Leave the Las Vegas Strip behind and go jump in the lake!

Just a short drive away from the glitz and glam, the pizzazz and the bling of Las Vegas, Lake Mead offers a refreshing escape for water sports and those looking to dive into nature’s beauty.

This huge manmade lake, formed by the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River, is a premier destination for those seeking adventure on the water. It was created in 1934 and took nearly three years to fill. Now it covers 640sq km.

Here’s your guide to enjoying a perfect day trip from Las Vegas to Lake Mead.

Driving to Lake Mead
Driving to Lake Mead

Planning Your Trip

Lake Mead is about 24 miles from the Las Vegas Strip, which means you can reach it in less than an hour by car. The best time to visit Lake Mead is during the spring or fall when the weather is pleasant and not too hot. 

There is a park admission fee, payable upon entry, and also a lake use fee if you plan to take to the water with your boat, kayak, jet ski, etc.

Make sure to check the weather forecast and lake conditions beforehand, and don’t forget to pack sun protection, plenty of water, and snacks for the day—especially if you’re going with kids.

Consider the type of activities you want to engage in as well, as this will influence what areas of the lake you visit and what equipment you might need to rent or bring. 

Beautiful Lake Mead boats and a great restaurant for lunch on the water

What to Bring

To fully enjoy your day trip, you’ll need to bring the right gear. If you plan on getting in the lake, you can rent equipment like kayaks, paddleboards, or jet skis at one of the many marinas around the lake.

Also, bring life jackets and safety gear, although they often available for rent or purchase at these locations. A waterproof dry bag for your personal belongings and a camera to capture the stunning landscape are also must-haves. 

If you’re planning to stay until evening, bring a light jacket as temperatures can drop near the water. If you’re hiking or exploring the surrounding areas, sturdy footwear is essential.

Lastly, always have a first-aid kit handy for any minor emergencies.

Water Sports on the Lake

Lake Mead is a haven for water sports. Its vast open waters are ideal for kayaking, wakeboarding, and water skiing.

You’ll find unique experiences around the lake; the Boulder Basin is perfect for high-speed activities like jet skiing, while the more secluded coves are great for paddleboarding and swimming. 

If you’re new to water sports, several local companies offer lessons and guided tours. These can be a fantastic way to learn in a safe environment with experienced instructors. Plus, Lake Mead’s usually calm waters in the early morning make it a prime time for beginners to get their feet wet.

Lake Mead at sunset
How about this for a sunset!

Kayaking on Lake Mead

Kayaking is one of the most peaceful ways to explore Lake Mead. Glide through the water and discover hidden coves and shoreline spots inaccessible by larger boats. In addition to Boulder Basin, other lovely locations include Virgin Basin, Gregg Basin, and Temple Bar.

Single and tandem kayaks are available for rent, allowing for solo or paired adventures, which is great in the quieter areas of the lake where wildlife sightings are common.

Check out BoatingLakeMead for rentals.

Wakeboarding and Water Skiing

If you want more adrenaline, wakeboarding and water skiing are popular at Lake Mead. The lake’s large size and generally smooth surface are ideal for a bit of a thrill. Beginners can take lessons from professional instructors, who provide all the necessary equipment and safety instructions to get you started on the right foot.

Jet Skiing

Jet skiing is another favorite for visitors looking for speed and excitement. The Boulder Basin area of Lake Mead offers expansive open water suitable for high-speed rides. If you don’t have your own, jet ski rentals are available at several marinas around the lake, and you can often rent by the hour or for a full day.

Check out SkiwiRental for jet ski hire.


Stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) is a much more relaxed pace, ideal for those who want to enjoy the scenery while getting a good workout. It’s also great for all ages and skill levels. The key to remaining standing, is to keep your eyes up and focused on the horizon, not looking down and wobbling!

The sheltered coves around Lake Mead provide calm waters that are perfect for paddleboarding, especially early in the morning when the water is at its calmest.

Lake Mead is perfect for paddle boarding

Activities at Lake Mead


Anglers will find Lake Mead a fantastic fishing spot, with rainbow trout, catfish, and bass thriving in its waters. You can fish from your boat or the shore. Be sure to have a valid Nevada fishing license, which you can purchase online or at local bait shops. 

For the ultimate experience, consider hiring a guide to take you to the best spots and help improve your technique. Many guides are locals with years of fishing experience on Lake Mead and can provide insights not only on fishing but also on the lake’s ecosystem and best conservation practices.

Sightseeing and Photography

Don’t miss the chance to explore the scenic vistas around Lake Mead on your day trip.

If you want to take amazing photos, you can download this Lake Mead and the Valley of Fire State Park self-driving tour.

From Lake Mead Visitor Center, it’s about an hour drive to Valley of Fire, then it has little 10-minute walks at several stops, through this spectacular scenery filled with petraglyphs and stunning pink rock formations.

Fire Wave Rock
Fire Wave Rock

This surrounding desert landscape, dotted with dramatic cliffs and colorful rock formations, provides excellent opportunities for photography. The Alan Bible Visitor Center is also a good starting point to learn about the area’s natural and cultural history. 

What’s more, several lookout points along the lakeshore offer panoramic views that are perfect for capturing sunrise or sunset. For those interested in more than just taking photos, guided nature walks and talks are often available through the National Park Service, providing a deeper understanding of the region’s geology and wildlife.

Hot Springs and Hiking

If you’re looking to add a relaxing element to your adventurous day, consider visiting some of the top hot springs here in Nevada. A noteworthy spot near Lake Mead is the Gold Strike Hot Springs. This hidden gem is accessible via a hike that starts just off the highway connecting Las Vegas to Lake Mead. 

The trail to Gold Strike is moderately challenging, so it’s a good fit for those who want to mix a bit of trekking with their water activities. The hot springs offer a soothing retreat with naturally warm waters perfect for soaking sore muscles after a day of sports or hiking. Remember to bring plenty of water, wear sturdy shoes, and start early in the day to enjoy the springs before heading back.

Important Tips for Your Day Tip

  • Keep in mind that you will need to pay a National Park fee to enter Lake Mead
  • Beach restaurants are scarce, so if you want to be on the safe side, come prepared with food and snacks
  • Note that Lake Mead’s water levels have been a topic of significant concern recently due to the prolonged drought affecting the Southwest. The water level has been notably low, and while there has been some relief from above-average precipitation this year, the levels remain historically low.
  • For rental options, check out the following: 
  • Boating Lake Mead located in the Hemenway Harbor at Las Vegas Boat Harbor and Lake Mead Marina offers kayak and stand-up paddleboard rentals
  • Riverbound Sports Paddle Company provides multi-day rental packages for kayaks and SUPs. They offer mobile rental services with launch points below the Hoover Dam
  • Callville Bay Marina offers a wide range of watercraft rentals. They are located within the Lake Mead National Recreation Area ​

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