Valley of Fire State Park is full of incredible colorful rock formations. Red and orange rocks tower over hiking paths and roadways. It is a place that makes you feel like you are on a different planet.
I didn’t know what to expect the park, but was thoroughly surprised at the incredible rock formations. Read further in this post to learn all you need to know to visit this amazing state park in the Mojave Desert of Nevada.
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About Valley of Fire State Park
Valley of Fire State Park is an area in the Mojave Desert that contains unique rock formations made of Aztec Sandstone. It was named a state park of Nevada in 1935. In addition to beautiful rock formations, there are petroglyphs and other historic sites in the park.
When is the best time to visit Valley of Fire State Park?
Since the park is located in the desert, it can become extremely hot in the summer. There is not a lot of vegetation making hikes unshaded, exposing you to the heat and sun. In the summer, the average temperature ranges from 80 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit (27 to 41 degrees Celsius).
Due to the summer heat, I recommend visiting in the fall or spring months. Visiting in the spring or fall will allow you to enjoy the park all day and have less risk of dehydration and heat injury.
We visited in April and it was the perfect temperature. We were hiking in sandals and fleece (which to me is the ideal hiking temperature!).
How to Get to Valley of Fire State Park
Valley of Fire State Park is located east of Las Vegas, Nevada. The best way to get here is by driving a car. If flying to the area (like I did!), you can rent a car from the Las Vegas Airport at a relatively good price. I like to use Booking.com to reserve my car rentals.
If driving from Las Vegas, it is around 45 miles to reach the park. If coming from the south, you can drive through the Lake Mead National Recreation Area (although you will need to pay the national recreation fee of $25 or present your “America the Beautiful” national parks pass).
How much does it cost to enter the Valley of Fire State Park?
Since Valley of Fire is state park, your “America the Beautiful” national park pass won’t work to enter this park. You will have to pay for a separate entrance ticket to enter the park. It costs $15 to enter the park as a non-resident, $10 if you are a resident of Nevada. Even if the entrance station is closed, pay for a ticket at the self-serve kiosk as you need to show proof of payment to exit the park.
Note: The park is open from sunrise to sunset. They are very strict about everyone leaving the park by sunset. The entrance fee is the same, regardless of when you enter the park, whether in the morning or an hour before sunset.
Where to stay during your visit to Valley of Fire State Park
There are two first-come, first-serve campgrounds within the Valley of Fire State Park. Both campgrounds are on the western side of the park. Other nearby camping includes nearby Lake Meade National Recreation Area, specifically the Echo Bay Campground. More information about camping in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, visit the NPS website.
On the eastern side of Valley of Fire State Park, the Moapa Valley area has a few hotels and inns. On the western side of the park, eastern Las Vegas is around 35 miles, or 40 minutes, away where you can find many different hotel options.
If staying at a hotel, I recommend using Booking.com to book your hotel accommodations. Usually Booking.com has the lowest rates and offers free cancellation on many different locations.
Things to do in Valley of Fire State Park
Fire Wave is an incredible area with brightly striped rocks in all shades of orange, red, yellow, and white. To reach the Fire Wave, you must hike to it, but it is well worth the effort. The hike to Fire Wave is around 1.5 miles round-trip. It is not too difficult, but most of the trail is sandy and is there is one main section with an incline/decline that would be difficult for someone with decreased balance.
At the trailhead, there are two parking lots that can fill up early. Start the trail on a sandy path leading to a large bright rock formation. The trail weaves through the rock formations until you will start walking on sandy stone that becomes more colorful with each step. Follow the bright yellow trail markers. You will know when you reach the Fire Wave. You can scramble around and view it from different angles.
Depending on the time of day you visit, certain areas will be more vibrant than others due to the light on the rocks.
If you are walking the “Fire Wave, White Domes, and 7 Wonders Loop” trail (discussed below) you can continue on the trail from here. If you were walking to the Fire Wave only, when you’re done exploring you can head back to the trailhead where you parked your car.
One of the first places to pull off of on White Domes Road after the visitor center is the Rainbow Vista. The viewpoint has a little parking area and a pit toilet. The Rainbow Vista has great views of the park. The Rainbow Vista is also a great place to park to take pictures of the iconic White Domes Road (discussed below).
