Black Canyon Water Trail
When it comes to (literally) cool day trips from Las Vegas, it’s hard to beat this one. The breathtaking Black Canyon Water Trail, located only about 45 minutes from Las Vegas, flows along the flat, green Lower Colorado River through Lake Mead National Recreation Area between famous Hoover Dam and Eldorado Canyon. Intrepid paddlers can venture the full 30-mile water trail; however, most opt to pull out at the halfway point of Willow Beach, AZ.
Enjoying a Day at Black Canyon Water Trail
The West doesn’t get much more picturesque and peaceful than the Black Canyon Water Trail. Imagine floating on the Colorado River on a kayak or canoe, sheer cliffs rising to either side of you, a cool breeze blowing across the green waters, and blue skies for days. Most visitors never realize they can have all this just a stone’s throw from the Las Vegas Strip, but they can.
Paddle up to 30 miles of wilderness and solitude, stopping at sandy beaches, colorful caves, plentiful coves, a number of secluded hot springs, hikeable paths up Gold Strike Canyon and Boy Scout Canyon, and the stunning and aptly named Emerald Cave. Wildlife is plentiful here, so keep your eyes peeled for bald eagles, coyotes, and desert bighorn sheep bounding among the craggy walls and up slot canyons.
Other stops reveal a great deal of monumental Nevada history, especially surrounding the construction of Hoover Dam, including several gauging stations, river-spanning catwalks, trails, building foundations, and the dark, steamy Sauna Cave.
Visitors can travel the Black Canyon Water Trail on a number of guided and self-guided tours that launch from Hoover Dam‘s original Lower Portal Road, ranging from daylong one-way, downstream paddles to multi-day adventures that overnight along the sandy banks of the Colorado River. Strong paddlers can launch at Willow Beach, AZ and venture up and then back down for a round-trip adventure.
Most paddlers choose to end their journey at Willow Beach, AZ, where a full-service marina awaits, along with a parking lot where you can stash your getaway vehicle or get picked up by a shuttle. However, experienced paddlers may opt to tackle the second, less trafficked half of the Black Canyon Water Trail, where you’re eventually greeted by the tranquility of Eldorado Canyon, a place settled by the Spanish in the 18th century, which remains rich in geological history. Here, you’ll need to haul your vessel up a ¼ mile long trail to your vehicle. If you do, be sure to double up your day with a Techatticup Mine Tour and a poke around Nelson Ghost Town.
Don’t have your own stuff? No worries; most people don’t. However, Boulder City is home to one of our favorite river outfitters. Desert Adventures is your one-stop shop for kayaking day trips and overnight tours, as well as gear rentals, ranging from a variety of kayak types, stand-up paddleboards, and canoes — along with all manner of camping implements.
For more information on planning your Black Canyon Water Trail adventure and for a complete list of outfitters, visit the National Park Service info page. Explore our site to get in on more action in Boulder City and at Hoover Dam or get in touch with the Boulder City Visitors Center at (702) 892-7575.
Lake Mead National Recreation Area is open 24/7 all year long. Note that some beaches along the way may be day-use only and are marked as such.
It costs $25 per vehicle to enter the Lake Mead Recreation Area. Check with your individual outfitter for costs of river trips, as well as the fees for additional permits to enter certain areas (such as Hoover Dam).