Lake Mead sets on the Colorado River, and is the largest water reservoir in the United States. It’s about 24 miles southeast of the Las Vegas Strip. There are a multitude of things to do on the water and in the National Recreation Area. There are lots of races held there, triathlons, etc., boating, fishing, feeding the giant fish and the seagulls, and so much more. There’s even an old sunken B-29 bomber courtesy of World War II beneath the surface. The video podcast can be found here.
Lake Mead National Recreation Area has entrance and lake use fees. Passes can be purchased at the entrance stations and you may also purchase passes by printing out a mail-in form. The full list of fees can be found here. It’s an absolutely beautiful area to visit, and although you need to pay to enter to park, it’s typically worth it. Here is a list of things to do at Lake Mead.
Las Vegas Boat Harbor, Lake Mead Marina, Boulder Harbor, Calville Bay, and Echo Bay are open. For the full list of what is open, please see here for the latest information. Boat rentals are available, for full day only at Lake Mead Marina.
Parking lots, launch ramps, overlooks, beaches, picnic areas, the Hemenway Fishing Pier and trails (unless listed below) are open. To launch a boat you will need a Lake Mead Annual Vessel Pass.
Roads are now open to all, and you can purchase park passes at the entrance station. You can purchase an annual pass online here. Some parking areas and beaches may reach capacity, especially on weekends. Visit their Facebook page for daily updates.
When recreating, the public should follow local health areas orders, avoid crowding and practice Leave no Trace principles, including pack-in and pack-out, to keep outdoor spaces safer and healthier. Developed Campgrounds and RV Parks are now open. Please prepare for crowds over the holiday weekend and be safe.
Alert: Declining water levels due to climate change and 20 years of ongoing drought have reshaped the park’s shorelines. As Lake Mead continues to recede, extending launch ramps becomes more difficult and more expensive due to the topography and projected decline in water levels. Lake Mead National Recreation Area encourages visitors to plan ahead and stay informed by checking current conditions and alerts.
Lake Mead Activities
Biking– Bicycling is a great activity to do in the Lake Mead area. It’s beautiful terrain and scenery riding near the lake. Riders must be careful when sharing the roads. I’ve ridden out there in training for triathlons and while there typically isn’t much traffic, there tends to be a lot of motorists speeding and some curves and hills where visibility is low. Be sure to carry lots of water and stay on the roads at all times. Bicycles are subject to a $5 daily pass entrance fee (valid for 1-7 days).
Boating– With nearly 300 square miles of water, boating is one of the most popular activities on the Lake. You can bring your own boat or rent one when you get there. There’s plenty of space for speed on the open water and lots of private coves to relax in. Check the link above for all of the boating rules and regulations, and click here to check out boat rental options.
Camping-Lake Mead’s campgrounds offer restrooms, running water, dump stations, grills, picnic tables and shade. RV’s, trailers and tents are welcome. Campgrounds are located at Boulder Beach, Callville Bay, and Echo Bay. There are different fees for single site, group camp sites, and the RV campgrounds so be sure to plan in advance if reservations are needed.
Canoeing and Kayaking– This is one of the coolest activities available at Lake Mead. I’ve personally been canoeing 6 or 7 times on an awesome overnight trip launched just below Hoover Dam. That’s an amazing trip to take in the spring or fall and I have a trip scheduled in just a few weeks. I plan on doing a full post just about this trip in the future. Please note that for security reasons, launching from Hoover Dam requires a special permit. More information about that can be found here. There are lots of hidden coves and trails to explore around the lake and on the river below. Paddlecraft are not subject to a launch fee, however the vehicle fee to enter Lake Mead National Recreation Area is $20 for a 1- to 7-day pass or $40 for a yearly pass.
Fishing– This is a very popular activity out at the lake. Popular fish include rainbow trout, catfish, sunfish, large mouth bass, striped bass, small mouth bass and crappie. Please keep in mind that the park lies within two states and each has their own specific fishing regulations. The lake is open to 24-hour fishing year round, and a license is not required for those fishing that are 12 and under.
Hiking– Although many think of the desert as hot and dry, it can be quite beautiful too. There are plenty of trails to hike in the Lake Mead Rec Area. Hiking is recommended through the winter season and not recommended in summer months due to extreme temperatures. Check the link for detailed trail information, temperature warnings and information, as well as animals you should keep an eye out for. Also, help protect the desert and the plants by cleaning up your trash, treading lightly wherever you explore, and taking only memories of the park when you leave. Leave No Trace.
Marinas– We often take our kids out to one of the marinas with some bread crumbs or a bag of popcorn to feed the birds and fish. The kid love it and it’s a new adventure for them each time we go. Lake Mead offers a number of marinas to explore, launch and dock your boat. They are operated independently and all offer different amenities. Boat rentals range from personal watercraft to speed boats, to house boats. Cruises are available on a paddlewheeler to and from Hoover Dam with Lake Mead Cruises. Daily boat tours, special cocktail/dinner cruises, sunset dinner/dance cruises and breakfast cruises are available.
Picnicking-There are shaded picnic areas located throughout the park. Picnics are also allowed on beaches, but you may want to bring your own shade. Please be sure to clean up any trash and take it with you.
Swimming– There are no designated swim beaches at Lake Mead and therefore are no lifeguards on duty, so visitors must swim at your own risk. If you visit in the warmer months, it’s almost a must to dip in. Authorities strongly suggest wearing life jackets even along the shoreline and offer loaner jackets to use for the day. High winds and high temps can diminish the abilities of even strong swimmers and make waters very choppy almost suddenly. If you plan to get in the water, please come prepared and keep an eye on everyone in your party, especially small children.
Some of the other activities available are horseback riding, hunting in designated areas, and scuba diving.
*Please check the link above to see which parts of the park are still closed and what is now open.
Please be sure to pay attention and read all information regarding zebra mussels and how to keep from spreading them to other waters. This includes all water vessels.
I hope you enjoyed our list, but feel free to add your own Lake Mead experiences below in the comments. Don’t forget to subscribe with your email to receive more of Vegas Living on the Cheap. For even more cheap fun, “like” us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Check out our other great cheap event posts:
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Planning on going to Lake Mead for boating and jet skiing with my family. I am wondering if the lake will be open for such activities around June 17,2020. Please advise.
Summer Allgood says
Hello and thank you for your inquiry. Boat rentals are open now on the Lake, and yes, you can take your own boat or jet ski as well. Most harbors and Marinas are now open, but please check the actual NPS website a few days before you head out, in case there have been changes made. Thanks and enjoy!