Drive the White Domes Road
To get to many of the popular places in the park, including the Fire Wave and White Domes Trails, you will have to drive the White Domes Road. However, the most popular part of the road is near the beginning of the road, shortly after passing the main visitor center. The road climbs up a hill and then will be straight with tall rock walls on either side. Pictures of this part of the road have been popular across social media over the last few years. I have wanted to visit this road since I first saw it on Instagram a few years ago.
If you want to take a picture of the road from the popular viewpoint, drive up the hill to the Rainbow Vista Parking lot and walk the short walk from there. You will see that there are pull-offs made by people on the side of the road, but you will be ticketed for parking there and it can also damage your car due to large drop-offs and deep sand.
The walk from the Rainbow Vista parking lot is very short and the viewpoint from where to take the picture can be seen from the parking lot. Cross the road and follow the path to reach it. There will likely be other people stopped here taking pictures as well.
Visit Mouse’s Tank and see Petroglyphs
Some of the most visible petroglyphs in the park are located on the Mouse’s Tank trail. Mouse’s Tank Trail is 0.8 miles round trip and passes through a canyon covered in petroglyphs before reaching Mouse’s Tank which is a fresh water cistern in the slot canyon. There is a parking area and picnic area at the trailhead for Mouse’s Tank.
White Domes Trail
The White Domes Trail starts from the end of the White Domes Road and highlights a unique slot canyon. The area of the White Domes Trail has also been used for filming some scenes in some famous movies. The White Domes Trail is a 1.1 mile loop and does have some inclines and declines, so it may be difficult for some.
You can hike the White Domes Trail only or hike the “Fire Wave, White Domes, and 7 Wonders Loop” which I discuss more below.
Visit a Slot Canyon
There are several slot canyons throughout the park. The most popular ones to visit are on the White Domes Trail or on the Mouse’s Tank Trail. The Mouse’s Tank Trail is shorter and relatively easier than the White Domes Trail. I discuss both the Mouse’s Tank Trail and White Domes Trail above.
Visit the Beehives
The Beehives are located on the western side of the park and are near to the group area in the park. There is a parking lot, informational panels, and trails from the Beehives Day-Use Area. The rocks here are in an interesting shape that appears to look like ginormous orange beehives.
See Elephant’s Nose
The Elephant’s Nose is a rock formation located on the eastern side of the park. If driving into the park from the east, you will see it as you enter the entrance station. If arriving from the west, you will need to drive the main road across to the other side of the park to see it. There is a parking lot and picnic tables in the area so you can explore and see the rock formation for yourself. The trail to the rock is 0.2 miles roundtrip.
Hike the Fire Wave, White Domes, and 7 Wonders Loop
If you enjoy hiking and are physically able, the “Fire Wave, White Domes, and 7 Wonders Loop” trail is a great trail that showcases a lot of what the Valley of Fire State Park has to offer. The trail is 3.2 miles and covers several of the really neat places to see in the park. The trail goes through the Fire Wave area, the White Domes area, and the 7 Wonders area, which has pink slot canyons.
I would recommend this hike if you are able and wanting to see the unique features that the park has to offer, all in one hike. I didn’t get to try this trail unfortunately due to our time constraints, but I would love to go back and try it sometime.
Tips for Visiting Valley of Fire State Park
Arrive early (and spend the whole day)
If you’ve read any of my other posts, I am a big proponent of getting to outdoor locations earlier in the day to avoid the crowds. Morning and evening light on the rocks is the best for all of the colors, so arriving early has additional perks here. There are so many things to do in the park, so especially if you are only staying for one day, I recommend arriving in the morning and spending the whole day at the park.
Bring water and food for a picnic lunch
There are limited facilities at Valley of Fire State Park and no towns or eateries nearby. I recommend bringing more water than you think you need. Also, if you’re staying for the day, bring any food you anticipate needing. Some of the viewpoints and trail destinations are great for having a picnic and enjoying the beautiful rocks.
Stay cool and wear sun protection
Valley of Fire can get really hot in the summer, especially around mid-day and early afternoon. Many of the hikes do not have shaded areas and you will be baking in the sun for most of the hike. Wear appropriate clothing, use sunscreen, and bring water (even if it is a short hike).
Overall, this is my guide on Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada. It is an incredible park and I hope you are able to visit.
Please let me know if you have any comments or questions below!
Thanks for reading!