The other day, my husband forwarded me a link to this National Park Service page about Nevada’s Historic Railroad Tunnel Trail. As you can see from the picture of me above, it is a fantastic hike and you get to see great views of Lake Mead as you go! Be warned, however, this is not an ideal summer hike, especially not with children. Here’s a bit of background about the tunnels:
The Six Companies, Inc. Railroad was, of course, abandoned after the completion of Hoover Dam in 1935. The U.S. Government Construction Railroad section was sporadically used until 1961, when the last generator was hauled over its rails and installed at the power plant.
The tracks were dismantled in 1962 and sold as scrap. The tunnels and trail were nominated in 1984 to the National Register of Historic Places.
Today you can walk or bicycle along the elevated railroad bed used to haul supplies and materials for the construction of Hoover Dam. Enjoy the spectacular views of Lake Mead and the surrounding desert landscape. (Source)
Right away I knew we had to check it out, so I pinned it to Pinterest to save the idea for later. Almost instantly my friends were commenting to keep them posted if we headed over there so on April 28th we met up with several friends and their little ones to give the trail a try. I was cautioned that we wouldn’t likely make it through all six tunnels with the kids but we will be back for more.
So, what do you need to know? First of all, there are no definitive directions for getting there. Well, we knew there’d be parking before the fee station for Lake Mead recreation but the signage to find the turnoff tells you it is coming in half a mile and that’s it. You’ll want to turn left onto Lakeshore drive heading south on the US Highway 95 towards Hoover Dam. When you go through Boulder City just follow the signs to stay on the freeway. We missed the turn and had to turn around, I used the free Android tracking app, My Tracks, to track the way we went using GPS and you can see we overshot a little and had to turn around at the Hacienda’s parking lot (click the thumbnail below to enlarge). If you reach the Hacienda, you’ve gone to far!
The parking lot is on your right after you get onto Lakeshore drive. We arrived at 9:30am or so and it was packed but shortly thereafter the morning crowd headed out and there were spaces available. Just be aware if you’re meeting a group that it is a small lot and you might want to park at the Hacienda and carpool to park if you’re running into trouble. I used the tracking app to record our route on the trail as well. I’ll share that here, we went 3.2 miles total, a little over 5 kilometers, round trip. The kids did ride in the jogging stroller some of the way but did a fair amount of walking. The trail has an increase in elevation but is smooth and looks like a lot of fun to bike. We stopped for a while before turning around so the whole excursion from start to end took 2 hours. You’ll want to factor the drive to and from the area in so an earlier start than 10 in the morning would be ideal. Luckily we had fantastic weather that day!
There’s signage showing you the trail, I wish I’d looked more closely at it because early on there’s a fork in the path – one side (to the left) has a large gate that is open and the other stretches off to the right. Go through the gate, I saw lots of people stop and wonder which direction they should go, just like we did.
There were creosote bushes as we made our way to the first tunnel (which was about a mile into the trek). They had lovely yellow flowers.
It isn’t long before you get to see Lake Mead and the marina below. We have such beauty so close to Las Vegas and I can’t figure out why we don’t make a point to check it out more often. Well, aside from the fact that when you have small babies that hate car trips you don’t like to venture very far from home. R will be 2 in August and E will be 4 so things have improved greatly on that score!
I love the reds and browns of the desert landscape, this was a view to the right as we headed to the tunnels.
Another thing I love about the desert is seeing how tenacious plants and animals are about survival. This was growing in the site of a rock wall on a tiny patch of dirt:
It is a little hard to see in these thumbnail photos but the lighter area of the islands and land surrounding the lake are signals that the water level of the lake has been dropping.
Finally, the shot you were waiting for: a tunnel! It feels very pioneer-like to go through here and feel the cooler air. I was able to get some fantastic silhouette style shots but the kids are in them so I won’t share them here but if you are looking for a neat place for a photo shoot, this is it!
We got as far as the second tunnel. There was a bench and a viewing area for the lake so we snacked, visited with everyone, and decided to head back before we overstayed our welcome as far as the children’s moods were concerned. I was able to spy my favorite desert flower, though, the globemallow.
As we approached the tunnels some hikers heading back told us they’d seen a family of bighorn sheep nearby. They were still climbing about when we got to the second tunnel – they stared back at us and posed a little for some photos. Beautiful.
Whether you live in Vegas or are just visiting I think this is a great outing. Pack plenty of water, put on the sunscreen, and bring snacks. Speaking of packing, I answered a request from my favorite pen store, Jet Pens, for a “mommy blogger” (am I one?) to try (and review as a diaper bag) the Nomadic CB-01 Wise-Walker Multi Compartment Day Backpack in Gray. I received the backpack for free but my opinions are of course my own. I wanted to review it in this post because the day we made this hike was the first day I had transferred the contents of my beloved vegan Crystalyn Kae handbag into the backpack instead of carrying both the bag and the diaper bag. As an aside, my purse is also a great diaper bag but with two kids when you are on adventures you need something a little different.
Since that day I haven’t gone back to carrying two bags, actually. There are tons of compartments and pockets which have been great for having a separate area for our necessary allergy medications, diapers and wipes (of course), and my wallet as well as the very necessary lunches and snacks I need to carry for the kids. It has two raised strips on the back where it meets your back for air flow and a buckle in the front to help distribute the weight. It is not a giant school backpack that may come to mind, it is pretty light and compact when empty so it scales to your needs (to a point). I need to throw a first aid kit into it because one of our friends cut her finger on a rock while we were out and I kept thinking “I really should carry some bandages!”
Another neat feature is a little pocket on one of the straps that you can put a train ticket or money into for quick access. The product site on Jet Pens has great photos of the interior as well as other glowing reviews so do check it out if you are interested but the bag is $103 which I know is a lot of money. Well, I guess if you are looking at other diaper bags it is in the middle of the range cost-wise and it has features that are in demand. The results of my unscientific poll:
Pockets and Compartments? Check. Neutral? Check. Being able to carry it AND a toddler? Check! (By the way, all of the ladies quoted above are wonderful, thank you for your responses @catestew, @xFoodAllrgyhelp, @TGBTS, and @babytoolkit!)
My previous diaper bag is by Skip Hop and it is a simple black messenger. The downside to the Skip Hop has always been that it was not easy to carry so we’d leave it in the car a lot (I’d carry all the allergy medications in my purse anyway). The thing I liked about it was that it strapped with special separate buckles to the handles of our stroller. It is hard to hang the Nomadic Wise-Walker on the stroller even though it does have a handle so that is a downside but ideally you’d be wearing the backpack anyway.
I like the idea of neutrally colored bags because they can be used through babyhood and beyond, even though the Nomadic Wise-Walker is expensive it is future proof. I took it with us on another trip to the Bellagio Conservatory that I’ve yet to post about and it was great especially since I’d forgotten our stroller at home. The only big negative I’ve experienced with using it is that some stores have policies requiring that you let them hold backpacks at the front of the store while you shop. I saw a sign directing me to do that and asked if I had to turn the bag over but was luckily told that it was okay to carry it. It is something to be aware of, at any rate. Food allergy families especially have a bit more gear than most and need it close at hand so I am really appreciating the review bag I received. If you are shopping for a diaper bag in backpack form you’ll want to add it to your list for consideration. Thanks, Jet Pens!