Valley of Fire State Park: A Fire in the Desert
Updated 7/7/23 by Lori
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Welcome, adventure-seekers, to the breathtaking Valley of Fire State Park! One of my favorite places to visit while in Las Vegas. This natural wonderland in the heart of Nevada boasts an otherworldly landscape that will inspire you.
After visiting this park, you’ll know why this is a must-visit destination for nature lovers, hikers, and photographers alike.
I know you’re thinking, “I’ve been to plenty of parks; what makes this one so special?” Well, this 45,000-acre park is truly one of a kind. From its vibrant red sandstone formations to its ancient petroglyphs, there’s something here for everyone.
Imagine walking through a valley of fiery red rocks that seem to change color as the sun moves across the sky, and you’ll understand why this park is so unique.
So, grab your hiking boots, camera, and sense of adventure, and explore every nook and cranny of this remarkable park. With miles of hiking trails, unique rock formations, and stunning vistas, you’ll always have things to discover.
Whether you’re going for a day trip or several days of camping, we have all the info you need to make your trip outstanding.
Table of contents
- Valley of Fire State Park: A Fire in the Desert
- Valley of Fire: In the Heart of Nevada
- Valley of Fire in Las Vegas: Everything You Need To Know
- Taking a Day Trip to Valley of Fire State Park
- Can You Camp With an RV at Valley of Fire?
- Things to Do for Campers
- If You Had to Choose, Which is Better to See: Red Rock Canyon or Valley of Fire?
- Make Plans to Visit
Valley of Fire: In the Heart of Nevada
This stunning natural wonder is located 50 miles northeast of Las Vegas in the Mojave Desert. Once you leave Interstate 15 and drop down onto Valley of Fire Highway, you’ll want to stop at the lone truck stop if you haven’t stocked up on supplies. This is your last opportunity for provisions.
Once you begin heading southeast on Valley of Fire Highway, you may feel like you’re headed off into no man’s land. The low traffic, bumpy road made me feel like I may have made a wrong turn. Fortunately, my GPS had me heading in the right direction.
Every mile out into the desert feels as though the hands of time are turning backward. And in some ways, they are. The landscape is much like it was centuries ago. The area has a rich history dating back over 3,000 years when it was inhabited by ancient Native American tribes who left behind many petroglyphs.
In the late 1800s, European explorers and settlers were blown away by the stunning red sandstone formations that looked like they were on fire in the sunlight, and they named the valley accordingly.
In the early 1900s, the state of Nevada recognized the park’s unique natural and cultural features and designated it as a state park.
During the Great Depression, the Valley of Fire State Park continued to thrive thanks to the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). They established a camp in the park, provided jobs, and improved the park’s infrastructure. Thanks to the CCC’s hard work, many of the park’s hiking trails, campgrounds, and picnic areas were created, and they even built the park’s first Visitor Center!
Today, it’s often used as a movie set for Hollywood. Movies filmed here include Star Trek Generations, Viva Las Vegas and Total Recall.
Valley of Fire in Las Vegas: Everything You Need To Know
If you’re visiting Las Vegas, you know it’s easy to get sick of losing your cash at the tables or frying yourself by the pool. Luckily, Las Vegas has plenty of beautiful outdoor attractions that make great day trips. Valley of Fire is one of the best!
The heat can be extreme and dangerous from May to September. December through February can be chilly but bearable. The best months to visit are October, November, March, and April.
When you arrive at the West Entrance, there is a big sign for a photo op just before the Ranger station at the gate—plenty of room to park and grab a group shot or selfie. As you head to the gate, be prepared to pay an entrance fee of $10, and then you are off and running.
Las Vegas To Valley of Fire Directions:
Valley of Fire is about 45 miles northwest of Las Vegas via I-15 North and Valley of Fire Highway. It’s a straightforward route.
If you’re staying in the southeast area of town, like Henderson or Boulder City (or want a more scenic route), you can also take Northshore Road (167) through the Lake Mead Recreation Area. If you’re a photographer, you’ll want to go this way.
Once in the park, one main road runs through the park and can be driven as a scenic loop if you plan to leave the way you came. You’ll see most trailheads and famous rock formations along this route.
