Lake Mead National Recreation Area includes these waters as well as 1.5 million acres surrounding them. The recreation area provides a wide variety of unique outdoor recreation opportunities ranging from warm-water recreation to exploration of rugged and isolated backcountry and offers year-round recreational opportunities for boating, fishing, hiking, photography, picnicking and sightseeing. It is also home to thousands of desert plants and animals, adapted to survive where rain is scarce and temperatures can soar.
Lake Mead NRA Visitors will find spectacular scenic vistas from park roads, the lake surface, and non-structured walks. Striking backdrops for all recreational activities include deep canyons, dry washes, sheer cliffs, distant mountain ranges, the lakes, colorful soils and rock formations and mosaics of different vegetation. Take a Lake Mead houseboat vacation and cruise Lake Mead in the bright sun, or head backcountry for some serious desert hiking.
Exploring the Backcountry
Lake Mead National Recreation Area (NRA) is a unit of the National Park Service that has been set aside to provide recreation for visitors and to preserve the wildlife, vegetation, cultural and natural resources for future generations.
Approved Backcountry Roads
A network of backcountry roads has been developed to provide access to the lakeshore and other areas of interest in the backcountry. Approved roads are signed with a yellow arrow. The black number in the center of the arrow designates the road number. Driving on roads or trails not marked with the yellow arrow is prohibited.
With hundreds of miles of backcountry roads conditions can change without notice. Please travel on backcountry roads with caution. Driving off roads, in washes, or cross country damages the fragile desert soil and is prohibited by National Park Service regulations.
For more information regarding the designated wilderness areas in Lake Mead National Recreation area, please visit the Wilderness page.
Please help preserve Lake Mead NRA by staying on approved roads, respecting the rights of other visitors, and carrying out all trash and litter. Many marinas carry trash cans and dumpsters located around the park.
Bicyclists are welcome to ride at Lake Mead National Recreation Area on park roads, on routes designated for bicycle use. Approved backcountry roads are designated routes and are marked with a yellow arrow sign with a number on it.
If you plan to ride at the park, please be aware of the rules in Title 36 of the Code of Federal Regulation, as the following are prohibited:
(1) Possessing a bicycle in a wilderness area established by Federal statute.
(2) Operating a bicycle during periods of low visibility, or while traveling through a tunnel, or between sunset and sunrise, without exhibiting on the operator or bicycle a white light or reflector that is visible from a distance of at least 500 feet to the front and with a red light or reflector visible from at least 200 feet to the rear.
(3) Operating a bicycle abreast of another bicycle except where authorized by the superintendent.
(4) Operating a bicycle while consuming an alcoholic beverage or carrying in hand an open container of an alcoholic beverage.
Also, please use extreme caution when bicycling on park roads as some areas have low visibility, no shoulder and are steep with windy turns. Please stay on the roads so our fragile desert soils stay protected.
It is always a good idea to carry plenty of water, cycle with a friend, and let someone know your itinerary.
Boating on lakes Mead and Mohave is one of the more popular activities here. With more than 290 square miles of waterway to navigate, boaters can enjoy the thrill of open water or relax in a private cove. But boating also has it’s rules and regulations and here we cover everything you’ll need to know to have a fun and safe time at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
Canoeing & Kayaking
There are many hidden coves to discover by canoe or kayak on Lake Mead and Lake Mohave. Don't forget to explore the popular Black Canyon in your own canoe or kayak.
Fishing is a favorite pastime here at Lake Mead National Recreation Area. With more than 290 square miles of water surface, you can be sure to find a favorite spot to catch the big one. Popular fish include rainbow trout, catfish, sunfish, largemouth bass, striped bass, smallmouth bass and crappie. Keep in mind that our park lies within two states and each has their own specific fishing regulations.
Although most visitors are attracted to Lake Mead National Recreation Area because of lakes Mead and Mohave, more than 87% of the park protects a vast area of the eastern Mojave Desert. Perhaps the best way to explore this diverse ecosystem is on foot, traveling across open expanses of rock formations that contain all the colors of the rainbow.
Here, canyons and washes abound, offering a challenge to even the most experienced hiker. The best season for hiking is November through March when temperatures are cooler. Hiking during the day time in the summer months is not recommended because temperatures can reach 120 degrees F in the shade. Ranger-guided hikes are offered year round, with those in the summer months being held in the evenings.
Horseback riding is allowed at Lake Mead National Recreation Area. There are many trails and marked backcountry roads perfect for riding with only a few limitations
Lake Mead National Recreation Area was established, in part, to preserve the recreational potential of the area, which includes the traditions of hunting, fishing and trapping. The harvesting of wildlife in the park is carefully regulated with state partnerships to ensure equilibrium between wildlife and their habitats.
Lake Mead National Recreation Area, which includes Lake Mead and Lake Mohave, is often highlighted as one of the top freshwater lakes in the world for scuba diving. The lakes offer a range of depths and submerged sites for both novice and technical divers. Please note that fluctuating lake water constantly changes dive location conditions.
Please be aware that there are no lifeguards or designated swim beaches at lakes Mead or Mohave. Always wear a lifejacket. Most fatalities at Lake Mead National Recreation Area could have been avoided if the person in the water was wearing a lifejacket. Keep a very close eye on children and choose areas to wade where there isn’t any boat traffic. Distances are deceiving at Lake Mead National Recreation Area, and most coves are too big to swim across. Know your limits. Swimming is prohibited at all marinas and launch areas.
Paved roads wind through mountains, desert basins and canyons. From Lakeshore Road and Northshore Road you can see panoramic views of blue Lake Mead set against a background of colorful rugged mountains.