As the holidays were drawing to a close and the prospect of a return to real life began to sink in, my family and I decided it was time for some fresh air. Off we went to Boulder City, where we hiked a portion of the Historic Railroad Tunnel Trail.
We accessed the trail near the Alan Bible Visitor Center, located just off US-93. Hemenway Park and downtown Boulder City are a short drive away. At the trailhead, you’ll find a parking lot, restrooms, and a dirt path that leads you up a slight hill. Here you will find a large metal gate. Walk through the gate, and you’re on your way to beautiful views of Lake Mead and impressively large railroad tunnels. (You can also access the trail from the Hoover Dam parking garage.)
Originally, the railroad system helped in the construction of Hoover Dam. Once the dam was completed in 1935, the railroad had served its purpose. It was used sporadically until 1961, and the tracks were removed in 1962.
This trail does not form a loop, so keep in mind that you will be retracing your steps when you return to your car. Even though the railroad tunnel trail is wide and flat, hikers and bicyclists should use caution. There is no guardrail on the side of the trail and the drop-off can be pretty steep in some places.
Along the way, you’ll find plenty of places to take photos of Lake Mead. You’ll also see a few informational signs and benches if you want to sit for a while and enjoy the scenery.
The first of the railroad tunnels is located about one mile into the hike. The size of the tunnels is pretty impressive. One of the informational signs along the way explains that the tunnels are over 20 feet tall and have been reinforced in recent years to add stability. The second tunnel comes soon after the first. The entire trail consists of five tunnels and is 3.7 miles one-way.
Be on the look-out for a dose of history while you hike. You’ll see several huge concrete plugs off to the side of the trail that were used in the construction of Hoover Dam and were left behind. A small plaque explains the function of the plugs and includes a picture of them when they were still in use.
When we visited the trail on a weekend afternoon, we saw several other hikers. Helicopters on their way to Hoover Dam and Lake Mead zipped by overhead, and we could hear highway noise in the distance. This is not an isolated nature hike full of peace and solitude. However, it is fascinating and worth a visit.
For a trail map and information on the railroad’s history, visit the National Park Service online.