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A Complete Guide To Valley Of Fire State Park | Nevada

Jake long boarding down the famous Mouse's Tank Road
Mouse’s Tank Scenic Drive

You are in for a real treat with Valley Of Fire State Park in Nevada. The park got its name from the red Aztec sandstone rocks that look like fire when the sun reflects off them. The park is actually quite large, expanding 46,000 acres. There are tons of easy hikes in the park that are stunning.

Valley Of Fire State Park is full of all kinds of wonders with historic, geologic, and ecologic significance. There’s Native American petroglyphs, petrified wood, diverse fauna, and more.

The cost of entry is $10-15 per vehicle per day, but it’s worth every penny and more. You should plan your trip between fall and spring, because the temperatures in summer can get unbearable.

Valley of Fire State Park is a great area to explore in a day, because of the numerous incredible and accessible hikes around the amazing rock formations. 

Note: We highly suggest downloading the AllTrails App for most of these hikes. The app is free and you can download any map when you have service and it will GPS track you along the trail while you are out of cell phone range.

Getting To Valley Of Fire State Park

Valley Of Fire State Park is located one hour northeast of Las Vegas, Nevada. Which makes it one of the best day trips to take from Vegas.

The main roads in the park are kind of shaped like an upside-down “T”. The Valley Of Fire Highway runs East-West and you can enter the park from either the west entrance (Las Vegas side) or the east entrance (Lake Mead side).

A map of the main roads in Valley Of Fire State Park NV

The visitor center is located at the intersection with White Domes Road, AKA Mouse’s Tank Road (the other main road through the park).

The Day-Use entrance fee for Valley Of Fire is $15.00 per out-of-state vehicle and $10 for NV vehicles. The “Bike-In” fee is $2.00 per bike.

Fire Wave/ Seven Wonders Loop:

Fire Wave Trail is a great hike that’s a can’t-miss adventure in the park.

You can hike out-and-back to the Fire Wave, or you can create a loop trail by combining Pastel Canyon and Seven Wonders Loop. The loop is an amazingly scenic hike that takes you to multiple viewpoints.

Jake and Emily posing on Fire Wave in Valley Of Fire State Park
Fire Wave

And it is one of the most popular hikes in the Valley Of Fire State Park, so you’ll want to be sure to grab a parking spot early. There is also minimal shade, so it can quickly get hot quickly out there. The hike is 1.9 miles with 213 feet of elevation change. 

The trail starts right from the parking lot. You will see a large red rock wall with a sand path leading down in elevation.

Once you make it onto the slickrock where foot traffic is harder to see, follow the cairn posts. This will lead you to the Fire Wave which is a large rock butte with colorful striations (lines) that resembles a wave.

Pastel (Pink) Canyon

view of pastel (pink) canyon in valley of fire state park
Pastel (pink) Canyon

Next, continue left up the dry river wash to the left of the wave. The wash will lead you to Pastel Canyon or Pink Canyon. This winding slot canyon has a beautiful array of colorful striated rocks, predominantly pink. It’s simply one of the coolest spots in the park.

Seven Wonder’s Trail

Emily walking through Seven Wonder's Trail in Valley Of Fire State Park
Seven Wonder’s Trail

To continue on the loop, (don’t hike along the road) cross the road and continue to follow the wash on the other side. You are now onto the Seven Wonder’s Trail.  It’s another slot-like canyon, but now you are surrounded by massive white and red buttes that seem endless.

Landmark for important turn on seven wonders loop trail
Landmark for important turn on seven wonders loop trail

Follow the trail til you see this criss-crossed rock formation.  It almost looks like someone drizzled frosting across the rock.

There is a tight little slot to the right of this rock formation and you need to make this turn to get on the path back to the parking lot. (This is where we suggest following the AllTrails map because this turn-off can be easy to miss). 

But be sure to look around along this trail, because you get a whole array of cool rock formations that are stunning! The trail comes up on the other side of the parking lot where your vehicle is.

White Domes Trail:

View from the top of white domes trail in valley of fire state park showing the rainbow colored rocks
View From Top of White Domes Trail

The next hike on the list is White Domes Trail. This is another loop hike in Valley Of Fire State Park which is 1.1 miles with 173 feet elevation change.  We recommend going clockwise.

This is another trail that blew us away, and is definitely one of the best things to see in the park. 

The name of this hike kind of hides the fact that the trail has one of the coolest slot canyons we have ever been in.  Its walls are about 100 feet tall and only a wingspan wide at the bottom.