Important Key Information
Address: Overton, NV 89040
Hours: The park is open daily from sunrise to sunset. Campgrounds have 24-hour access.
Entrance Fees: $10.00 or $15.00 for non-NV vehicles. CASH ONLY
Phone: (702) 397-2088
Elevation: 2,464 ft
Area: 45,937.88 acres
Coordinates: 36°27′22″N 114°31′59″W / 36.45611°N 114.53306°W
Cell phone reception: Limited to none.
Pet Friendly: Yes. Leashed pets are allowed.
Amenities: Restrooms spread throughout the park. A Visitor’s Center has restrooms, drinking water, and first aid.
The Visitor’s Center is located near the park entrance and is open daily from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm.
The Visitor’s Center offers various services and resources for visitors, including park maps, interpretive displays, and information on hiking trails and other park activities. There is also a gift shop where visitors can purchase souvenirs and snacks.
If you have any questions about the park or need assistance planning your visit, the staff at the visitor center are knowledgeable and can provide you with helpful information.
Pets are welcome, but they must be kept on a leash of at most six feet long and are not allowed in the Visitor Center.
There are no stores or amenities nearby. Pack plenty of water, food, and sunscreen. And hit that truck stop off I-15 on Valley of Fire Hwy.
Wildlife You May Encounter
Let’s discuss how animals have adapted to thrive in the Mojave Desert’s challenging climate! It’s no easy feat, but these resilient creatures have found clever solutions.
Take the desert tortoise and Gila monster, for example. They’ve figured it out – spending most of their lives underground to stay cool and conserve precious moisture. And then there are the kit foxes and jackrabbits who have become night owls, taking advantage of the cooler nighttime temperatures to hunt and roam.
The desert bighorn sheep have also got some clever tricks up their sleeves. They’ll guzzle up to five gallons in one go when water is available, stocking up for the long dry spells. And what about reptiles like rattlesnakes and chuckwallas? They’ll bask in the sun for warmth, but they’ll seek shelter and shade when it gets too hot or cold.
But let’s not forget the Gambel’s quail – their higher body temperature of 107°F/42°C is actually a benefit in the desert! It allows them to release body heat until the air temperature exceeds their internal temperature, helping them stay cool even in the scorching heat.
You may encounter the following animals–so have your camera ready:
- BigHorn Sheep
- Gila Monsters
- Kit Foxes
- QuailVarious lizards, and birds
Taking a Day Trip to Valley of Fire State Park
Here are the must-sees if you only have one day to spend at the Valley of Fire. The best part is you are getting great views all along the way, even between stops. The beauty of this park begins at the large sign right before you get to the West Entrance. As I mentioned, a great selfie or group shot location. The first of many!
You’ll be in and out of your car early and often since the park’s features are evenly spread out. Here are the must-see highlights you’ll want to check out during your day trip.
- Your first stop from the west entrance is the Beehives. This a great stop to get out and climb around and warm up your shutter finger. The beehives are quite a site! They were made by layers of rock that were deposited over time, like how sediment settles at the bottom of a river. The grooves on the beehives were made by either wind or water that moved the material around as it formed.
- Your second stop will be on the left, where you can see Atlatl Rock and Arch Rock. The Atlatl Rock is named for a throwing stick or dart thrower used by ancient tribes. You can climb stairs to a rock face where these ancient tribes made several petroglyphs. There are covered picnic tables near the parking lot for guests. Arch Rock is what it sounds like, a cool arch made of sandstone, and you get to that by following the loop just beyond Atlatl Rock. You can’t get near the arch because the park is protective of this fragile formation, but with enough lens, you can get some good shots from below near the road.
- Once back out on Valley of Fire Road, the next intersection you come to on the left will take you to the Visitor’s Center and all the attractions of the northern parts of the park. This is a gorgeous ride, so have your camera at the ready. Views of the roadway with the colored rock seemingly pouring down upon it makes for some spectacular shots.
