Just a few miles from the bright city lights of Las Vegas lies one of the most remarkable state parks in Nevada if not the U.S. Valley of Fire State Park stands out among the state’s impressive public lands surrounding Vegas and that’s no small feat given the abundance in the region.
The park has grown in popularity in recent years but I still feel like people fly into Vegas, road trip to national parks, and totally skip the awesome sites right around Las Vegas. Don’t be that person. Plan your visit to Valley of Fire State Park today! It’s that good.
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Valley of Fire State Park
Filled with bright red Aztec sandstone, pastel pink textured 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 easily be seen in even 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
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.
Camp under the Stars
Spend a night under the starry desert sky at one of the park’s two designated campsites, 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.
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, tables and trash cans. 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.
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.
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.
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
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!