17 Best Things to Do in Valley of Fire in One Day

Wondering what are the best things to do in Valley of Fire? You’ve come to the right place to find out!

The Valley of Fire State Park is the oldest of its kind in the state of Nevada. It’s characterized by its rugged Aztec sandstone formations, pink slot canyons, and craggy mountain vistas.

This blog post will tell you exactly what to do at Valley of Fire to make the most of this beautiful state park during your day out.

The following guide is packed with scenic spots, easy hiking trails, and ancient relics that will inspire you to make this your number one day trip destination during your adventurous Las Vegas itinerary.

Let’s get started with the best 17 things to do in Valley of Fire State Park!

*Disclosure: This post contains a few affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through my link.*

Are you planning a last-minute trip to Valley of Fire State Park?

If your trip is coming up soon and you still haven’t booked anything, we have you covered! Below you can find our top picks when it comes to hotels, tours, getting around, and more.

Best Tours to Valley of Fire State Park

Best Places to Stay close to Valley of Fire State Park

Best Things to do in Valley of Fire in One Day

1. Photograph Mouse’s Tank Road at sunrise

Even just driving along Mouse’s Tank Road will demonstrate the sheer beauty of the sandstone landscape. 

There is a specific viewpoint on Mouse’s Tank Road that offers an incredible bird’s eye view of the cliffs, canyons, and formations on either side of the road. It’s definitely one of the best Valley of Fire photography spots, if not the best at all!

The viewpoint is marked by a huge boulder on the roadside – you can park just by the boulder or at the Rainbow Vista parking lot and then walk 3 minutes south to find it.

I specifically recommend that you time visiting this viewpoint at sunrise as this way you will get the softest lighting and have less traffic to contend with. Safety first!

Even though it requires an early start, photographing Mouse’s Tank Road is one of the most memorable things to do at Valley of Fire State Park.

2. Hike to the Fire Wave

There are a handful of easy hikes in the Valley of Fire but if you have only time for one, the Fire Wave Hike is the one to tackle.

This is a 1.5 mile (2.4 km) out and back trail that takes you down into a basin within the valley and culminates at a sandstone monument marked with waves that look like flames.

Along the way, you’ll see a few other interesting-looking rocks such as the Gibraltar Rock. It’s actually possible to climb up onto the Fire Wave and soak up a stunning panoramic view of this part of the park. 

Due to the location of the Fire Wave, it is necessary to complete the hike in order to see it – you cannot drive up to it or catch sight of it from the road.

As the hike only takes one hour and the fiery rock captures the whole essence of the park, completing this hike on a day trip to Valley of Fire from Las Vegas is a must!

3. Explore the Pastel (Pink) Canyon

The Pastel (Pink) Canyon is composed of rose-colored sandstone rocks that form a slot canyon – a narrow passage with sheer cliffs on either side. As with the Fire Wave, the canyon has turned out this way due to erosion from the elements and the uplifting of sand. 

If you want to see the Pastel (Pink) Canyon then you will need to complete the Seven Wonders Loop Hike. This is an unofficial trail that branches off from the previous hike once you’ve reached the Fire Wave.

As an extension to the Fire Wave Hike, getting to the Pastel (Pink) Canyon is only a further 1.1 miles (1.7 km). So, you can see both landmarks in around 90 minutes.

4. Complete the White Domes Loop

The White Domes Loop is another short hike of only 1 mile (1.6 km) that you can squeeze into your day alongside the previous hike. The trail encompasses desert landscape, craggy rock formations, a slot canyon, and all the colors you could possibly imagine!

It’s no wonder that this stunning patch of land attracted the attention of scouts as a filming location for the 1960s Western film, The Professionals. Seeing the landscape is one of the best things to do in Valley of Fire State Park for movie buffs and photographers.

It’s actually possible to access this hike as an extension of the Fire Wave and Seven Wonders Loop all in one swoop. Check out my guide to the easy hikes in the Valley of Fire to see how the trails link up and to consult my hiking tips.