- Mouse’s Tank is one of the shorter hikes, and you’ll find ample parking on your right not far up White Domes Road (Google calls it Mouse’s Tank Road) beyond the Visitors Center. This is a .75 out-and-back hike. Restrooms are there at the trailhead. Most of the hike is in the sand, which slows you down (if you’re trying to keep sand out of your shoes) and adds a slight degree of difficulty. Not a bad hike, though, with the reward of seeing the outlaw Mouse’s tank at trail’s end. You can spot some petroglyphs on this hike as well.
- The Fire Canyon Overlook can be accessed by hanging a right onto Fire Canyon Road. This a short drive east and dead ends at the overlook. This is one of the spots in the park that just begs you to use your panoramic feature. Reminded me of being on some of the overlooks in the Rockies, but on a much smaller scale.
- While Fire Wave is technically the trail’s name, it takes you through and across some gorgeous rock formations. It’s known for its white and red zebra print sandstone, making it the perfect spot for some standout photos.
- Seven Wonders is a loop that will take you through the Fire Wave mentioned above and then on to the Pink Canyon in all its pastel glory. This is a can’t-miss unless you want to stay in the car. You have to earn these views with the 1.8 miles loop. There is very little parking, so first come, first serve here.
- White Dome Loop is just around the corner and has its own parking lot, a restroom, and a place to picnic. This 1.1-mile loop is packed with jaw-dropping scenery that changes continually. The trail takes you through a range of sandstone formations with all kinds of unique shapes and colors. There’s even an old film set to explore and a narrow canyon to squeeze through.
- Heading back the way you came past the Visitor’s Center and back out onto Valley of Fire Road, you’ll hang a left. Here is where you will explore the sites on the eastern stretch of the park. Just off the road, you can see Seven Sisters, and Lone Rock, while the Historic Cabins can be found just down the short road past Lone Rock.
- This brings you nearly to the East Entrance and a famous rock formation, Elephant Rock. Even though you’ll drive right past it on the left at the top of the hill leading toward the gate, there is no safe place to stop. You must park down the hill in the parking area, with a restroom and a fun “Greetings from the Valley of Fire State Park” frame for pictures. You can also channel your inner child near the Elephant Rock trailhead, where there is a small cave you can duck into and a “window” that looks out toward the road. The hike up to Elephant Rock is an easy one at .2 miles roundtrip. You can also do a loop that comes in at 1.25 miles out and back.
For other day trip adventures check out the other places we highly recommend here.
Can you simply drive through Valley of Fire?
Yes, you can drive through Valley of Fire State Park if you have little time or find it easier to site-see from the comfort of your vehicle. Being voted the most scenic drive in Southern Nevada says a lot when you consider the rich landscape of the state.
In fact, most visitors to the park explore it by car. A drive through the park is approximately 10.5 miles long and takes visitors through some of the most stunning scenery in the area. The best idea is to take Valley of Fire and White Dome’s Road through the park, and you’ll see most of the sites.
Along the scenic drive, there are several pullouts where visitors can stop and take in the sights. The drive also passes by many of the park’s most popular attractions, including the Fire Wave, Elephant Rock, and the White Domes.
As you will see, several hiking trails in Valley of Fire State Park offer even more opportunities to explore the park’s natural wonders. However, if you need more time or prefer to experience the park from the comfort of your car, the scenic drive is an excellent way to see the park’s highlights.
Hiking in The Valley of Fire. How long of a hike is Valley of Fire?
While not possessing the longest of hikes, Valley of Fire State Park does have several hiking trails that vary in length and difficulty. Pick up a park map at the gate and plan on doing at least two or three of the most popular trails, including:
Fire Wave Trail. Difficulty- Easy to Moderate. This 1.5-mile roundtrip trail is one of the most photographed in the park. This trail leads to a stunning sandstone formation resembling a fire wave. Due to high temps, this trail may be closed from June 1 to September 30.
White Domes Trail. Difficulty- Moderate. This is a 1.25-mile roundtrip trail that takes you through a narrow slot canyon, past towering sandstone formations, and the remnants of a 1966 movie set from the movie, The Professionals. There is also a restroom here.
