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Las Vegas Day Trip - Hoover Dam & Grand Canyon Skywalk

Explore the power of the mighty Colorado River

From the original Las Vegas Fremont Street to the newer Strip, Las Vegas is big, it’s bold, it’s loud and it’s game-y – but oh, so entertaining! Like heading to Orlando and never getting out to see the Atlantic or Gulf Coast beaches, so too are the exploring opportunities when you’re visiting Las Vegas.

Day trip possibilities can take you in any direction – north, south, east or west. Spend your time within Vegas but rent a convertible and explore the bigger “wild west” of Nevada.

  • North Area 51 throughout Rachel, Nevada (more below)
  • South – explore the lower Colorado River and stand at the border of California, Nevada and Arizona
  • west to the Salt Flats at Badwater BasinEast – explore Lake Mead National Recreation Area and the Valley of Fire, the Hoover Dam and farther east to the Grand Canyon West
  • West – drive into Death Valley and explore the Rhyolite ghost town!

Not many of us live close to grand canyons and wild untamed rivers. As urbanites, we live in geographically mundane surroundings day-to-day and have to take a road trip to explore those mountains, national parks or beaches that seem so close, but are oh so far away.

Within a day trip opportunity east of Las Vegas are the grandest of canyons (epic truly!), and the super-truly, awe-inspiring Hoover Dam of magnificent proportions. Both are linked to the Colorado River, the Hoover Dam holding back and harnessing the power of the Colorado River, and the Grand Canyon being etched over millennia by the Colorado River. I recommend you get out and explore these two wonders.

grand vistas at Grand Canyon West (click any pic to enlarge)Day Trip from Las Vegas to the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon Skywalk

  • Trip details: Las Vegas to the Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon Skywalk mapped, approx. 262 miles round-trip, full day with stops
  • Necessary warnings: considering the heat and temperatures of the desert in the full summer sun, precautions should be taken to avoid prolonged exposure to the extreme heat, bring plenty of food and water and make sure your vehicle’s gas tank is topped up and in the vehicle in good maintenance.
  • Fees: Hoover Dam - $10 per vehicle parking, $10 - $30 per person depending on tour chosen (see below*), Grand Canyon Skywalk – packages starting at $46.95+ (more info below*).

The Hoover Dam stops the mighty Colorado River

Built during the Great Depression by thousands of workers toiling in the desert heat with engineering principles that had never been Hoover Dam with full Dam tour observation hole notedtested on this scale, in 1935, the largest dam that was ever built began slowing the mighty Colorado and creating the Lake Mead Reservoir. Using untold amounts of concrete, steel and human effort, the successful completion of the Hoover Dam (originally the Boulder Dam - only named the Hoover Dam officially in 1947) now allows power generation for 3 states (Nevada, Arizona and California) and Lake Mead supplies irrigation for over 1 million acres of land. And, it’s quite a site to visit!

Visiting the Hoover Dam, you have the opportunity to explore the dam in a number of ways:

  • Drive (for free) over the top of the dam - to the paid parking options on the Arizona side of the dam. From there you can walk back and see the dam’s stunning drop. No access to the Visitors Center or other tour options, but a quick 20-minute overview.
  • Hoover Dam Power Plant tour & turbinesParking at the Hoover Dam Parking Garage at the Visitor Center is $10 per vehicle
  • Visitors Center tour ($10 per adult*) – a great insight into the building of the dam through it’s exhibits as well as access to the Observation Deck.
  • Powerplant tour ($15 per adult*) – including the Visitors Center access above, the Powerplant Tour adds a 20-minute tour deep into the dam’s powerplant and workings.
  • Hoover Dam Tour ($30 per adult*) – including the access of the previous tours (Visitor’s Center, Observation Deck and Powerplant), this Hoover Dam tour takes you deep into the passages and accessways used in the dam’s construction. An impressive perspective to see the efforts of the dam’s construction – and you can almost Hoover Dam Tour passagewaysfeel the weight of the millions of tonnes of concrete weighing down on you. Note that passageways can be close, viewing access is tight and walking surfaces are uneven, so this tour is not recommended if you have a claustrophobic tendency, or challenges with varies slopes and footings. 
  • View the Hoover Dam from the Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge - Hike from a parking area just off the Hoover Dam Road out onto the span of the Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge for a birds-eye view of the Hoover Dam from a height of 900 feet above the Colorado River, 1600 feet downstream from the dam. A short walk of 1 mile there and back is a great perspective that kids of all ages will love.

