Historic Railroad Trail - Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Backstory and Context
The Historic Railroad Trail is a 7.5 mile, 12 kilometer trail, 3.7 miles each way, overlooking Lake Mead and the Boulder Basin. The trail is the former railroad right of way used during the construction of Boulder Dam, today known as Hoover Dam. The railroad operated between 1931 and 1961.
The trail has five large tunnels and is one of Southern Nevada’s most unique trail experiences. It was designated as a national recreation trail on June 4, 2015, to share the history of the construction of the Hoover Dam and the creation of Lake Mead. It is the only remaining section of the Hoover Dam Railroad system that is not highly disturbed or under water.
Nine steam locomotives and four gas locomotives were used and 71 people operated the railroad system. The rail line used standard-gauge, 90-pound rail construction with Oregon fir ties. The five tunnels are approximately 300 feet in length, and 25 feet in diameter. The tunnels were oversized to fit penstock sections and large equipment being transported to Hoover Dam.
As the trail curves toward the edge of Lake Mead, hikers are several hundred feet above the water with panoramic views of the lake and basin. Peaks of ancient volcanic mounds rise above the lake surface and, in the distance, the Virgin Mountains.The trail is managed by the National Park Service. In 2017, the Historic Railroad Trail was graded and received a new layer of decomposed granite, improving its accessibility for all visitors. The trail can be accessed near the Lake Mead Visitor Center or via the Hoover Dam Parking Garage.
Historic Railroad TRail. TrailLink, Rails to Trails Conservancy. . Accessed March 19, 2018. https://www.traillink.com/trail/historic-railroad-trail/.