With rugged mountain ranges and colorful rock outcroppings setting off the startlingly blue water, Lake Mead stands out as a true desert oasis along the arid Nevada/Arizona border.
As the largest reservoir in the United States, Lake Mead has more than 750 miles of shoreline, dotted with harbors, marinas, and quiet coves. Situated just a half-hour or so drive from the entertainment capital of Las Vegas, the lake offers the perfect outdoor alternative or accompaniment to the glitzy city scene.
The lake was created by the 1930s-era construction of the Hoover Dam and today is a part of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, which features 1.5 million acres of mountains, canyons, valleys, and lakes (including the smaller Mojave Lake).
The recreation area is a year-round playground, and the lake setting invites a variety of water activities — everything from wake surfing to paddle-boarding to floating on a luxury pontoon.
For those looking for just the right watercraft experience, the GetMyBoat website provides a handy and easy-to-use format, with a process similar to renting a house from an owner while on vacation. Boat owners rent out their watercraft, sometimes with a captain included so visitors can enjoy their time on the lake. Website searches can be done by location, type of watercraft, the size of your group, available dates, and price. Once you choose the perfect boat, you can rent it and pay for it on the website.
Here are seven amazing experiences to have on Lake Mead.
1. Explore The Lake On A Powerboat
With its hundreds of miles of shoreline, Lake Mead has virtually endless opportunities for exploring, and a powerboat is the best way to get to the remote rock formations, coves, and beaches.
The National Recreation Area website lists a number of places for launching a watercraft, from Boulder Harbor, the spot where locals like to launch, to Echo Bay, a fisherman’s paradise, to Temple Bar, a remote spot on the Arizona side. There is also the full-service Las Vegas Boat Harbor, where you can pick up supplies, feed the fish, and have a dockside lunch at the Harbor House Café and Lounge.
For a chance to get out on the water worry free, GetMyBoat offers several powerboat options with the services of a captain. With someone else at the wheel, you and your party can sit back and relax as the boat zips between coves, takes in the Hoover Dam, or makes a stop for a swim. To take in some of Lake Mead’s most scenic spots, consider renting this spacious 29-foot luxury cruiser, with room for seven people.
Or, for the comfort and stability of a pontoon, combined with cool touches like a high-fidelity 15-speaker stereo and a full-length shade awning, this luxury pontoon is available for charter for up to 13 guests.
The powerboat experience is great for people of all ages and is especially enjoyable for large family excursions or girls’ trips.
2. Get Active On The Water
If wakeboarding and water tubing behind a speed boat sound like the perfect way to spend a sunny Nevada day, Lake Mead — with its more than 290 square miles of water surface — has plenty of room to roam.
For a smooth and fast ride, consider this 380 horsepower boat that comes with a wake-setter in the stern that creates a wake that makes for perfect boarding conditions. Or for a wake-surf boat with a captain, this 24-foot boat is available in nearby Boulder City, with room for 10 people.
Wakeboarding and Jet Ski excursions are great for families with teenagers and young adults.
3. Land A Striped Bass Or Rainbow Trout
Fishing is among the most popular pastimes on Lake Mead, and anglers have plenty of space to spread out to find that perfect spot. The national recreation area website notes that the lake is famous for its striped bass, with an occasional catch weighing in at more than 40 pounds.
Other plentiful fish at the lake include rainbow trout, catfish, sunfish, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and crappie.
For an experience that promises great fishing, hot springs, and remote beaches, consider a four-person excursion on this powerboat, complete with a United States Coast Guard (USCG)-licensed captain. The excursion guarantees a chance at landing bass, striper, crappie, sunfish, or catfish. Along with the day excursions, the boat owner also offers overnight camping and fishing trips.
Fishing excursions are good for all ages and are especially popular with older adults.
Pro Tip: Lake Mead straddles the border of Nevada and Arizona, and the National Park Service reminds anglers that each state has its own specific fishing regulations. More information is available on the Lake Mead National Recreation Area website.
