A RV on the road passing through the red rocks of Valley of Fire State Park

Valley of Fire State Park: 10 Awesome Things To Do

Just a few miles from the bright city lights of Las Vegas lies one of the most remarkable state parks in all of Nevada, if not the United States. Valley of Fire State Park stands out among the state’s impressive public lands that surround Vegas and that’s no small feat given the abundance in the area.

Valley of Fire State Park has grown in popularity in recent years but many times people fly into Vegas and road trip to nearby national parks and totally skip the awesome places near the strip. Don’t be that person. At the least, include an extra day to visit to Valley of Fire State Park. You’ll be glad you did.

Valley of Fire State Park

Filled with bright red Aztec sandstone, textured pink limestone, 2,000 year old petroglyphs and even petrified wood, it’s no wonder why Valley of Fire State Park was Nevada’s first state park and is a national natural landmark. It’s one of the best day trips from Las Vegas and can be visited in a half day if that’s all the time you have.

I’m not the earliest riser on vacation so the first time I visited the park I didn’t get there until about 11am and still had plenty of time to see almost everything I had planned. It is doable in a half day if that’s all you can spare. Now, I’ve been back a couple of times to hike with a buddy and I suggest spending a full day and getting there as early as possible if hiking is in the plans.

Admission: $10 for Nevada residents, $15 for non-residents.

Hours: Sunrise to sunset. Must be out of the park by sundown.

When to Visit: October through April is the best time to hike.

Where is Valley of Fire State Park?

Valley of Fire State Park is located just 50 miles north of Las Vegas. The quickest route is pretty straightforward on Interstate 15, and takes about an hour to get there. I recommend taking exit 75, Valley of Fire Highway, and entering through the west side and exit through the east entrance.

Then, once you work your way through the park, exit through the east entrance, head north on Highway 169 toward Overton and Moapa Valley and return to Las Vegas, or head north, on I-15. For an extra stop in Overton, visit the Lost City Museum before returning to I-15 via Highway 169. 

Alternatively, you could drive the scenic Northshore Road in Lake Mead National Recreation Area and enter at the east entrance. This route offers one of a kind views of Lake Mead and its wild and rugged landscapes. You might even spot some wildlife. I recommend adding this route either before Valley of Fire or on the way back to Las Vegas.

Southerner Says: Driving Northshore Road in the dark is not suggested since traffic and cellular service are sparse and the potential of wildlife on the road is greater at night.

If you don’t have access to a car, or don’t want to rent one, there are tons of tour options from Las Vegas. Conveniently, most tours will pick you right from your hotel. This tour has has five stars, is a small group and includes snacks and drinks. And this one includes the Lost City Museum in Overton.

Things to do in Valley of Fire State Park

There are plenty of things to do in Valley of Fire State Park. Even if you aren’t a hiker, the park offers plenty of different experiences and activities. Start with these.

Experience the Visitor Center

Visit the Valley of Fire Visitor Center to learn about the park’s geology, history and cultural significance through interactive exhibits and informative displays. There’s also a garden with beautiful cactus, some easy trails around the building and a small general store.

Hike the Trails

Lace up your hiking boots, or sneakers, and embark on the park’s numerous scenic trails, such as the White Domes Loop Trail (moderate-1.1 miles out and back) or Fire Wave (easy-1.5-mile out-and-back) to immerse yourself in the desert landscape. Whites Domes has been the star in various movies and you’ll find info about that along the trail. The “slot canyon” is a lot of fun, too.

Admire Ancient Petroglyphs

Discover rock art created by ancient peoples thousands of years ago. Atlatl Rock (0.1 miles with stairs) is an impressive display of petroglyphs and Petroglyph Canyon Trail (easy – 0.7 mile and and back) offers a chance to see these fascinating carvings up close.

Capture Spectacular Views

Take in panoramic vistas from overlooks like Rainbow Vista and the Fire Canyon/Silica Dome, where you can witness the vastness and beauty of the park from elevated viewpoints. You don’t even have to hike to take in the views.

the bright red and pink colored rocks at Valley of Fire State Park near Las Vegas
The many colors ar Valley of Fire State Park

Camp under the Stars

Spend a night under the starry desert sky at one of the park’s two designated campgrounds, allowing you to experience the tranquility and solitude of the desert after the park closes. Even though the park’s location is so close to Las Vegas, Nevada has some of the darkest skies in the U.S. so the skies at Valley of Fire are dark enough to see millions of stars and maybe the Milky Way.

