Valley of Fire State Park: The Complete Guide

Empty paved road in Valley of Fire state park with dramatic rock cliffs in the distance
DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images
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Valley of Fire State Park

Address
29450 Valley of Fire Hwy, Overton, NV 89040, USA
Phone +1 702-397-2088

The Valley of Fire, Nevada's first state park, was formed by erosion and faulting, resulting in the wild Aztec sandstone formations you see today. Iron oxide, combined with silica and manganese, shaped the formations, giving the park a fiery look at sunset. According to scientists, humans first occupied the area 11,000 years ago, and evidence of thousands of years of humanity, like the Basketmaker culture's petroglyphs, can be found etched into the black coating on the rocks. The Anasazi tribe (the Pueblo people’s ancestors) used the valley as a spiritual center, followed by the Paiute. Early Mormon settlers began farming and ranching the nearby Moapa Valley in 1865. In the 1920s, the original Valley of Fire tract (about 8,500 acres of federal public land) was given to the state of Nevada and it became Nevada’s first state park in 1934.

You can visit the 40,000-acre Valley of Fire State Park on a day trip from Las Vegas—it takes just over an hour to reach the park from the Strip. The park offers a great variety of hikes that allow you to take in its natural wonders, like petrified trees, winding slot canyons, and formations, like Elephant Rock and the Beehives, which closely resemble their namesakes.

Things to Do

The Valley of Fire State Park is a hiker's paradise, and you'll want to tackle as many trails as you can since they all offer something different and stunning. Climb the metal staircase to Atlatl Rock, a giant boulder perched precariously over sandstone, to see the petroglyphs on its east face. These petroglyphs include a depiction of an atlatl—an ancient spear-launching device.

If you're not up to exploring on your own, you can also take a free guided tour with park rangers, or travel in style with Adventure Photo Tours. This outfitter will pick you up at your hotel on the Strip in the morning, take you on a tour of petroglyphs and rock formations, and then return you to Vegas in the afternoon. This same tour also visits the Lost City Museum, which was built in 1935 to exhibit artifacts recovered from prehistoric archaeological sites that were flooded when the Colorado River was dammed to form Lake Mead.

Of course, there are plenty of options for those who want to see the state’s most colorful park from the comfort of their own car. Traveling northeast from Las Vegas on I-15, take the Valley of Fire exit (Exit 75) and drive right through the park on the Valley of Fire State Park Scenic Byway. Along this route, you pass geologic wonders, like Piano Rock and Rainbow Vista.

Best Hikes & Trails

Hiking in the desert, specifically in the Valley of Fire State Park, may make you feel like you're on the moon. The trails traverse smooth slickrock and sometimes the only navigation devices you have are ranger-placed rock cairns. Start out early to see the sights and pack along water and sunscreen, as the desert environment can be brutal on a summer afternoon.

  • Fire Wave Trail: This easy 1.5-mile trail starts in the sand and follows small stone cairns along slickrock formations to the base of Fire Wave Rock. This hike can get crowded and very hot, so go early and bring plenty of water.
  • Petroglyph Canyon via Mouse's Tank Trail: This easy hike is just under a mile long and famous for its petroglyphs. The trail takes you through a narrow box canyon filled with petroglyphs created by the Basketmaker people. You’ll discover rock formations, like Elephant Rock and the Beehives, and a left-hand spur trail will bring you to Mouse's Tank, a smooth sandstone ledge that looks into a pool of water.
  • White Domes: This 1.1-mile heavily-trafficked loop includes a slot canyon and beautifully colored rocks, complete with small caves and windows. Hike it after a rain to see a spectacular show of wildflowers.
  • Top Of The World Arch Trail: An expert-only jaunt, this 4.4-mile trail requires serious orienteering skills or a GPS. The backcountry trail follows unmarked footpaths and rock traverses into the pristine wilderness. It's a good hike to embark on if you want to get away from people, take in sweeping views, and see wildlife like bighorn sheep. Download a map and reference it often.

Where to Camp

Two campgrounds in Valley of Fire State Park offer a combined total of 72 sites, including some that are suitable for RVs with power and water hookups. All sites have a shaded picnic table, a grill, and water access, and restrooms and showers are available on-site. There are three group campsites, each with an occupancy of up to 45 people. Most sites are offered on a first-come, first-served basis, except for the group sites, which are reservation only. Whatever site you choose, get there early and be prepared to camp around a lot of people.

Where to Stay Nearby

There are very few amenities or lodging options near the Valley of Fire State Park, or in Overton, Nevada, which has one hotel. Other options include nearby Mesquite and Henderson, both about an hour away, and, you can always stay at your favorite casino on the Las Vegas Strip (also an hour away) and make the day trip to the park.

  • North Shore Inn at Lake Mead: The closest hotel to the Valley of Fire (approximately 9 miles away), North Shore Inn Lake Mead is located in the middle of the desert. The Overton hotel features king and double queen rooms and an outdoor swimming pool. The parking lot here can accommodate RVs or trailered boats for those who are exploring the surrounding area of Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam.
  • CasaBlanca Resort: Located half an hour away in Mesquite, Nevada, the CasaBlanca Resort offers much more than just a bed to sleep on. Here, you can enjoy a round of golf, relax with affordable spa services, or dine at one of their three on-site restaurants. Golf packages are available, including a "Build your Own Golf" getaway where you customize your vacation by choosing from 11 local courses.
  • Hilton Lake Las Vegas Resort & Spa: This Mediterranean desert oasis is located in Henderson, Nevada, approximately an hour from the Valley of Fire State Park. Enjoy its on-site restaurant, outdoor pool, and spa after a day of hiking in the park or visiting the neighboring MonteLago, a Tuscan-inspired village on Lake Las Vegas, complete with a marina, shops, and water sports.

How to Get There

The easiest way to get to Valley of Fire from Las Vegas is to travel north on I-15 and enter the park from the west. You can also drive through Lake Mead National Recreation Area to enter from the east side (although this adds 30 minutes onto your trip, plus an entrance fee). If you don’t have a car, book a tour company that will pick you up from your hotel on the Strip.

The nearest international airport, McCarran International Airport, is located in Las Vegas and provides service from almost every major airline. You can rent a car at the airport and drive to the park or one of the neighboring towns with lodging options.

You can also access the Valley of Fire State Park by taking a five-plus hour road trip from Salt Lake City via I-15 South through Saint George, Utah, and Mesquite, Nevada.

Accessibility

The accessible resources available at Valley of Fire State Park include an ADA-compliant campground and a short sand-lined path to Mouse's Tank that can be navigated by those in a wheelchair. For additional support or accommodations, please contact Nevada State Parks at (775) 684-2770.

Tips for Your Visit

  • The best time to visit Valley of Fire State Park is between October and April when the temperatures are cool. Summer can get dangerously hot, with temperatures reaching up to 120 degrees F.
  • If you choose to enter through the scenic east entrance, you can get in for free with your America the Beautiful park pass. It's well worth the investment if you love visiting the National Parks and Federal Recreational Sites around the country.
  • While the park only operates two campgrounds, all inside the west entrance, free camping can be found on Bureau of Land Management sites outside of the park (first come, first served).
  • Valley of Fire is dog-friendly as long as you keep your dog on a 6-foot leash.
  • The park's hiking trail map will give you a headstart before you head out on the trails. 
  • There are no food concessions in the park, so plan wisely. For lunch, try La Fonda Mexican Restaurant in Overton, located right before the turn-off to the west entrance into Valley of Fire.
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Valley of Fire State Park: The Complete Guide