Visiting the Valley of Fire, Las Vegas

Nevada's biggest and oldest state park is the Valley of Fire. Las Vegas being just 50 miles away, the park is a great day trip to get out and explore. This guide covers what to see and do, park history and all the best hiking trails. #vegas #valleyoffire #nevada #statepark

Vegas is more than the Strip – if you want to go hiking or take in incredible landscapes, Valley of Fire Nevada State Park is the best place to visit. Located just an hour from Vegas, this park is the state’s oldest and most unique park. It is known for film car commercials and other photography works that have been carried out there. This guide has everything visitors need before heading to the park, from fees, trails and camping information to its history, topography and climate.

Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada, red rocks and white domes

Visiting the Valley of Fire, Las Vegas

Valley of Fire is one of the most unique areas of the Southwest and is a perfect place to go because it almost still feels relatively unknown. It only sees about 300,000 visitors a year (compare that to the nearby Grand Canyon and its 5 million visitors per year). It’s Nevada’s oldest and largest state park, located in the Mojave Desert. It has hikes ranging from .1 miles to 9 miles and tons of ways to see the distinct topography.

An overview of the Valley of Fire, Las Vegas

Valley of Fire State Park spans approximately 46,000 acres. It features (and is named for) red rock formations of Aztec sandstone, with the red resulting from iron oxide. The rocks look like fire during sunny days, contrasting against grey and tan limestone. The sandstones are as a result of dunes during the age of dinosaurs. It also features other exciting features such as limestone, shale and conglomerates.

Red rocks in valley of fire state park nevada

History of Nevada’s Valley of Fire

Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada is the state’s first and largest state park. It was founded in 1935 to protect the unique landscapes, which are over 250 million years in the making.

Prehistoric people of the Valley of Fire Nevada date back to 300 BCE and include the Basket Maker People and the Anasazi, who practiced farming in Moapa Valley. They also practiced other economic activities such as hunting, food gathering and religious activities. The petroglyphs that can be found in the park are Anasazi and date back over 2000 years.

The unique landscape has been used to film movies and shows, including Viva Las Vegas, Total Recall and Star Trek Generations.

Petroglyphs at Atlatl Rock in Valley of Fire Las Vegas

Valley of Fire area map

Valley of Fire visitor information

Valley of Fire park entrance fees and hours

Valley of Fire State Park is open sunrise to sunset daily and campgrounds are accessible 24/7. Entrance is $10 per day, per vehicle (Nevada residents get a $2 discount). Camping is $20 per night, plus $10 for utility hookups. Valley of Fire is included in Nevada’s annual permits for state parks.

The Visitor Center is open 8:30-4:30 daily. It has exhibits for visitors to learn about the geology, ecology and history of the area and is a recommended stop for all visitors.

Dogs at Valley of Fire

Pets and dogs are allowed in the state park, but they must be on-leash at all times. Keep in mind that there are wildlife and ancient artifacts in the park. Owners should clean up after any pets.

Important Valley of Fire rules

To keep the park safe for everyone, and protect it for the future, there are a few additional, important rules to expect:

  • There is no off-road driving and vehicles are not allowed on trails.
  • Camping is allowed in designated sites only (see below).
  • Fires are allowed only in designated areas.
  • Rock-climbing is allowed only in designated areas.
  • And lastly, a very important rule, “Removing, disturbing or damaging any historic structure, artifact, rock, plant life, fossil or other feature is prohibited. State and federal laws protect this area and its resources.”

Sheep in the Valley of the Fire State Park near Atlatl Rock campground Nevada

Plants that grow in the Valley of Fire

The plants and flowers that grow in the Valley of fire include creosote bush, burro bush and brittlebush. Cactus plants also dominate the area.  During spring, the park looks spectacular with growing plants such as indigo bush and desert mallow and wildflowers.

Valley of Fire weather and climate

Valley of Fire is located in the high desert, meaning that it is, for the most part hot and dry. Annual rainfall is only about 4 inches. During winters, it can get quite cold at night (as the desert usually is) and conditions get rather brutal in the summer (bring lots of water).

Valley of Fire hikes

Due to the incredible geology featured by the Valley of Fire Las Vegas, it makes it a great place to go for hikes. And because many of the hikes are shorter with little elevation change, you can plan to do more than one on your visit. AllTrails has detailed paths and user comments to better plan your hikes and they have a few mapped that are combinations of a few trails at a time, so you make the most of your time.

Dogs are allowed, but they must be on-leash and be sure to pick up after them.

Valley of Fire trail options

Important note: Hiking in the desert takes planning. Be aware of the heat and sun exposure and always bring water.