Emily as a silhouette in the slot canyon on White Domes Trail in Valley Of Fire State Park
Slot Canyon on White Domes Trail

And besides the slot canyon, there are still other incredible sights along the way. You first follow the path from the parking lot into the crux of two giant white domes, like giant goalposts.  The trail quickly descends down a rocky valley to reveal an awesome view of the white domes.

Shortly after making it down the hill you run into a red and white marbled textured wall.  This is one of the coolest rock walls we have ever seen, so naturally, we stopped for photos.

Jake and Emily sitting along Red and White Marble Wall on White Domes Trail in Valley Of Fire State Park
Red and White Marble Wall on White Domes Trail

Right after that, you will run into a set from a 1965 movie set for “The Professionals”.

The movie set of the 1965 The professionals in Valley Of Fire State Park
Movie Set for “The Professionals”

Valley of Fire State Park has actually been a movie set for a whole array of movies such as Transformers, Star Trek, Total Recall, Austin Powers, Con Air, Casino, etc. 

Continue on the loop trail and you will shortly run into a slot canyon.

Emily walking in slot canyon on white domes trail in valley of fire state park
Emily in Slot Canyon Along White Domes Trail
Jake with his arms up in White Domes slot canyon in valley of fire state park
Jake in Slot Canyon Along White Domes Trail

This is one of the coolest spots along the hike. And while you admire the canyon catch as much shade in here as you can, because the next portion of the hike is very exposed.

This canyon is best seen in the afternoon, when the slot is shaded. At about mid-morning, the sun pours straight into the canyon, taking away some of the mysterious allure. So either come early morning or afternoon.

Just past the slot canyon, turn right and the loop will lead you back to the parking lot. As you make your way uphill look for an arch that looks like an elephant on the righthand side.

Another Elephant Shaped Arch In Valley Of Fire State Park
Another Elephant Shaped Arch In Valley Of Fire State Park

And surprisingly, this isn’t even the best elephant-looking rock in the park (more on that below)

There is also a shaded picnic area at the White Domes Trail parking area.

Rainbow Vista:

Don’t be fooled by the name of this hike. You won’t be hiking through lush rainbows, but it still is rather cool! Rainbow Vista Trail leads to a very colorful rock wall and also to Fire Canyon Overlook.

This easy hike is 1.1 miles with 95 feet elevation change. The trail is through thick sand and leads you through red rock walls to the viewpoint. 

Rainbow colored rocks along Rainbow Vista Trail In Valley Of Fire State Park
Rainbow Vista Trail Loop

Be sure to veer off on the detour to see the rainbow vistas. (This is where having the AllTrails App is helpful, to know where to veer off. We didn’t notice much foot traffic in this area, so we think people often miss it.

And the soft sand probably obscures the path when the wind washes away people’s footprints.

Fire Canyon Overlook:

Viewpoint looking out to Red Canyon Overlook of Stunning Red Rock in Valley Of Fire State Park
Fire Canyon Overlook

If you continue on Rainbow Vista Trail you reach the Fire Canyon Overlook. This area provides a view of a valley that is encompassed by almost entirely red rocks. Hence the name, Fire Canyon.

Scenic Mouse’s Tank Drive:

Two Roaming Souls Driving the scenic Mouse's tank Drive in Valley Of Fire State Park
Mouse’s Tank Scenic Drive

Don’t forget to snag a famous photo on Mouse’s Tank Road! The view down this road is unforgettable!

There are pull offs along the road so you can park and climb onto a rock and snag a photo. If you have a telephoto lens, this is a good time to use it.

And it’s best to do early in the morning or late afternoon when there is less traffic. Be extremely careful if you venture into the road as it can be hard to see if traffic is coming in certain areas.

Mouse’s Tank Trail:

Some beautiful yellow flowers and red rocks along Mouse's Tank Trail.
Mouse’s Tank Trail

This trail in the park is named after Mouse, an outlaw, who used the natural pool as a water source when hiding out from authorities. The trail is 0.7 miles and mostly flat.

In our opinion, the actual “Mouse’s Tank”, is rather underwhelming. It’s kind of just like a dirty puddle wedged in the rocks.

However, this trail has some other notable features that make it a worthwhile endeavor. Mouse’s Tank Trail has some of the best Native American rock carvings in the whole park. There are several places along this short trail with high concentrations of petroglyphs.

Native American Petroglyphs along Mouse's Tank Trail.

And at least when we hiked in May, the wildflowers were bursting with color along this trail.