4. Savor Nature On A Paddleboard
Billed as a way to discover the natural side of Las Vegas, the Paddleboard Rental and SUP (stand up paddleboard) Fitness Classes in Boulder City promises four unique and awe-inspiring locations for paddleboarding. Along with getting visitors out of the city and into nature, the classes also aim to introduce participants to the sport of SUP.
Paddleboarding is a great activity for family groups, couples, and women on girls’ trips.
5. Paddle From Canoe/Kayak Beach
For paddlers who prefer kayaks or canoes, Lake Mead has a beach dedicated specifically to those activities. The Canoe/Kayak Beach, located in the Hemenway Harbor area, allows paddlers to park right on the water’s edge and explore the Boulder Basin for the day.
The smooth, calm waters of Lake Mead are known to be great for beginning paddlers, and Canoe/Kayak Beach and Willow Beach at Mohave Lake in Arizona are two of the best places to launch.
Kayaking and canoeing excursions are good for young adults, couples, and active older adults.
Pro Tip: A unique paddling experience is available nearby on the Black Canyon National Water Trail, a 30-mile stretch of the Colorado River that runs from the Hoover Dam to Eldorado Canyon. The route was designated as a National Water Trail in 2014, making it the first in the Southwest, and the first to flow through a desert. The water trail can be accessed through a guided tour at the base of the Hoover Dam or from Willow Beach in Arizona. Along the way, paddlers will find beaches, caves, coves, hot springs, wilderness, and solitude.
6. Take In A Sunset
As the sun begins to dip toward the horizon, Lake Mead transitions from its daytime hues of vivid blue to soft shades of pink and purple. It is a sight to see, and one that is enhanced by being on the water.
Lake Mead is considered a 24/7 lake, and a number of the GetMyBoat rentals are available for nighttime excursions. For a sunset cruise, consider renting a cabin cruiser like this one, which is available from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. for up to six guests. It is also available during the day and comes with shade for the adults and tubing and swimming for the kids.
This luxury pontoon is also available for after-hours charters, with Friday and Saturday nights being especially popular.
7. Take A Cool Dip
With temperatures well into the 80- to 100-degrees Fahrenheit range for at least seven months of the year, Lake Mead is the perfect spot for taking a dip in cool water.
There are many places to swim in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, including Boulder Beach, which stretches along the Boulder Basin, and the PWC and the Canoe/Kayak beaches, both located along the southwestern edge of Lake Mead near Boulder City.
Swimmers should note that while the water tends to be clear and cool, the ground surface is often rocky.
Pro Tip: No lifeguards are on duty at the Lake Mead beaches, but Boulder Beach and the Canoe/Kayak Beach have life jacket loaner stations.
When To Visit Lake Mead
The summer season, with average high temperatures often well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit from June through September and water temperatures in the 76- to 88- degrees range, is considered the peak season at Lake Mead. Spring and fall, with warm days and cool nights, are also desirable seasons to visit Lake Mead. March posts average highs in the 70-degree Fahrenheit range, while April is in the low 80s. October’s highs are in the mid-80s, and November is in the high 60s. Winter months are cool but still mild, with average high temperatures in the 50s and 60s.
For a taste of a Mississippi River-style paddle wheeler, be sure to check out the Desert Princess, a three-level vessel that holds up to 275 passengers and features two climate-controlled enclosed decks and an open promenade deck. The Desert Princess offers brunch tours, mid-day tours, evening cruises on Lake Mead, and Hoover Dam sightseeing cruises.
Along with water activities, the Lake Mead National Recreation Area features more than 20 miles of hiking trails as well. Among the most fascinating is the 7.5-mile round-trip Historic Railroad Trail, which follows the route of the 1930s-era railroad that was built to carry supplies for the construction of the Hoover Dam. Along with its numerous rock tunnels, the easy trail also offers unparalleled views of Lake Mead. The route is one of the 9 Spectacular Hikes In Nevada.