Walking Through History - Historic Railroad Trails
Historic Railroad Trail
Wanting to get away from the Vegas strip, but not for too long? My suggestion is to rent a car and take a drive out to Nevada's Historic Railroad Trail. Just 30 miles from Vegas, the Historic Railroad Trail is a flat, easy walk that includes five tunnels and beautiful views of Lake Mead.
I know this is not history class, so I'll keep this brief.
As hikers, dog-walkers, visitors, and locals walk along this smooth dirt path, they will be walking through a portion of the railroad route that ran from Boulder City to the Hoover Dam from 1931 to 1961. Along the route, there are information plaques about the area so don't forget to take a minute and read these as you travel along. In addition, further historical information can be found inside the hotel/casino (where you can also park for free, use the restroom, buy water, snacks, and even gamble if you decide).
What to Expect
This well maintained trail can become crowded as the morning becomes afternoon so consider this when planning your trip. I always suggest visiting in the morning because there's less people and because of the heat. If you do go in the afternoon, be prepared to move over and walk around the numerous bikers, families, and dogs. As for the heat, make sure to bring water with you and even a salty snack for the trail and then stock an extra bottle of two in the car.
While on this trail, hikers will come to 5 tunnels. This is an awesome and unique experience given the size of the tunnels as well as the feeling of stepping back into time. To begin this hike, we park at the hotel and then walk down to the trailhead from there. The walk is ramp-style and a gradual walk down a flat path. The first tunnel is about 1 mile from the trailhead. As hikers walk along this trail, there are benches and places to stop, rest, and take in the views of Lake Mead. We brought snacks and did take advantage of some nature made seats and just enjoyed the view. If you are like me and don't live in the southwest, you'll find yourself also inspecting the various plants and landscape that is vastly different from what I'm use to in the northeast.
Each tunnel is interesting and, on a hot day, a cool break from the Nevada sun. The 5th tunnel is about 2.2 miles from the trailhead. Although this does not seem like a long walk, the sun has been beaming down on the body for about an hour so know you're limits.
|In the tunnel with another tunnel in the background|
|Landscape at Historic Railroad Trail|
|Views of Lake Mead from the Historic Railroad Trail|
Historic Railroad Trails
Getting to the Hoover Dam
Hikers that continue on from the 5th tunnel might feel like they are lost or switched trails. The reason is that after the 5th tunnel the trail leads through a gate and then for a short period becomes mixed with paved sections and there are unmarked sheds and buildings. This is the right way to go so just stick to the path and don't take any shortcuts. To be honest, this change was an interesting section of the walk because after almost three miles of brown dirt paths and tunnels I was ready to see something else. I came across some old mining equipment and then after more walking we saw fenced in areas with some massive electricity poles (if that's what you call this) which sound like they are crackling with electricity. After this area, there is the Hoover Bypass Bridge. Take a minute for a drink and, if you need a restroom break, I found port-a-potties here too. If you bring your dog, I noticed people with dogs seem to turn around at this point. This is a hot walk for a dog because of the lack of shade. If you have a bike, here's the place to park it. There are bike racks provided.
If you wish to continue to the dam from here, there's a ramp and stairs that switch back and forth down until you reach the Hoover Dam parking lot. Once at the parking lot, there is an elevator to reach the dam level. Or, if you are still not tired from all of this walking, take the stairs.
The dam is an engineering marvel and deserves it's own blog, so more on the dam later. In the meantime, remember that once you reach the dam take time to enjoy the views and history of the dam. I always take my time looking around and relaxing a bit because (whether you want to or not) you still have to walk back up the switch-back ramp, past the electrical area, up the paths, through the gates, and in and out of 5 tunnels before you're back in the car with the ac blowing. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: These opinions are entirely my own