Photograph Arch Rock

One of the most iconic rock formations at Valley of Fire is a natural sandstone arch called Arch Rock. It serves as a perfect backdrop for memorable photos. If arches are your thing, the park has a few other arches as well like Elephant Rock.

A natural arch in Valley of Fire State Park

Have a Picnic

Enjoy dining al fresco, surrounded by stunning rock formations at one of the many picnic areas in the park. These areas contain barbeque grills and tables. The store in the visitor center sells few snacks and drinks but for a proper picnic, you’ll need to bring your food items with you.

A picnic table next to a huge rock at Valley of Fire

Spot Some Wildlife

Keep an eye out for the diverse desert wildlife that inhabits the park, including desert bighorn sheep, kit foxes, and various bird species. I personally haven’t seen any wildlife in the park boundaries but this entire area, including Lake Mead National Recreation Area is full of wild animals. They are a bit hard to spot because they blend in with the surroundings so binoculars are a big help.

Big horn sheep in Lake Mead National Recreation Area

Check Out the Petrified Wood

You probably didn’t expect to encounter petrified wood in the desert but that’s exactly what you’ll find in Valley of Fire. Petrified wood, or logs, are the preserved remnants of trees that have solidified over time. These logs were part of the forest that was here 150 million years ago. Incredible and not unlike what you find in Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona.

Drive Mouse Tank Road

Thanks to Instagram, Mouse Tank Road is probably the most photographed areas of Valley of Fire State Park. This popular road is one of the two main paved roads in the park and passes through some of the prettiest terrain, making a tunnel-like ambiance thorough some of the most stunning colors. The best time to visit is midday when the sun is overhead before it gets down behind the rocks like in my photo below.

Mouse Tank Road in Valley of Fire State Park
Mouse Tank Road in the afternoon

Where to Stay Near Valley of Fire State Park

Not staying in Las Vegas? Then you can certainly stay overnight closer to the park. North Shore Inn or Desert Palms Court in Overton are closest to the park. Or stay in nearby Mesquite. if your southwest road trip includes Southern Utah, the Mighty 5 national parks or at least Zion National Park, then you’re that much closer.

Valley of Fire FAQs

Is Valley of Fire worth visiting?

Absolutely! I’ve been all over Southern Nevada (my daughter lives there) and Valley of Fire State Park is hands down one of the best of all of Nevada’s public lands.

How much does it cost to go to Valley of Fire?

Admission to the park is $10 for Nevada residents and $15 for non-residents.

Can you just drive through Valley of Fire?

Yes you can drive through the park. Of course, you will need to pay to enter but you don’t have to hike or even get out of the car to appreciate the amazing, otherworldy landscapes.

How much time do you need at Valley of Fire State Park?

An entire day would be ideal, two days even better, but you can actually see quite a lot in a few hours.

A Few Valley of Fire State Park Tips

  • The park is open until sunset but the entrance station and visitor center closes at 4pm. If you enter after 4pm you’ll need cash to pay and check yourself in.
  • Plan your stops ahead of time. Download a Valley of Fire map here.
  • In the park, drive only on the marked roads and use the designated places along the roadside shoulders for parking
  • No drones are allowed in the park.
  • Go prepared and make sure you have plenty of water on hand. Espcecially when hiking.
  • Pets are welcome but they must be kept on a 6 foot leash. No pets in the visitor center.
  • Traveling or vacationing in Nevada a lot? Pick up a helpful paper map for better road details.
  • Always use Leave No Trace principles when visiting public lands.

Final Thoughts on Valley of Fire State Park

If you are someone that enjoys hiking and have the chance for one Las Vegas side trip or tour, then visiting Valley of Fire State Park is it. I’m a huge fan of Hoover Dam and Lake Mead National Recreation Area but Valley of Fire can’t be beat. And if you do it right, you could potentially combine a visit to Valley of Fire, Lake Mead NRA and Hoover Dam in the same day.

See you on the road!

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