Sizzling summer temperatures, cool water sports, and nearby casino entertainment are all part of the identity of Bullhead City, the Arizona desert town located across the Colorado River from the casino hub of Laughlin, Nevada.
While Bullhead City bills itself as being “Arizona’s hottest destination,” the community also plays up its reputation for being a prime spot to cool down. Featuring a community park with nearly a mile of riverside beach and a prime location at the southern end of Lake Mohave, Bullhead City is all about its water sports.
Another detail important to Bullhead City’s identity is its proximity to Laughlin, a southeast-Nevada destination popular with people seeking the gaming, fine dining, and world-class entertainment that come with the string of casinos located along the banks of the Colorado River.
Factor in Bullhead City’s nearly 300 days of sunshine a year and winter months posting average high temperatures in the 60-and-70-degree Fahrenheit range, and the mid-sized Arizona city is also a natural destination for snowbirds and tourists looking for a respite from the cold winters to the north.
With all of its amenities, sunny Bullhead City is a fantastic spot for a long weekend, and here are seven reasons why.
1. Lake Mead National Recreation Area
You name it — if it’s a fun activity that happens in or on the water, it’s probably available in Bullhead City. Boating, fishing, kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding, personal watercraft, swimming, and water skiing are just some of the activities that the community is known for.
Central to Bullhead’s water sports scene is Katherine Landing, a full-service marina located in the sprawling Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Overseen by the National Park Service, the Landing’s food, lodging, retail, and recreation are operated by Basecamp Hospitality.
Katherine Landing offers a range of fun outdoor activities and services, including boat rentals, a lodge, RV camping, and a campground. Rental boats run the gamut from ski boats to patio boats to fishing boats to personal watercraft. Even in late January when I visited, the expanse of blue water of Katherine Landing was busy with boats, large and small.
The Landing is also home to the 51-room Lake Mohave Lodge, with its great access to the water and marina, as well as the Katherine Landing Café, which offers dining with a view — either from inside or from the deck overlooking the water.
2. Bullhead City Community Park
Beach Life On The Colorado River
There’s no question that Bullhead City leans into its reputation as a hot-weather destination. Colorful signs are prominently displayed in the town’s public recreation areas that proclaim the community as “Arizona’s hottest destination.”
The town’s climate lives up to that claim. Average highs in July reach a scorching 110 degrees Fahrenheit, while June, August, and September average in the 101-to-108-degrees range. Winter, spring, and fall are much milder, with average winter highs in the 60s and 70s, and spring and fall in the 80s and 90s.
The beauty of all of those warm temps is that there is plenty of access to the water. And according to one local tourism representative I spoke with, the Colorado River water that runs through Bullhead City is known to be refreshingly cool as it makes its way from the nearby Davis Dam.
It’s not difficult to find river access in Bullhead City. The town’s 376-acre Community Park features almost a mile of beach access, as well as a buoyed swim beach, plenty of parking, public restrooms, and a dog park. As the temperatures rise in the spring and summer, visitors can expect to find hundreds of sun lovers taking advantage of all of that cool water.
3. The Laughlin Strip
Casino Gaming And Entertainment
Located just across the river from one another, Bullhead City and Laughlin appear to be one community, with just a bridge between Bullhead City’s population of about 42,000 and Laughlin’s approximately 8,000.
While the Bullhead City side features a host of shopping centers, restaurants, parks, and residential areas, Laughlin is dominated by the row of shiny casino resorts that make up the Laughlin Strip on the Nevada side.
Laughlin is home to eight casino resorts, ranging from the 2,000-room Aquarius Casino Resort to the 300-room Golden Nugget Laughlin. Each of the resorts has its own niche — whether it is family-friendly suites or fancy dining spots — so visitors should be able to find just what they’re looking for.
Pro Tip: Laughlin is located about 96 miles southeast of Las Vegas and is known as a smaller and more relaxed gaming, lodging, and entertainment option for visitors to Nevada.
