Valley of Fire State Park is one of my favorite excursions out of Las Vegas. Just about an hour outside the city strip, Valley of Fire features some incredible red rock formations- and I say this as someone who’s spent a significant amount of time around red rocks! We made a quick cell service-related pit stop at the Visitor Center (back right of the building, by the gift shop), and the center itself has great resources for planning a visit to the area and an excellent display about the history of the park.
There are several short hikes to check out, and the park itself is a gorgeously scenic drive, but the park is small enough that it doesn’t require a multi-day trip, unless you really want to stretch it out!
A lot of the best viewpoints in Valley of Fire are visible from the road and they have big parking lots for visitors to stop and take pictures to their heart’s content. I particularly liked Fire Canyon Road and it’s view of abrupt color changes in the rocks- from pale sand to the bright rust red that gives the park it’s name.
At the far end of the park, White Domes hike was my favorite hike! It’s only about 1.25 miles and showcases nearly everything I loved about Valley of Fire! There are tons of beautiful rock formations with amazing color striations- and even a slot canyon to walk through! While the trail started with a pretty steep drop, it’s smooth sailing past that point and even a little shaded from the sun! It’s not the length of the hikes but the sun itself that’s brutal- when we visited, it was 80F by 8am. In May! Make sure to take plenty of water, even if it’s only a short hike.
I also hiked the very short Mouse’s Tank Trail. This trail is a little less visually interesting in terms of rock formations but the amount of petroglyphs was truly incredible! There were several walls absolutely covered in well preserved glyphs and I was completely in love with them. My favorites were the petroglyphs of the big horned sheep, which I affectionately called petro-goats. The footing along this trail is sandy, so it’s a bit of a workout even though it’s very flat.
Fans of petroglyphs should also check out Atlatl Rock, which held lovely images that were unique compared to even the petroglyphs at Mouse’s Tank. Fans of technology may also be excited to know that this area inexplicably had cell service.
Our very last hike in this park was to Elephant Rock. Though visible from the road, we clambered up a rocky hill to get a better view and it really did look like an Elephant once it was pointed out.
In addition to bringing lots of water, I recommend getting an early start to beat the heat. It was so incredibly hot out that I was tapped out of hiking by 11am and had to retreat back to our air conditioned RV.
While the Valley of Fire is conveniently located for day trips from the comfort of Las Vegas, I was arriving in a RV! On site camping is available, if a bit confusing. You self pay upon arrival and pick up a tag to hang in the windshield. There is no one to greet you at the gate so you can’t even ask if the sites are full- you just have to commit and hope for the best. On the flip side, there are two separate campgrounds with a total of seventy-two spots, all of which have fantastic views! Despite providing shaded tables, grills, water and restrooms (and dump stations for our fellow glampers), these sites felt much further removed from civilization than many other sites we’ve visited- we even had a herd of Bighorn sheep strolling by!
The Bighorn sheep were all over the park- it makes sense how so many of the petroglyphs featured the animals! We had a few antelope ground squirrels taking shelter from the heat in the shade of the RV and even saw a coyote! Valley of Fire is also home to the critically endangered desert tortoise, though we weren’t lucky enough to see one.
Visiting the Valley of Fire State Park is one of my favorite ways to spend a day! The landscape is varied enough to hold interest, but it’s small enough that most of is is visible in one trip.