Valley of Fire State Park, located just 50 miles northeast of Las Vegas in Nevada, is a striking desert landscape of bold red rocks. This guide covers basic information about the park, scenic spots, and hikes in Valley of Fire.
Tens of millions of people may land in Nevada each year to visit Las Vegas, but my recommendation is to hop in the car and drive one hour from the strip. Just a few minutes off the I-15 you’ll find Valley of Fire State Park, one of Nevada’s most distinct landscapes with unique red sandstone formations, pink canyons, and even an undulating rock wave.
Valley of Fire is a relatively small park, but there is a lot to explore whether you have a few hours or a few days. Many of the park’s best panoramic views and interesting geological formations are right off one of the two main roads that run through the park. However, there are also miles of trails if you have time to wander.
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Where is Valley of Fire State Park
Valley of Fire is 50 miles northeast of Las Vegas. It’s an easy day trip from Las Vegas, a great stop if you’re driving from Southern Utah to Southern California, and even worth a trip all on its own.
Weather in Valley of Fire State Park: The Highs and Lows of the Desert
Valley of Fire is in the Mojave Desert, which means it comes with all the weather extremes associated with a desert climate. If you’re in Vegas during the middle of the summer for all the pool parties, you might want to opt for an early morning or evening visit. Summer temps peak over 100°F (38°C) in the summers, while winter lows are in the 30s. The best times to visit are spring and fall when the days are in the 70s and 80s.
Since Valley of Fire is a desert, it doesn’t receive a lot of rain over the year but can get some pretty big storms. Summer is when big thunderstorms usually hit, but we camped overnight in October during a huge thunder and rainstorm. We practically had a river running underneath our tent and the storm washed out some of the road resulting in part of the park being closed down the next day for repairs.
Valley of Fire is open from sunrise to sunset daily, and the entrance fee is $10 per car per day. This is often self-pay with envelopes if no one is staffed at the front gate, so make sure you have the exact amount in cash. If you’re camping, it’s $20. This includes the $10 entrance fee. Make sure you first drive into the campground and get the camping self-pay envelopes.
Valley of Fire has a visitor center (open from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm) with bathrooms, water fountains, gallons of water for sale for $4, a small selection of food and sandwiches, plus a lot of interesting displays with information about the park. We learned all about the flora and fauna, and the animals that call this area home by a quick visit to the visitor center. While hiking around the park, we saw tons of lizards, a baby rattlesnake, and even glimpsed a kit fox darting across the road as we headed back to our campsite after sunset.
Valley of Fire also has 3 campgrounds and a few picnic spots with ramadas, grills, and bathrooms throughout the park.
Cell reception is pretty spotty in Valley of Fire. We didn’t have any service near our campsite but could get a signal up Mouse’s Tank Road near parking lot #3 and the Fire Canyon/Silica Dome Overlook.
What to Bring
You’re in a desert, so bring lots of water and sun gear. As I just mentioned, you can fill up any water bottles at the visitor center. We use these RTIC insulated bottles so our water stays cold. Don’t forget sunglasses, hats, and sunscreen. Most trails are pretty easy so you can use trails runners or tennis shoes – we love the Vans UltraRange shoes since they’re so lightweight and comfortable.
The Highlights – If you only have a few hours in Valley of Fire State Park
We spent the better part of two days and camped overnight in the park, but here’s a quick itinerary if you’re passing through and only have a few hours.
If you enter on the west side of the park (the side closest to Las Vegas), start with the Beehive Rocks (they really do look like beehives), and then enter the Campground Road loop. Just off the road you can stop at Atlatl Rock which is covered with the most well-preserved petroglyphs I’ve ever seen, see the Arch Rock (small, but still cool), and then search around for the Fire Cave if you’re up for some exploring.
Many of the hikes in Valley of Fire are only about a mile or two and pretty easy, so I’d squeeze in at least two if you have the time and it’s not scorching outside. Drive up Mouse’s Tank Road where practically every view could be called scenic, including a shot of the road itself. Some of the best hikes are along this road, including trails to the Fire Wave, the White Domes trail, and the short walk through the Pink Canyon.
If you want more details on these scenic spots and hikes, keep reading below this map of Valley of Fire State Park.
Scenic Spots in Valley of Fire
The beehives are one of the first cool rock formations you’ll see after driving into the west entrance of the park. These formations were created by water and wind erosion on the red sandstone.