Mouse’s Tank Trail. Difficulty-Easy. This 0.75-mile roundtrip trail takes you to a natural water basin in a canyon where a murderous outlaw named Mouse used to hide. There are petroglyphs to see along the way, making this a good hike for children. The sandy trail will make it a slower walk but still fun!
Rainbow Vista Trail. Difficulty-Easy. 1-mile round trip. While Mouse’s Tank stops at a dead end with an incredible natural tank of water, this hike has a panoramic view of the Valley of Fire after a climb up a large hill. You’ll see dozens of white and tan rock formations leading into the fiery orange and red ones.
Seven Wonders Loop. Difficulty- Moderate. It may be closed from June 1 to September 30. As one of the most extended hikes in the park, this 1.8-mile loop rewards your efforts by offering some of the choicest scenery in the Valley of Fire.
You’ll explore Fire Wave and Pink Canyon in all their pink and pastel glory along the way. Park in either lot for the Fire Wave trail, grab some water, and enjoy the views.
Elephant Rock Trail. Difficulty – Easy. This is a 0.3-mile roundtrip trail that takes hikers to a sandstone formation that looks like an elephant. This is a reasonably easy hike beginning at a parking area near the east entrance. A fun hike with a fun rock formation!
Can You Camp With an RV at Valley of Fire?
Yes, bring that 5th wheel or RV and stay at Valley of Fire. In fact, the park has two campgrounds – Atlatl Rock Campground and Arch Rock Campground – both of which have RV sites with electric and water hookups. The campsites can accommodate RVs up to 45 feet in length.
Atlatl Rock Campground has 44 sites with hookups, while Arch Rock Campground has 29 sites with hookups. Both campgrounds have restrooms, showers, and a dump station. There are also picnic tables, grills, and fire pits at each campsite.
It’s important to note that reservations are recommended, as the campgrounds can fill up quickly, especially during peak season. You can make reservations up to six months in advance by visiting the Nevada State Parks website or calling the reservation center.
Campsites at Valley of Fire
You’ll find two campgrounds with a total of 72 units. Each campsite comes equipped with shaded tables, grills, water, restrooms nearby, and there is also a dump station and shower facilities available.
All campsites operate on a first-come, first-served basis, and visitors should be aware of the camping limit of 14 days within a 30-day period.
Group-Use Sites at Valley of Fire
Valley of Fire State Park offers three group-use campsites, each accommodating up to 45 people and having no minimum person count. These campsites can be reserved for overnight camping and are available by reservation only.
Group-use reservations can be made by phone on weekdays between 9 am and 4 pm by calling 702-397-2088, selecting “3” for group-use information, and then “1” to check availability or make a reservation. Reservations can be made starting on the first Wednesday of November at 9 am for the following year. It’s important to note that the park does not accept reservations via email, fax, US mail, or in person.
A reservation fee of $25 per site per night must be paid when booking. Upon arrival, camping and day-use fees of $20 per vehicle per night for Nevada residents or $25 per vehicle per night for non-Nevada residents must be paid.
Camping Outside of Valley of Fire
If you can’t get a spot inside the park, there are other options. Poverty Flat Camping is a free, no-amenities area for tent and RV camping. The site is off Northshore Road (Route 169) on the way to Overton, about 6 or 7 miles from town.
There is a nice view of Moapa Valley, Verizon internet service, and several antenna TV channels. The area is very dog friendly, and it’s all free. We call this a win.
Snowbird Mesa Camping is further up off Northshore. Turn right on Sand Mine Road to find it. This boondocking site is 5 miles from town and offers a quiet area with beautiful views. The only downside is that this is on a mesa…so it’s windy as heck. Not the best for tents.
There is a small campground at the Overton Wildlife Management Area. There are seven sites with a firepit, picnic table, and a shelter. You may stay for up to eight days for free. It’s next to a highway and a manufacturing plant, so it’s a bit noisy. But the campground is close to town and offers amenities the other campgrounds don’t.
Stewart’s Point has a campground with clean bathrooms near Lake Mead. The road is dusty and bumpy, but it’s a beautiful area with great views. Head south on Northshore Road from the park and turn left onto Stewart’s Point Road. This will turn into Beach Road, and you’ll see the campground on the left. This campground is free, but you must pay an entrance fee into Lake Mead National Recreation area.
