Heading South? Places to Visit in Southern Nevada

Home of the famous Hoover Dam, Boulder City also has some interesting outdoor recreation and wildlife viewing spots that make it worth an overnight or two. At 474 miles from Reno, it’s a full day’s drive to get there, but it’s worth the effort. And if you need a little more nightlife and gaming action (Boulder City is one of two Nevada communities that forbids gaming), Las Vegas is just 25 miles away. Best of all, autumn is a great time to visit, with the average high around 78 degrees Fahrenheit in October and 62 degrees Fahrenheit in November (expect hotter temperatures in September, though).

Here are a few things I’ve done in Boulder City:

Kayaking on Lake Mead. I did this a few years ago with a small group of media from Canada, and it was a fun way to see the lake. Lake Mead, of course, is the reservoir formed after the creation of the Hoover Dam in the 1930s, and is a water source for Nevada, Arizona and California. Lake Mead is accessible at various points, but in Boulder City, it’s Boulder Beach. (Note: Boulder Beach is within the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, managed by the U.S. Park Service, and there is a $20-per-vehicle entry fee.) We booked our kayak tour through Desert Adventures – Kayak Las Vegas in Boulder City. Our package was all-inclusive, and included the entry fee to Lake Mead NRA, lunch and a guide.

Postcard tour of Hoover Dam. View the Hoover Dam from the perspective of a raft on Black Canyon (a section of the Colorado River below the dam). I did this tour, offered through Black Canyon River Adventures, a few weeks ago and got some great photos of the dam. The guide did a excellent job explaining this amazing structure, which generates hydroelectric power for Nevada and neighboring states.

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Flightlinez Bootleg Canyon. Take in views of Lake Mead and the surrounding Mojave Desert from this zipline course above Bootleg Canyon, Boulder City’s mountain biking park. Flightlinez offers 1.5 miles of zipline in four courses. You’ll have to walk a short, uphill bit to the first course, but the views are amazing. My husband and I did this a few years back, and we saw our first bighorn sheep in the wild while walking from course three to course four of the zipline.

Nevada Southern Railway and the Nevada State Railroad Museum, Boulder City. In the 1930s, the Union Pacific Railroad put in the Boulder Branch line to haul supplies to Hoover Dam (at that time called the Boulder Dam). Today, 35-minute excursion rides on the Nevada Southern Railway are offered on the weekends, weather permitting, throughout the year except in January. Visitors also can check out historical train cars on the site. This is the collection of the Nevada State Railroad Museum, Boulder City, which is housed outdoors and is free to view (there is no actual museum building).

Bighorn sheep at Hemenway Valley Park. A tour guide let me in on this local secret: bighorn sheep love to hang out at this Boulder City park. When I was there a few years ago, there had to have been about 30 of the animals, many of them just lying on the grassy slope. They appear tolerant of people (i.e., they didn’t seem to mind getting their pictures taken), but I didn’t get too close.

And I’m not done with this town! Later this fall, I hope to bicycle a section of the River Mountains Loop Trail, a 34-mile trail connecting Boulder City, Lake Mead NRA, Hoover Dam and Henderson. There are trailheads at various points on the loop, including Boulder City, but I’m looking at the one in the Lake Mead NRA, near the Alan Bible Visitor Center, because it’s close to a spur off the loop trail that I’m interested in: the Historic Railroad Trail, which dates back to the construction of Hoover Dam and has five tunnels.

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Places to eat in Boulder City include the Coffee Cup diner in the historical downtown; places to stay include the historical Boulder Dam Hotel, built in 1933. For more dining and lodging options, VisitBoulderCity.com.

Chris Moran
About Chris Moran 218 Articles
Chris Moran has lived in Reno since 1996, and currently works at the Nevada Division of Tourism as a public relations specialist. She is a former editor and writer at the Reno Gazette-Journal, and has a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley. Her hobbies include skiing, hiking, reading, photography, coffee and coffeehouses, and exploring Nevada. Check out her blog at www.ChrisinNevada.wordpress.com.