island is composed of the oldest known metamorphic rock in the park. Rain in Lake Mead does not fall all the time. Therefore, species of animals and plants underwent a lot of adaptation for them to survive. You can also see animals like lizards, ravens, and quail in the area.
Lake Mead is composed of 150,00 acres of the lake created by the dam. The lake reflects the bluish and calm sky above, and it became life in the middle of the desert. The lake is the largest reservoir in the US. Millions of people visit this diverse recreational area every year.
Before you head to the trail
In the process of planning to take a walk there at the path, prepare yourself first. Bring at least a gallon of water to keep you hydrated on your journey. Note that there is no shade in the area. The trail is also open for pets and those who are on wheelchairs because it has a flat pathway.
The trail is 12.23 km in the distance and is suitable for hiking. The preferable seasons to go there are Winter, Spring, and Fall. During the Spring, February, and March, desert flowers are abundant. You should check the weather first before heading there. Note that there are no parking passes available in the area. There are portable toilets in the area.
The trail operates from 6:00 am to 8:00 pm every day. The busiest hours are 9 am, 1:00-2:00 pm. And the area gets a little less active during 3:00-6:00 pm.
Contact the Park
601 Nevada Way
Boulder City, NV 89005
Visitor Center (Open 7 Days a Week)
Park Info Desk (Open M-F)
For you to be updated on the current events and temporary closures in the trail, you can head to their official website, www.nps.gov.
Other available activities
You can do boating and cruise in Lake Mead. But, first, you must contact the park for safety measures and reservations. You need to secure permits for exclusive use during events and filming. You can also enjoy scuba diving, bicycle tours, and fishing in the lake. The website has its downloadable permits for these activities too.
By car, you can drive to one of the park’s many entrances. The four main gates to Lake Mead are the north entrance near the town of Overton, Lake Mead Boulevard entrance, Lake Mead Parkway entrance, and Boulder Harbor entrance. For the southern sections of the park, near Lake Mohave, there is the Willow Beach entrance, Katherine Landing entrance, and Cottonwood Cove entrance station.