For more camping options in the Las Vegas area check out our Ultimate Guide to RV Parks in Las Vegas.
Things to Do for Campers
While the Valley of Fire is a fantastic place to visit, you might be looking for other things to explore after a day or two. Here are our favorite things to do in the area.
Places to Eat Near The Valley of Fire
The Inside Scoop is our favorite place for a huge, cold ice cream treat after a long day in the heat. This is an excellent mom-and-pop place with an old-time diner vibe. And if you’re in the mood for something more substantial, the sandwiches and burgers get rave reviews!
Just up the road, stop by Cablp (Criss Angel’s breakfast, lunch, and pizza). We know you’ll love the pizza and Italian ice whether you dine-in or take-out. The prices are reasonable, the food is delicious, and the service is excellent.
If you’re in the mood for Mexican, La Fonda Mexican Restaurant up the street is a good option (maybe the only option). The margaritas and cold beer hit the spot after a long day of hiking. The food is good, and the service is quick and friendly.
If you’re looking for a family-friendly place with pizza, beer, and wings, Pirates Landing on the north side of town is a great place to take the kids–they’ll like the video games and fun decor. A fresh salad bar and fabulous service top off the experience.
Overton has the usual assortment of fast food options like Subway and McDonald’s if you’re in a hurry. There are convenience stores, groceries, and auto part stores around too.
Activities Near The Valley of Fire
The Lake Mead National Recreation Area is only a few miles away. You can boat, fish, swim or explore the area. Visit the official website for more information. The ghost town of St. Thomas is on your way there. Stop and grab some pics.
The Lost City Museum keeps the archaeological and cultural history of the Virgin River Puebloan People alive. See authentic native artifacts, a full-size Pueblo, and a fully stocked gift store.
There is an outdoor exhibit area and a picnic area. This is a place the whole family will love while you learn the history of the Pueblo Native Americans. Shaded dog kennels are on-site for Fido.
Open: Wed through Sun 8:30 am to 4:30 pm
Admission: $6 for adults. Children under 17 and under are free (as of 2023).
Address: 721 S. Moapa Valley Rd, Overton
Are you an adrenaline junkie? I’m not. But if you are, there is a fantastic skydiving place here, Skydive Fyrosity. Their goal is to deliver the most exclusive and personalized skydiving experience in Las Vegas. You can skydive directly over Lake Mead or the Lake of Fire.
Walk-ins are not allowed, so please make your reservations ahead of time. They welcome both first-timers and experienced skydiving enthusiasts!
If you’re in the area in April and longing for a real rodeo, get to the Clark County Fair and Rodeo in Logandale. The dates change yearly, so check the website before heading out. You can also purchase tickets and see the schedule online.
Head into Mesquite, a short drive from Valley of Fire
Mesquite is a lovely little resort town about 40 miles northeast of Overton via I-15. There are several golf courses and casinos to visit without the hassle of Las Vegas. There are also great restaurants, bars, and museums.
- CasaBlanca Hotel Casino & RV Park– The town’s most luxurious resort and casino. Enjoy gaming, fine dining, cocktails, and golfing at this gorgeous resort.
- Virgin River Hotel and Casino– This discount hotel and casino has affordable rates and clean rooms. Great for families and those with pets.
- Golden West Restaurant and Casino– A fantastic dive bar and restaurant with amazing burgers (voted best in town) and strong drinks. This is a local favorite, so get there early for good seating and a place at the slots.
- Eureka Casino Resort– An excellent–and conveniently located–hotel and casino with four restaurants and plentiful, loose slots. Only three miles from the Palms Golf Club.
- Falcon Ridge Golf Course – This is a 6650-yard par 72 desert course that winds through the canyons of Mesquite. Many water features and elevation changes make it a challenging (and beautiful) course.
- Oasis Golf Course-This Arnold Palmer masterpiece is the only 36-hole course in the area. Non-members can make reservations up to 90 days in advance. This is a gorgeous course and one of Palmer’s personal favorites!
- Wolf Creek Golf Club–One of the best public courses in the country, and certainly one of the most picturesque, is the Wolf Creek Golf Club. The scenery is spectacular!