Silica Dome Trail:

Silica Dome Trail Viewpoint
Summit of Silica Dome Trail Viewpoint

Another short hike with spectacular views! The trail is about 1 mile with 98ft elevation change. However, reaching the top of the dome requires some minor scrambling for the last 50ft.

The views from the top give an awesome 360-panoramic view of the Valley Of Fire.

This hike wouldn’t be my first choice in the park, but nonetheless, very impressive views.

Bighorn Sheep
Bighorn Sheep

And we also saw some bighorn sheep along the trail. But you could potentially see them almost anywhere in the park. They are excellent climbers.

Fire Cave & Windstone Arch:

This is a lesser known spot in the park, but a unique stop along a scenic drive near Arch Rock Campground.

Looking out of the wind caves in valley of fire state park with Emily sitting on a ledge.
Fire Caves View

There are only a few “parking spots”, but you don’t need long for this spot. The cave is only steps from your car, although you can venture around the area, as there are many caves carved out in the red rock mounds.

Jake Looking Out From The Wind Caves In Valley Of Fire State Park
Jake Looking Out From The Fire Caves

It’s like nature’s jungle gym! If you are looking for another beautiful drive throughout the park, continue on this scenic drive. 

Emily in the Wind Cave

And if you enjoy petroglyphs, there is another quick stop along the scenic route to see them.

Elephant Rock:

Emily petting the trunk of the elephant rock in valley of fire state park
Elephant Rock

This hike features one of the most awesome look-alike rock formations. Because who doesn’t love elephants?!

The hike is located right at the East entrance/exit, just a short .3 miles and 52 feet elevation change. The trail is well marked and leads you to a rock that is shaped like an elephant.

The Seven Sisters:

The rock formations at Seven Sisters in Valley Of Fire Nevada.

The Seven Sisters is a row of 7 rock towers towards the East side of the park. It has covered picnic tables and is a great place to enjoy a snack. It’s also one of the wedding locations in the park.

The head-shaped rock at Seven Sisters.

I also discovered one rock formation that looks like a person’s head. See if you can find it while you are there.

Atlatl Rock (Petroglyphs)

Atlatl Rock at Valley Of Fire State Park
Atlatl Rock

This is a famous location of more Native American Petroglyphs within the park. Atlatl is a Native American hunting tool that is used to throw darts or spears with increased velocity.

Native American Petroglyphs on Atlatl Rock.

There are metal stairs that bring visitors up to the petroglyphs that sit about 50ft up on the side of the rock face. Do Not Touch or vandalize the petroglyphs in any way.

Other Notable Attractions In The Park

Balancing Rock at Valley of Fire State Park
Balancing Rock

Prospect Trail – 9.3 miles, 784ft: One of the longest hikes in the park. Find some solitude in the backcountry desert of Valley Of Fire. Don’t attempt in hot weather.

Charlie’s Spring Loop – 6.9 miles, 456ft: Another longer hike in the park. It is not well marked with lots of arduous walking in a sandy wash. Don’t attempt in hot weather.

Arch Rock – A small, underwhelming natural sandstone arch located near Arch Rock Campground.

Beehives – Several dome-like rock formations that look like beehives.

Balancing Rock Trail – A short walk right from the visitor center to a rock balanced atop a spire. You can already see Balancing Rock from the Visitor Center parking lot.

Visitor Center | Valley Of Fire State Park

The Visitor Center in Valley Of Fire State Park.

The Visitor Center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and provides exhibits on the geology, ecology, plus history of the park and the surrounding area.

It’s located at the intersection of the two main roads in the park, Valley of Fire Highway and Mouse’s Tank Road.

It’s a good idea to stop at the visitor center shortly after entering the park. They can provide you the most up-to-date information about conditions, make trail recommendations, and alert you to any hazardous conditions.

They have a gift shop with souvenirs, postcards, books, and other items for sale.

The Visitor Center is also the last place to get water before driving Mouse’s Tank Road, so make sure you bring water with you!

Best Time To Visit Valley Of Fire State Park

The best time to visit Valley of Fire State Park is in the Spring or Fall. The shoulder seasons are when the temperatures are warm but comfortable enough for hiking.

Winter can also be nice too, but it does occasionally get cold here.

Summer visitors can still enjoy the park, but it will likely be VERY HOT. The park even closes some popular trails in the summer months. For example, the famous Fire Wave Trail is closed from June-October.

Luckily, there are plenty of other short hikes and easy viewpoints that can be enjoyed with adequate preparation.

Camping In Valley Of Fire State Park

Camping is only allowed within designated campsites in the park.