Trail Distance Elevation Change Type Rating Approx. Length
Fire Wave Trail 1.5 miles 236 feet Out & back Easy 1 hour
Seven Wonders 1.9 miles 213 feet Loop Easy 2+ hours
White Domes 1.1 miles 173 feet Loop Easy 1 hour
Rainbow Vista .5-1.5 miles 60-150 feet Out & back Easy 45-60 min.
Mouse’s Tank (Petroglyph Canyon) .75 miles 25 feet Out & back Easy 30 min.
Natural Arches 4.2 miles 229 feet Out & back Easy 2-3 hours
Pinnacles Trail 4.8 miles 429 feet Loop Moderate 2-3 hours
Charlie’s Spring Loop 6.7 miles 452 feet Loop Moderate 3 hours
Prospect Trail 8.8 miles 800 feet Out & back Moderate 3 hours
Balancing Rock* .25 miles 3 feet Out & back Easy 10 min.
Elephant Rock* .3 miles 50 feet Out & back Easy 10 min.
Atlatl Rock* .1 miles 50 feet Out & back Easy 10 min.
Petrified Log Loop* .3 miles 26 feet Loop Easy 10 min.

* not really “hikes”, but trails to see notable parts of the park

Fire Wave Trail

The Fire Wave Trail is an easy out and back hike that ends at the “Fire Wave,” a sandstone formation in the shape of a wave. The wave-like structure has alternating red and tan stripes and is comparable to Arizona’s Wave, but without the near-impossible permits. The hike is sandy at the start, but mostly sandstone. It takes about an hour and is the most well-known hike. This can be combined with Seven Wonders and White Domes.

Seven Wonders

Seven Wonders can be added to the Fire Wave trail (and if you want a really great, full hike, add White Domes on to that as well). It starts from the Fire Wave and is a 1.9-mile loop (or 3.3 miles with White Domes added). You continue where the trail becomes a wash (and most people turn around). It is trickier to follow, so having the AllTrails map is very helpful. There is very little shade on this hike.

White Domes Trail

White Domes Trail is an incredible loop hike and one of the most popular Valley of Fire trails (read: it can get crowded). It has a descending rocky staircase-like structure that formed between rocks just before you get down to the sandy desert floor. You can have a good view of the desert while on its floor, and see lots of rock formations along the way. It is about 1.1 miles with a 175 ft elevation change. This can be combined with Fire Wave and Seven Wonders.

Rainbow Vista (view of Fire Canyon)

Rainbow Vista one of the most loved of the Valley of Fire hiking areas. There are a few versions of the trail, all boasting colorful rocks (hence the name). The trail ends in a sudden cliff that provides a good view of Fire Canyon. Be prepared for deep sand, which can be a nuisance. The parking is on the right and it will be in the second parking area.

Fire Wave trail hiking valley of fire

Mouse’s Tank (Petroglyph Canyon)

Mouse’s Tank Trail goes through Petroglyph Canyon and is known for being the easiest of the Valley of Fire hikes to see the petroglyphs in the park (please don’t touch them). It is an out and back, short trail with little elevation change. The canyon also offers nice shade, so it’s a good trail even if it’s hot. It does get crowded and has a good parking area.

Natural Arches

Natural Arches is a bit of an unmaintained Valley of Fire trail, which usually has a soft and sandy dry riverbed as you head towards the intact Thing Arch. Note the Ephemeral arch fell in May 2010. It features narrow canyons with two exciting rock-climbing sections which are easy to climb. The hike offers an exploring journey and not just the destination. If you want to get away from people and explore, this is the best place because there is little people’s traffic.

To go hiking in this place, plan to have ample time because the sand found on the riverbeds will slow you down. It is 4.2 miles to and from with an elevation height of 290 feet. It takes two to three hours to go hiking and it is moderately difficult to hike. The trailhead is located south towards the Valley of Fire highway, 2.5 miles and heads towards the East entrance.

Pinnacles Loop

The Pinnacles Loop is an exciting place for anyone who loves exploring and solitude. The hike starts with a long stretch along dry sand in an open desert with little scenery. After passing two foothills and taking a right turn and then moving towards the north of the Pinnacle, you get into more of a view with big red rocks before getting to the north end of the foothills. It takes two to three hours to hike and it is moderately challenging to hike. It is rated as best from April to September, but the trudge through the wash can be a lot in the summer heat. The trailhead is along the Atlatl Rock parking area.

Charlie’s Spring Loop

Charlie’s Spring is the only trail that has a year-round spring (hence the name). It is a longer loop, but has a good chance of seeing wildlife. Beware conditions based on recent rains as it can get muddy. This trail has lower traffic, so is good if you want some solitude.