- Palms Golf Course– This challenging course belongs to the CasaBlanca Resort. Many palm trees, lakes, and sand traps make this an adventure for any level golfer.
- Coyote Willows Golf Course– This is the best course in town for families. Coyote Willows is an affordable, 9-hole 35 par course with tee boxes for experienced and beginners alike. Bring the wife and kids along; they’ll have a blast without breaking the bank.
Other Things to Do:
Virgin Valley Valley Heritage Museum– From their website: “The Virgin Valley Heritage Museum sits as a tribute to the early pioneer settlers of the Virgin Valley. Rich with a deep pioneer heritage full of strength, devotion, hardships, sacrifice, and hope, the museum helps visitors to not only understand the pioneer way of life but helps them to connect with the very pioneers that settled this great valley.”
Camel Safari– Ride a camel, tram, or ATV to see over 30 camels, get hands-on with an ambassador camel, and join keepers on a tour of the exotic animal zoo.
Mesquite Motocross Park– Open from October to April, this motorcycle-only park has practice times and many events. Check their website for more information and a calendar of events.
Arizona Horse Ride– If you’re in the mood for a horseback ride, head over to our friends at Arizona Horse Ride just across the border.
Little Mount Rushmore– Just what it says, this a mini Mount Rushmore just outside of town in the cliffs. There are some hiking trails nearby too.
If You Had to Choose, Which is Better to See: Red Rock Canyon or Valley of Fire?
Choosing between Nevada’s Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area and Valley of Fire State Park is tough. These natural wonders offer breathtaking views and unique experiences that are hard to compare. With towering red sandstone formations, ancient petroglyphs, and miles of hiking trails, both parks are a paradise for nature enthusiasts, photographers, and adventurers.
Red Rock Canyon Pros:
- Short drive from the Las Vegas Strip
- Rock climbing
- Amazing for photography
- Wildlife viewing
- Short drive for supplies in western Vegas
- Open year-round
Red Rock Canyon Cons:
- Because of its proximity to Las Vegas the park can fill up quickly during peak season October through May, so reservations are needed to ensure entry. A single vehicle entry will cost $20 plus another $2 booking fee. Reservations can be made here.
- Camping is located outside the gates of the Conservation area. A two-mile drive from the Visitor’s Center. No electrical or sewer hookups and no showers.
- Wifi available at the Visitor’s Center but doesn’t reach through the park.
Valley of Fire Pros:
- Unique rock formations
- Ancient petroglyphs
- Rock climbing
- Camping right in the park. Two sites are equipped with power/sewer hookups, as well as showers.
- Fantastic for photography
- Wifi available in the park for a fee
- Open year-round
- No reservations required
Valley of Fire Cons:
- A bit of a drive from Las Vegas and other big cities
- Longer drive for supplies than Red Rock Canyon
Both parks offer unique experiences and are definitely worth visiting if you have the time. However, if you’re looking for more diverse hiking options and accessibility, Red Rock Canyon may be the better choice. If you’re looking for more unique rock formations and a quieter, more remote park, Valley of Fire State Park may be the better choice.
We want to have you covered for the best choices for your vacations and weekend getaways so be sure to check out all our favorite places.
Flights into Vegas arrive and depart virtually around the clock, so before heading to Valley of Fire or other destinations you may need a place to store your luggage before you can check into your hotel, or after you check out of your hotel well before your plane is scheduled to depart. One excellent option I love is a luggage storage service. And there’s no better service than Radical Storage which offers you freedom and peace of mind for as little as $6 a day.
Just find the closest location, book online, store your luggage, and go!
Make Plans to Visit
The Valley of Fire State Park is truly a gem of the desert, offering you a chance to experience Nevada’s natural and cultural wonders. Whether you’re looking to hike among the stunning red rock formations, camp under the stars, or explore the park’s ancient petroglyphs, there’s something here for everyone.
And with ongoing research and study of the region’s ecology, geology, and cultural history, there’s always something new to discover. So, what are you waiting for? Explore the beauty and history of the Valley of Fire State Park for yourself!