The Valley of Fire Park is an adventure lover’s and explorer’s dream. It must top your bucket list for Nevada places to visit. It is Nevada’s oldest state park and received the designation of National Natural Landmark in 1968.
This is also a great day trip from Las Vegas but you should plan on using the whole day if you plan to hike any of the trails. My favorite valley of fire park was the trail to Mouse’s Tank. The tank was the home to a legendary bank robber named Mouse who was also a Paiute Indian. You will find many ancient cave drawings along the trail and the hike takes about 45 minutes.
The History of The Valley of Fire Park
There are traces of prehistoric occupation of the almost 20,000 hectares of land that is the park, dating back to around 300 BC to 1150 AD. The inhabitants were known as the Anasazi and were predominantly farmers, who previously occupied the fertile Moapa valley near the park.
According to research, they probably ventured to the Valley of fire park area for hunting and gathering purposes or religious ceremonies. There are rock arts left by the Anasazi that you can encounter in several areas of the park.
Geological studies estimate most of the Valley of Fire formations to roughly 150 million years old. The many formations in the park came by through uplifting, faulting, and erosion. The name Valley of Fire park comes from the sun rays’ reflection by the rock formations, which look like fire from a distance.
The park’s creation started in 1931, with federal land allocation, with work starting two years later, initiated by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
How to Get to The Valley of Fire Park
The easiest way to get to this fantastic attraction is connecting from Las Vegas. If you are coming out of state, you can take a plane or a bus to Nevada’s most populous city. You can hire a car or have a guide to lead you to the place.
If driving, take on the South Las Vegas Boulevard as you negotiate towards Flamingo Road, taking a turn heading to the I-15 highway. Take the ramp northwards onto the I-15, keeping left for almost 34 miles, before exiting at 75 towards Valley of the Fire Park. Then head on to the Valley of the Fire highway, going straight for almost 17 miles.
Finally, take a left on Mouse’s Tank Road and head straight, negotiating a right onto the valley of fire visitor’s center.
Costs and Camping Information
If you want to stay at the Valley of Fire Park, camping is your only option. Both campgrounds are first-come, first-serve. We were a little nervous about that, but there were always a couple of sites available until mid-afternoon.
We stayed at the Atlatl Campground at site 1. This was a great spot with lots of rock climbing options; it exceeded our Valley of Fire camping expectations. We were also a few minutes hike near one of the panels of petroglyphs. The reality is that all the sites are pretty great, although some have less space – we had a ton of space.
The Atlatl Campground has showers and flush toilets. There are 44 campsites and about half are RV hook-up sites. There is a water faucet in each site (super convenient!), covered picnic table, fire ring, and tent pad. There is also a dump station just before entering the campground.
Arch Rock Campground is a smaller, more primitive tent campground. The sites here are more secluded.
There are three group areas, each accommodating up to 45 people, though parking is limited. They are available for overnight camping and picnicking by reservation only. Call the park for reservations: 1-702-397-2088 or click the link here to make reservations online.
Campsites are $20 per night which includes the $10 daily park entrance fee.
Places and Things to See in The Park
There is more for your eyes at the Valley of Fire Park, and you may need some extra days to exhaust the niceties it offers. Here are some of the places and things to see in the park.
1. The Fire Wave
Among the places at the Valley of Fire Park that will take your breath when you visit this park is the fire wave. Sticking to the park’s definition, you will see a unique rock formation that also doubles as a hiking track. It is an excellent site if you have a knack for photography.
The fire wave is a wonderland for the photographer and rockhopper (though technical rock climbing is not allowed in this area). Surrounded by yellow, orange, pink, and red rocks of amazing shapes, the Fire Wave folds on itself in picturesque, taffy-like curves. Much time can be spent exploring this area, and an hour before sunset and an hour after sunrise are particularly beautiful times to visit due to the orientation of the surrounding hills.
2. Lost City Museum
The Lost City Museum on the park will give you a trip back in time to the ancient Anasazi Indian civilization, giving you an idea of how they lived. You will see several objects, such as artifacts, and also reconstructed pueblos.
3. Rainbow Vista
The name itself is interesting and gives you a spoiler of what to expect when you encounter its niceties. It is an expansive area on the desert floor with distinct rock colorations. It is also an exciting hiking trail, where you can try out your photography skills.
Things to Do in The Valley of Fire Park
Here are some of the things to try out when out in the Valley of Fire Park to make every moment count.
One of the top things to do when in this park is hiking. If you love taking a peaceful walk in the countryside, The Valley of Fire Park will quench your adventure thirst. Bring out your hiking gear and experience the vastness of the park through the several hiking trails.
As a photographer, you will instantly fall in love with this park due to the memorable scenes unique to this area. The expansive and beautiful desert will give you a starting point before you step into the Valley of Fire Park and see the rock formations, ancient paintings, and many more.
The park has several camping grounds that you can settle in to test your resilience when it comes to the outdoors. It is RV friendly and has the necessary amenities to ensure you have a fulfilling stay as you take in nature’s niceties. See our section on ‘pricing’ above, for more information.
4. Studying and Research
The Valley of Fire Park is also an excellent place for studies, mostly if you are leaning towards geology and prehistory as your disciplines of choice.