4. Colorado River Heritage Greenway Park & Trails
Hiking And Biking Through River And Desert Views
First and foremost, Bullhead City is a Colorado River town, and views of the river are visible all over town. But to experience the river to its fullest, visitors should head to the Laughlin side and walk, cycle, or ride horseback along the stretch of trail that makes up the Colorado River Heritage Greenway Park and Trails.
Starting just north of the Laughlin Strip, the Greenway continues for 9 miles along trails that the Travel Nevada website says were built “to satisfy the outdoor enthusiast, or those simply looking to kick back with friends and family to drink in stunning Mojave Desert views.”
The Greenway Trail system, also known as the North Reach, opened in 2012 and includes expansion of the Laughlin Riverwalk, restrooms, trailheads, picnic sites, shade shelters, fishing piers, and a highway pedestrian bridge overpass and underpass providing access to the Colorado River. Much of the trail is flat, and visitors of all abilities can enjoy it.
The Clark County, Nevada parks website notes that the Colorado River Heritage project is part of a larger regional trails system that is intended to link Laughlin and the surrounding community to the Lake Mead National Recreation Area and parts of Arizona.
I loved walking along the Laughlin Riverwalk and then heading onto the pedestrian bridge across the Colorado River to the Bullhead City side, where a trail connects to the Davis Camp regional park area. The bridge offers great views of the river and reflections of the Laughlin Strip on the water.
5. Colorado River Museum
Early Colorado River History
The Colorado River Museum, a fascinating complex dedicated to the unique history of the Lower Colorado River and the Tri-state region (Arizona, Nevada, and California), occupies a section of the Community Park and is easily accessible along the busy Highway 95.
Operated by the Colorado River Historical Society, the museum is a treasure trove of informative exhibits on everything from the native people of the region to early mining exploits to the steamboats that once operated on the Colorado. It also includes exhibits and artifacts on more recent history, such as the start of the first Laughlin casino in the 1960s.
Along with taking in the main museum building, visitors should be sure to head to the Lil’ Red Schoolhouse located on the museum grounds for a look at a one-room schoolhouse that dates back to the 1940s. In 2015, the schoolhouse was relocated to the Bullhead Community Park and now features rows of vintage school desks occupied by studious-looking dolls, as well as memorabilia from school days gone by.
Fun Fact: The name “Bullhead City” comes from a rock formation in the middle of the Colorado River — Bull’s Head Rock — that, as the name implies, resembled the head of a bull. After the construction of the Davis Dam, the rock was almost completely submerged and is now only partially visible in Lake Mohave.
6. Davis Camp Regional Park
Riverside Camping, Fishing, And Swimming
Originally the site of housing for workers on the Davis Dam in the 1940s and 1950s, Bullhead City’s Davis Camp now serves as a regional gathering spot for fishing, boating, and swimming in the Colorado River.
Located just outside of Bullhead City, the county-run Davis Camp park features more than a mile and a half of shoreline, a boat launch, RV and tent camping, and world-renowned fishing. The Visit Arizona website reports that the world record for striped bass was caught directly below Davis Dam.
Pro Tip: Davis Camp has fees for day-use, watercraft launching, dry camping, and a summer weekend pass.
7. Lake Mohave
Explore Rugged River Coves
Along with Katherine Landing, the Bullhead City area is a great access point for remote sections of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, a massive region in southeastern Nevada and northwestern Arizona that takes in both Lake Mead in the Las Vegas area and Lake Mohave in the Bullhead City area.
Lake Mohave, located south of the Hoover Dam, “is known for its abundance of sandy coves and mix of the peaceful Black Canyon and high-octane open waters,” says the National Recreation Area website.
The National Park Service’s entrance to the Lake Mead National Recreation Area and Lake Mohave is located just north of Bullhead City and provides access to both the Katherine Landing Marina, as well as a series of ruggedly beautiful and remote coves, such as Telephone Cove North and South, and Cabinsite Point.
Pro Tip: Entrance to the Lake Mead National Recreation Area requires an entry fee or National Parks pass.