Want to know more about the Hoover Dam?

The Colorado River etches its way through the Grand Canyon

Creating one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, the Colorado River etches epic greatness for 277 river miles carving the geology that makes the Grand Canyon so unique. The effect the stunning Grand Canyon (click to enlarge)of this erosion has revealed millenia of colorful geologic layers and natural formations like the carved bluffs, pinnacles and the meandering oxbow of the river. With staggering elevations north, south and west, the West Rim heights average about 4500 feet, the South Rim averages 6800 feet and the North Rim tops out at up to 8000 feet above sea level – image the tremendous vistas!

Being closest to Las Vegas (at only 130 miles), the West Rim offers some staggering canyon views and the famed Grand Canyon Skywalk – a see-through, horseshoe shaped glass bridge extending out over the Grand Canyon at a height of 4000 feet above the canyon floor. comparable height of the Skywalk (courtesy empower your knowldege and happy trivia)Able to hold a number of 747 airplanes, while completely safe, the illusion of the walking on a clear glass floor is disconcerting enough even before you consider the 4000 feet above the Colorado River far below. Note that on the Skywalk, no cameras, phones, or metal are allowed, and you will need to ear shoe slip covers to protect the glass and the floor. Photos are available by staff on the Skywalk quite reasonable and they do a really good job getting different views and poses.

Operated by the Hualapai Indian tribe on tribal lands, Grand Canyon West offers a number of activities and sight-seeing opportunities – the most popular draw being the Skywalk. Upon arrival at the main Welcome Center, your transportation to the three sight-seeing spots is via hop-on, hop-off shuttle (Eagle Point and Skywalk, Guano Point and Hualapai Ranch).

girlfriends road trip to the Grand CanyonLet me say the stops at Eagle Point and Guano Point offer some absolutely breath-taking views of the Grand Canyon and lower Colorado River. A special note here that there are no fences lining the edge of the cliff drop which adds an entire dimension of fearful tension to the intense heights. A funny aside as I first got off the bus at the first stop at Eagle Point. As I tentatively approached the edge to peer over to see the scope of the canyon drop, a Hualapai Security Staff was warning people to stand back 10 feet from the edge in the case of updrafts and cross-winds. A few moments later I heard the same security staff yell out to a woman who’s 7 or 8-year old who had bolted off towards the canyon edge … “Ma’am, hold on to your kid! He’s not a Roomba, he’ll keep going (over the edge)”! Stunning views needing a healthy sense of fear.

Hualapai Sight seeing packages to the Grand Canyon West Rim

Hualapai sight-seeing packages vary to your level of interest:

  • Hualapai Legacy Package – starts at $46.95* pp for shuttle access to all 3 stops, a visitation certificate and numerous photo opportunities. Meals can be added to your Legacy package if desired for a modest amount.
  • the Grand Canyon West SkywalkLegacy Package with Skywalk – starts at $66.90* pp and includes all elements of the Legacy package plus Skywalk access. Meals can be added to your package if desired for a modest amount.
  • Legacy Package with Zip Line – starts at $111.94* pp and includes all elements of the Legacy package plus Zip line access. Meals can be added to your package if desired for a modest amount.
  • Hualapai Adventure tours - Helicopter and airplane adventures available direct from the Welcome Center with varying choices of options.
  • Hualapai River Runners – white water rafting in the canyon … with helicopter and Skywalk add-ons as suits your adventure.
  • Hualapai Ranch adventures – the wild west comes alive in their old western town. Horseback rides, stagecoach rides, cabin rentals for overnight stays and casual dining options available packages and a la carte.

Want to know more about Grand Canyon West?

This day trip from Las Vegas adventure is one of grand scale proportions – the immense Hoover Dam and one of the 7 Wonders of the Natural World – the Grand Canyon and its West Rim vantage. For most of us, the size and scope of these destinations are of a scale we rarely see. I know for the GoGirlfriend team, the Grand Canyon was a bucket list item to see and experience. We’ve had the great opportunity to take a helicopter from Las Vegas to a picnic within the Grand Canyon and now to have walked the Skywalk. We won’t quite remove it from our list as the dizzying heights of the north and south rims are still worthy to add more to this bucket experience … next time!  

* Prices effective as of date of writing and subject to change as the venue decides.

Don’t you just love day trip adventures that get you out of Vegas? We certainly do … whether you head north, south, east or west! What’s your favorite get-out-of-Vegas activity? We’d love to hear. Drop a comment below and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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