While prehistoric people like the Anasazi most likely didn’t live in this dry valley, they visited to hunt bighorn sheep, gather food, and perform religious ceremonies. They left their literal mark with rock carvings, or petroglyphs, which can be found all throughout the park. Some of the best-preserved ones are on Atlatl Rock, where you can climb a tall metal staircase to view these ancient writings. There’s also bathrooms and a picnic area at this stop.
There are a lot of more impressive arches out there (like in Arches National Park), but this small, delicate arch in red sandstone is still cool to see. Over many millennia of wind and rain erosion, the natural arch formed. While the arch will eventually become too heavy for its support and collapse, we can still view it from a distance. No climbing or walking on the arch is allowed, so enjoy with your eyes only.
Mouse’s Tank Road
Mouse’s Tank Road is probably one of the most scenic and photographed spots in the park. We went near sunrise so we could get a shot in the middle of the road without risk of being run over by a car, and of course to catch the golden hour. Drones are not permitted in Nevada state parks, so the best way to get a view of the road from up above is to scramble up on the rocks on the side of the road.
Fire Canyon/Silica Dome Overlook
There’s a small turn off of Mouse’s Tank Road that leads you to the Fire Canyon/Silica Dome Overlook. This view provides a stunning contrast of almost white rock against dark red sandstone.
You could probably name a lot of the large rock formations here after animals if you started getting creative, but elephant rock isn’t too much of a stretch. Park in the lot near the east entrance of the park and take a short trail along the road to see the rock. There is no stopping or parking on the road directly in front of this rock formation.
Hikes in Valley of Fire
Petroglyph Canyon Trail to Mouse’s Tank
This 0.75-mile out-and-back trail goes through a sandy wash where you can spot petroglyphs on the canyon walls. At the end, there’s a natural stone tank that collects fresh water when it rains. This spot got its name after the story of Little Mouse, a Southern Paiute who hid out here in the 1890s after he was accused of shooting two prospectors. The legend goes that he survived so long in the desert thanks to this secret water tank.
Pastel Canyon aka Pink Canyon
Classifying this as a hike is a bit of a stretch since it’s only a 10-minute walk, but this small canyon with pastel pink walls is one of the prettiest spots in the park. There’s a spot for two cars to pull off the road and park that’s right in front of this unmarked trail (GPS coordinates: 36°28’47” N 114°31’36” W, right next to marker 5). After walking through the canyon, scramble up some of the walls to get a view from above.
Fire Wave Trail
Don’t visit Valley of Fire without seeing the Fire Wave. It’s reminiscent of the famous Wave in the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument in Arizona, though not near as intricate or extensive. However, you don’t need a permit to this wave, and it’s still pretty awesome. The white and red stripes in the sandstone almost look like they’re painted on, and all swirling upwards into what looks like a cone of soft-serve.
You can hike the 1.5 miles out-and-back Fire Wave trail that starts in Parking Lot #3 on Mouse’s Tank Road. Or, you can get there via the Pink Canyon. I read that there are ranger-led hikes to the Fire Wave this way, so this path is also park-sanctioned. Simply continue hiking through the Kaolin wash after you emerge from the Pink Canyon. I looked up the Fire Wave on Google Maps before we started the hike so we had a general idea where it was. After a few minutes of hiking through the wash, we climbed out on the north side and could see the Fire Wave from over the other rocks. Just a few more minutes of walking and we were there.
White Domes Trail
White Domes is a 1.1-mile loop trail at the end of Mouse’s Tank Road. This short trail feels like a new landscape upon every turn, taking you through red, white, pink and yellow sandstone formations, and even a slot canyon.
Camping in Valley of Fire
There are three campgrounds in Valley of Fire: Atlatl Rock Campground, Arch Rock Campground, plus a group campground. Both Atlatl Rock and Arch Rock campgrounds are first come, first served, and they do fill up.
Camping costs $20 per vehicle per night, and this includes the $10 park entrance fee. We’ll be sharing more information about camping in Valley of Fire in an upcoming post.
We hope you this guide helps you plan your visit to Nevada’s Valley of Fire State Park. If you have any questions, please drop us a comment below. Explore responsibly and practice leave no trace principles so that we can preserve the natural beauty of this place for all to enjoy.