You probably need permits if you plan on conducting extensive studies. You will find many animals in the park and if you wish to go out exploring at night you will find some great viewing opportunities.
5. Road Trip
A trip to natural sites can be one of the most exciting things to do, especially if you are with friends or family. You can take a calm drive over Mouse’s Tank Road as you experience various landscapes that decorate the Valley of Fire Park.
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Top 10 Trails to Hike at the Valley of Fire Park
Hiking is one of the main activities that visitors to Valley of Fire Park engage in. There are several hiking trails, and highlighted below are some of the best to try out.
1. Fire Wave Trail
Fire Wave Trail is a 1.5 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail that features a cave and is good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, and nature trips and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on a leash.
2. Mouse Tank Trail
Petroglyph Canyon via Mouse’s Tank Trail is a 0.8 mile heavily trafficked out and back that offers the chance to see wildlife and is good for all skill levels.
The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and bird watching and is best used from September until May. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on a leash.
3. White Domes Trail
White Domes Trail crosses stunning landscapes that reinvent themselves around every turn. The views on this 1.1-mile loop with 150 feet of elevation change are both varied and extraordinary. The circuit passes sandstone formations with different shapes and colors.
The trail also visits an old film set and lets hikers slip through a narrow canyon. The surroundings are diverse and the hike is thrilling, making White Domes Trail one of the best places to experience Valley of Fire State Park’s awesome beauty.
4. Natural Arches Trail
Natural Arches Trail in Valley of Fire Park, really an amazing journey through the Eastern end of Fire Canyon. There are numerous natural arches and balancing rocks throughout the canyon all the way to the Silica Dome area and out the Western end of Fire Canyon.
5. Rainbow Vista Trail
You have to use some pretty colorful language when describing Rainbow Vista Trail, like vibrant, fiery, and effing extraordinary. The good news about Rainbow Vista Trail is that you get big views right from the start and any hiking you do will be picturesque. The bad news is that Rainbow Vista Trail is not as well marked as it could be and crosses sandy terrain with lots of spurious footpaths.
6. Fire Canyon Overlook
Rainbow Vista hike is a short loop around a flat sand field, dotted with some small shrubs. Views off to the left of this short hike lookout to colorful rock hills in the distance.
At the far end of this loop is a sign with an arrow pointing towards a trail that leads to Fire Canyon Overlook, and another arrow pointing to the parking lot. It is definitely worth hiking out to the overlook, which is the nicest part of this hike.
7. Elephant Rock
Thousands venture to the Valley of Fire Park for its dramatic landscapes, hiking trails, Indian petroglyphs, and overall eerie familiarity.
It’s familiar because it’s been in many movies (conveniently only an hour from Vegas), including sci-fi such as Total Recall, Transformers, and Star Trek (Captain Kirk died here). No trip is complete without a stop at photogenic Elephant Rock.
8. Atlatl Rock
Atlatl Rock is on a Scenic Loop Road and more of a drive than a hike. The loop is located on the west side of the park next to Atlatl Rock Campground and is a great, quick attraction in Valley of Fire State Park. The trail to Atlatl Rock is only about 250 feet long and most of that is stairs.
9. Charlie’s Spring Trail
Charlie’s Spring Loop is a 6.7-mile loop trail that offers the chance to see wildlife and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, running, and bird watching and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail.
10. Beehive Rocks
The Beehives at Valley of Fire Park really do look like large beehives. They are a formation created by geologic cross-bedding, which means the layers were deposited over the years to form the formation you see today.
The grooves in the “beehives” were formed when there was water or wind that moved the material as it was forming.
Accommodations and Dining Near the Valley of Fire Park
We loved camping in the Valley of Fire, but it’s not the only option. A lot of Valley of Fire Park visitors come up for the day from Las Vegas – 50 miles to the west. Obviously, there are a zillion places to stay there. Overton, 14 miles to the east has a couple of hotels, restaurants, fuel, and groceries.
Best Time to Visit the Valley of Fire Park
The best season for visiting the Valley of Fire state park is from October to April. In summer months, the heat may be too oppressive. Do expect cooler temperatures during this time which can be from the ’50s to ’80s during the day and as low as freezing at night in the cooler months.
What to Pack For Your Visit To the Valley of Fire Park
It’s the desert, so it’s hot, it’s cold, and it’s windy, sometimes within the ten minutes. Bring a lot of water and prepare for a variety of conditions. Here’s some of what we wore.
As mentioned above the fall and winter months are the best for your visit. Expect temperatures as low as freezing during the winter months at night.
I want to be decent to the planet while I am good to my skin, so we use MyChelle Sun Shield, SPF 28 on our faces, and Alba Botanica SPF 45 Sunblock for Kids everywhere else that isn’t covered.
2. Sun Hats
We always have Sunday Afternoon sun hats. They provide great protection and fold up easily to carry in a backpack.
3. Rain Jackets
We all carry rain jackets, which double as windbreakers. They keep us dry, and both the wind the rain out.
4. Valley of Fire State Park map
We carried the Lake Mead National Recreation Area map, which includes the Valley of Fire
Final Word On the Valley of Fire
Valley of the Fire is one of the most exciting places to visit if you are into breathtaking scenes and a decent hiking dose. You can also do some photography to record the fantastic sites and be one with nature through camping or picnicking.