A campsite costs $25.00 per vehicle, per night for Non-NV Vehicles ($20.00 for NV vehicles).

It costs an additional $10.00 per night for sites with utility hookups

Tent Camping

There are two campgrounds with a combined total of 72 sites. All campsites are first-come, first-served. A camping limit of 14 days in a 30-day period is enforced.

All campsites have shaded tables, grills, drinking water, and restrooms. A dump station and showers are available.

RV Camping

There are RV sites with power and water hookups available.

Group Campsites

Valley of Fire has three group campsites that can accommodate up to 45 people each (with no minimum person count). These sites are available for overnight camping by reservation only. Group-use reservations are accepted beginning on the first Wednesday of November at 9am for the coming year.

“Reservations can be made Monday-Friday from 9am-4pm by telephone at 702-397-2088. From the main menu, press ‘3’ for group-use information, and then ‘1’ to check availability or make a reservation. The park does not accept reservations by email, fax, US mail, or in person. A reservation fee of $25/site/night must be paid at the time of booking. Camping and day-use fees of $20/vehicle/night for Nevada residents, or $25/vehicle/night for non-Nevada residents, must be paid upon arrival.”

Camping Outside The Park

free campsite in Nevada on the ledge of a canyon wall
Poverty Flats

There are plenty of areas that allow free dispersed camping outside the park. Our favorite dispersed camping area is Poverty Flats, AKA Snowbird Mesa, AKA Salt Mine Rd.

Though there are plenty of other places you can find on apps like iOverlander, Sekr, and Freeroam.

The camping areas nearby are better suited for campervans and RVs because of the potential for high winds, and the lack of shade and privacy. Tent campers may have a less enjoyable experience.

Tips For Visiting Valley Of Fire State Park Nevada

Heat warning, hiking can be hot at Valley Of Fire State Park.
Heat warning, hiking can be hot at Valley Of Fire State Park.

Open Dawn to Dusk

We are huge advocates for experiencing sunrise and sunset in beautiful places. But keep in mind that Valley Of Fire State Park is only open from sunrise to sunset. You can still catch a part of golden hour, but just remember these rules.

This excludes people staying at campgrounds in the park. However, activity is limited to those areas after sunset.

No Water Past The Visitor Center

Be aware that there is no drinking water available anywhere along Mouse’s Tank Road. That means that the Visitor Center is the last place to get drinking water before driving that part of the park.

Prepare For Hot Weather

Valley Of Fire State Park has hot weather for most of the year, and there is very little shade in the park. So visitors should prepare for hiking in hot weather. Bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and clothing to protect from the sun.

Where to Take a Break In The Shade

Since the park is very hot for most of the year, it’s helpful to know the best places to catch some shade. Shaded areas with restrooms are located at Atlatl Rock, Seven Sisters, the Cabins, near Mouse’s Tank Trailhead and White Domes.

Protect and Preserve

Always practice Leave No Trace guidelines when visiting the park. Removing, disturbing or damaging any historic structure, artifact, rock, plant life, fossil or other feature is prohibited. State and federal laws protect this area and its resources.

More Adventurous Day Trips Near Las Vegas

If you are looking for some other fun adventures near Las Vegas, check out these spots.

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

This park just outside Las Vegas is a great outdoorsy destination if you don’t want to drive far from Vegas. It’s famous for beautiful mountains, rock climbing, and great hikes.

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area: Day Trip

Cathedral Gorge State Park

This state park is known for its otherworldly rock formations. Cathedral Gorge State Park is named for the sandy hills that have eroded into cathedral-like spines and towers. It’s about 2.5 hours from Las Vegas.

Cathedral Gorge State Park Guide

4 different photos that represent cathedral gorge state park

Takeaway – A Complete Guide To Valley Of Fire State Park | Nevada:

Valley Of Fire State Park is definitely one of the coolest places in the American Southwest.  We think it has scenery and hikes on par with the more famous National Parks.

Bighorn Sheep grazing in Valley of Fire State Park.
Bighorn Sheep grazing in Valley of Fire State Park.

We recommend that you plan your trip during the cooler months because even when we went in spring, the day got hot and the rocks reflect the sun making it even hotter.

Here’s a link to the park map, to help you navigate the park.

But there are so many beautiful and easy stops in this park. Plus it’s only an hour from Las Vegas, so if you are looking for more fun, venture that way!

We hope you enjoy a great visit to Valley Of Fire State Park.

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Wendy Frisch

Wednesday 27th of May 2020

Really cool! Amazing photos!