Prospect Trail

Prospect Trail is the longest in Valley of Fire and can be hard to notice where it deviates from the road. Along it, you can spend hours with the different landscapes from the white domes to the red rocks. You can expect some scrambling.

Easy/short trails that aren’t “hikes”

Because Valley of Fire is so well maintained and marked, there are a lot of places to see in it that are called trails, but aren’t really hikes. You can park at or nearby all of them and take an easy walk to see the notable formations or landmarks.

Balancing Rock

Balancing Rock is just a quick walk from the Visitor Center. The formation can be seen clearly from the road. It has a distance of 0.1 miles in and out with an elevation change of 5 feet. It is easy to hike and it takes five to ten minutes to hike; start at the Visitor Center.

Elephant Rock Trail/Loop

Elephant Rock Trail is a super short out and back near the entrance (you can also do it as a loop). The area does not have a parking area; hence, to take pictures; you will need to take a short walk. The scenery is most suitable for science fiction fans since it has an unmarked bridge used in movies such as Star Trek Generations in the scene where Captain Kirk and Piccard fight Soran. The loop version is 1.2 miles (Elephant Rock is 0.3 miles). It is easy to hike and the parking lot is on the East side of the entrance to the park.

Atlatl Rock

This isn’t a trail so much as a staircase up into Atlatl Rock, where you will see ancient petroglyphs and some placards with more information. This is super easy to access from the parking, where there are picnic and restroom facilities.

Petrified Log Loop

This is an easy, basically flat walk loop to see petrified logs in the park.

Hiking Valley of Fire State Park Las Vegas Nevada

Valley of Fire camping

There are many exciting camping sites located in the Valley of Fire which features formations of red sandstones. Atlatl Rock Campground and Arch Rock Campground are both located in the west side of the park. It provides visitors with an exciting camping experience at the Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada. The best season for camping is during the spring. The Valley of Fire weather during the winter season has temperatures below the freezing point while during the summer season; temperatures exceed 100 degrees making it unsuitable for outdoor activities.

Atlatl Rock Campground

Atlatl Rock Campground is one of the main campground’s Valley of Fire State Park, which is a short distance from Atlatl Rock. The site features a picnic table beneath a shade ramada which features a fire ring, barbecue grill and a flat spot to set up a tent. The site also features water spigots which provide clean drinking water. The campsite also has hot showers and toilets with flush without any additional cost. It has 44 sites which have numbers and are spaced out from one to the other.

Arch Rock Campground

Arch Rock Campground features 29 sites. The first 14 sites are located at the center along the loop while others are along the road that meanders along the red sandstones and goes back to the campground. Sites located in the Arch Rock campground have picnic tables, fire rings, shade ramadas and water spigots. The sites have a vault toilet bathroom without showers. The campground is sometimes shut down during winter and summer seasons.

Other things to do near Valley of Fire

Because this park is so close to Vegas, you can easily make it a day trip. If you’re coming from Vegas, you might think about seeing Seven Magic Mountains (the cool rock art installation) or check out the Neon Museum (though you need to make reservations in advance).

But if you’re having an outdoorsy trip, you will want to keep heading East to Kanab, where there’s tons of hiking and exploring to be done in Southern Utah and Northern Arizona. The most famous hike is Arizona’s “the Wave,” but there are a ton more in the area.

READ  Coyote Buttes North - home to the Wave in Arizona

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Nevada's biggest and oldest state park is the Valley of Fire. Las Vegas being just 50 miles away, the park is a great day trip to get out and explore. This guide covers what to see and do, park history and all the best hiking trails. #vegas #valleyoffire #nevada #statepark

Nevada's biggest and oldest state park is the Valley of Fire. Las Vegas being just 50 miles away, the park is a great day trip to get out and explore. This guide covers what to see and do, park history and all the best hiking trails. #vegas #valleyoffire #nevada #statepark

Nevada's biggest and oldest state park is the Valley of Fire. Las Vegas being just 50 miles away, the park is a great day trip to get out and explore. This guide covers what to see and do, park history and all the best hiking trails. #vegas #valleyoffire #nevada #statepark

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Visiting the Valley of Fire, Las Vegas

Founder of How Dare She, Jessica is on a mission to visit every country in the world, and bring you along with through photos, video and stories. 6 continents and 104 countries in. She has a BA in journalism and Master's in innovation and change, but her real skill is plugging in a USB in 2 or less tries (most of the time). She believes daring isn't about being fearless, but choosing to opt in, in spite of fear. She dares to see, taste, experience and meet the world as she goes.

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