Thursday, March 26, 2009

Biking Lake Mead Railroad Tunnel Trail, Boulder City, Nevada

Our adventure for today was biking the Lake Mead Railroad Tunnel Trail, which follows the old Hoover Dam construction railroad path 3.4 miles one way through a series of five tunnels.

Years ago, to support the construction needs of Hoover Dam, a construction railroad system was built - this network of railroads provided the means to get concrete and building materials from Boulder City and Las Vegas. The tracks were dismantled in 1962 and in 1984, a segment of track, including the five tunnels, were added to the National Register of Historic Places. In 2001, the National Park Service restored tunnel 5 and reopened a segment of this historic route as a hiking and biking trail. This trail begins at a parking area just behind the Alan Bible Visitor Center, and after a quick ¼ mile path, you are on the old railroad track bed and on your way to Hoover Dam.

As you approach Tunnel 1, you get wonderful views down onto Lake Mead and the Las Vegas Bay Marina. Also, on the right side of the trail in the ravine, you will see a couple concrete plugs that were taken out of Hoover Dam for the installation of the first turbines. As you continue along this trail high above the lake, the views of the marina and the rugged rocky mountains are spectacular. Although we didn’t see any, keep your eyes open for this is an area frequented by desert bighorn sheep. Eventually, the trail works its way through the remaining 3 tunnels away from the lake and continues on the Hwy 93 side of the mountain. The last part of the trail is downhill (which means uphill heading back) and it ends at a sidewalk (near a field of transformers) which is about 50 yards from the top deck of the visitor center parking garage for Hoover Dam. The sidewalk is too narrow for bikes, so bike racks are provided (bring a lock).

From here you can walk to Hoover Dam and enjoy the views from above. While you are there, you go into the Visitors Center ($8 per person) and you can take two different guided tours (for an additional cost). In addition, there is a gift shop, sandwich shop and outdoor seating area (for picnic lunches too). There is soft serve ice cream, which we enjoyed after our picnic lunch. This trail is truly a fun and scenic way to get to Hoover Dam, while having wonderful views of the lake and the surrounding mountains.

As an added bonus, from the parking garage, you can see the new highway bridge that is being built below the dam - with the completion of this new bridge, there will be two human-made modern marvels to enjoy in one location.

Tips:

1. There are gates at the tunnel 1 and 5 that are closed at night to prevent people from using the trail. So make sure you give yourself enough time accordingly.

2. The trail area is mostly packed dirt and gravel but you can expect a few rocky areas that are loose.

3. Bring a light for the tunnels if you have trouble seeing in dimly lit areas.

4. The trail is probably wheelchair accessible, but double check if you decide to go.

1 comment:

Jerry and Suzy said...

You guys do it all, sight-seeing, touring, hiking, biking, and --- best of all --- telling us about it and showing us your great pictures. You need to stay on the road, don't go back to work! Of course, we appreciate your noting accessibility.

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