Valley of the Fire State Park is by far my personal favorite of the State Parks I've visited in the US. Though I've explored many parks with a similar setting, this one really is a gem of Nevada's desert. With it's rich red rock landscape, and the other-worldly sandstone desert backdrops, Valley of Fire is where Sedona meets Death Valley. Located just an hour from Las Vegas, it's proximity and smaller size make it must see on a visit to this area.
Quick Park Info: Official Website
Fees: $10 per vehicle | Camping: YES | Dogs: YES on leash
Venturing into Valley of Fire is like landing on Mars. In fact, several movies have been shot there for that reason, and over 40 commercial photo shoots happen there annually. The park is quite popular for tourists as well, boasting About 250k+ visitors per year. You do not need to be an avid hiker or adventurer to enjoy this park. Most of the sights are drive-up with short walks, and you can definitely dig deeper if you want to camp or do some longer hiking and exploration. Plan for 2-3 days to get the most out of this amazing park! There were a few longer trails I wasn't able to fit in this time around so I will definitely hit those up on my next visit. Below are the main points of interest I recommend seeing on your first trip and are easily doable in a day or two!
1. ELEPHANT ROCK
It's the park's most notable landmark and very popular to view as it's right off the main road, and one of the first stops as you enter from the east entrance. In my opinion, it's a bit overrated as there are much better things to see in this park. But since it is iconic make a quick stop here to say you saw it. Don't get me wrong, it is a cool sight and an impressive formation, there is just no need to spend a lot of time here. Though you can't climb up behind it anymore as in this picture, there is a trail that runs behind it in a small loop, connecting to a few other hikes. Grab your photo, and continue on!
2. WHITE DOMES SCENIC BYWAY
This is the insta-famous road everyone wants to see, White Domes Road, is a main vein through the park so don't be surprised to see tons of people pulling off at different points here to get their shot. I went at sunrise on a weekday, and surprisingly enough, I was the only one there! It is pretty epic to drive through and I found myself doing it several times to admire its beauty at all hours.
3. FIRE WAVE TRAIL
Length: 1.5 mile out and back | Level: Easy | Duration: 1-2 hours | Elevation: 235 | Dogs: YES on leash Directions and full hike info here
Fire wave is as cool as it sounds, and one of the park's top sights so you won't want to miss it. This is Nevada's very own version of the larger "wave" experience found in Utah. If you just want to see this rather quickly, access to it is a quick in and out from the parking lot. Those looking for a longer adventure can combine it with a few other trails and extensions to include Pink Canyon, and White Domes trail for the full 7 Wonders Loop. I broke it up so I could spend sunset here on the wave.
4. SILICA DOME / PAINTED PINNACLES
Another easy drive up and walk stop is this beautiful viewpoint over the Silica Domes. These sandstone formations are a prominent feature in the park, and this overlook is one of the easiest place to view them. Located just off Fire Canyon road from the main White Domes scenic byway, drive up to the overlook parking lot to catch this view. To explore a little deeper here, there is a short trail right from the lot that takes you out into the overlook. It runs about 1.8 miles round trip. I was so happy to catch this bighorn sheep enjoying the view as well!
5. WHITE DOMES TRAIL
Length: 1.1 mile loop | Level: Easy | Duration: 1-2hours | Elevation: 175 | Dogs: YES on leash Directions and full hike info here
This quick hike is just another beautiful place to get lost in at Valley of Fire State Park. As mentioned above, it can be combined with the Fire Wave/7 Wonders Loop, but if you are short on time or not feeling like a longer hike, the parking lot is an easy starting point to do this quick loop. One of the main points of interest on this trail are the remains of a movie set built in 1965 for the film "The Professionals". You'll pass that as you make your way down into the canyons from the parking lot.
6. BALANCE ROCK TRAIL
Length: .8 mile in and out | Level: Easy | Duration: 1 hour | Elevation: 3 | Dogs: YES on leash Directions and full hike info here
If you are planning on stopping at the Visitor Center at some point on your visit, then you don't want to miss the quick but very epic looking balancing rock. There is a super short trail that walks out to a balancing rock! This is the backside captured at sunset from the main road. Easy walk with epic views!
7. THE CABINS
One of the more interesting things to see in Valley of Fire, are The Cabins. Pictured above, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built three native sandstone cabins in the 1930s to accommodate campers and travelers to the park. You obviously can't stay in them anymore, but you are able to walk through and around them. There is a nice picnic area here as well so it's a great spot to take a break between hikes and have lunch.
7. RAINBOW VISTA TRAIL
Length: .1.5 mile in and out | Level: Easy | Duration: 1-2 hours | Elevation: 150 | Dogs: YES on leash Directions and full hike info here
Rainbow Vista trail is as beautiful as it sounds! Another fairly easy, beautiful walk through the sandstone, this trail is a quick one to do any time of day as you make your way up to Fire Wave and the other points of interest at the northern end of the park. The trail is flat but super sandy and the views are pretty spectacular! This one can get a little tricky though, and if you make a wrong turn you'll end up at a dead end canyon. Be sure to follow the signs and keep to the left when the trail splits.
QUICK TRAVEL TIPS
Buy the Adventure Map: The map provided at the park is a simple printout and hardly clear on all of the things to see, so pickup this map either at the visitor center, or here on Amazon. Well worth it as cell service is also patchy.
Wear good shoes: the hikes aren't that complicated, but they are sandy in alot of parts, and you'll want a decent amount of grip for to walk on the sandstone formations where you can. I recommend a lightweight breathable hiker like these ones from Salomon
When to visit? Like any other desert park, it's hot and well over 100 in the summer. So depending on your tolerance for heat, I recommend visiting in the winter months between October - April.
Do I need a 4x4? No, but it is great if you have one to explore some of the OHV trails
Where to stay? Camping is available at several park campgrounds listed here. Most opt to stay in Vegas due to the options there, as there are very few hotels right by the park. The closest one I found was the North Shore Inn.
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