Filming location at the White Domes Trail in Valley of Fire State Park
Epic landscape view during the Seven Wonders Loop Hike in Valley of Fire State Park

5. Stop at the Fire Canyon/Silica Dome viewpoint

The Fire Canyon/Silica Dome viewpoint is situated on Silica Dome – a minor peak – with the Fire Canyon down below. Access is via a few minutes’ walk from the Fire Canyon/Silica Dome viewpoint parking lot on Fire Canyon Road. 

You will notice the stark contrast of the white silica (the major constituent of sand) with the scarlet of the Fire Canyon. Looking out beyond the viewpoint – the scenery is spectacular, with 360-degree views across the eastern half of the park with views of Lake Mead in the distance if you’re lucky.

With minimal walking required, the Fire Canyon/Silica Dome viewpoint is one of the best Valley of Fire things to do for those short on time or who prefer not to hike.

Girl in yellow dress at the Fire Canyon Silica Dome viewpoint

6. Hike to Rainbow Vista

Rainbow Vista is one of the more strenuous hikes to add to your Valley of Fire itinerary. You can park at the Rainbow Vista parking lot on Mouse’s Tank Road and then follow the marked trail to see rocks of all the colors of the rainbow. 

The out and back trail itself is only 1-mile (1.6 km) but it’s strewn with striped colored boulders of all colors. To get the best views and photos, you can climb up these – hence this route requires a touch more effort.

7. Find the petroglyphs and Mouse’s Tank on the Petroglyph Canyon Trail

Also known as Mouse’s Tank Trail, the Petroglyph Canyon Trail takes you to some of the oldest parts of Nevada’s oldest state park.

You will see the remnants of ancient rock carvings that date back to over 3,000 years and depict figures of humans and animals as well as cultural symbols.

At the culmination of the trail you will find a tinaja – a small basin – called the Mouse’s Tank. This is often filled with rainwater that lasts out the dry spells in the park. If you are lucky, you might find it full of water during your Valley of Fire day trip from Las Vegas!

Mouse’s Tank was named for a renegade Southern Paiute Indian called Mouse who hid out in this part of the park during the 1890s.

This easy hike is only 0.7 miles (1.1 km) and can be completed in 30 minutes.

Petroglyph Canyon Trail in Valley of Fire State Park

8. Marvel at the Balanced Rock

The Balanced Rock is a remarkable boulder that hangs precariously over the desert right outside the visitor’s center.  

As it only takes 10 minutes to walk there from the parking lot, getting a closer look is one of the things to do at Valley of Fire that requires minimal effort. Especially that it’s located right by the Visitors’ Center, where you can learn more about the history of the park.

Balancing Rock, one of the easiest hikes in Valley of Fire State Park

9. Take a break at the Seven Sisters

The Seven Sisters are seven vibrant red boulders that rise from the sandy desert in the place of a former monument. Erosion continues to chip away at what remains which means that if you revisit the park in a few years’ time, you might see something completely different.

These formations are located a short walk from the Seven Sisters parking lot on the Valley of Fire Highway. There is a sheltered picnic area right next to them so this is the perfect moment to tuck into lunch on your Valley of Fire day trip.

Seven Sisters in the Valley of Fire State Park

10. Find the Elephant Rock

You can probably guess what gentle giant this rock resembles! It only takes 15 minutes to walk from the Elephant Rock parking lot to the rock which is great fun to photograph.

Furthermore, the formation is located at the summit of a small hill that offers marvelous views. Finding Elephant Rock is one of the best things to do in Valley of Fire State Park at sunset!

Elephant Rock in Valley of Fire State Park

11. Drive around Campground Road

Campground Road is a loop located at the western end of the park. This is where you will find both of the campgrounds and a number of scenic viewpoints, rock formations, and short hikes. I’ll share further information about each of these in a moment.

Even if you do not have time to visit all of the following things to do in Valley of Fire on Campground Road, do factor in time to complete a quick lap along the road.

View from the top of Atlatl Rock in Valley of Fire State Park
View of the Campground Road from Atlatl Rock

12. Climb up to Atlatl Rock

As the oldest state park in Nevada, you are fortunate to steal a peek into the cultural history of the region via the ancient petroglyphs.

Atlatl Rock is the best place to see these as the carvings here are the best preserved. Etched into the rock you will be able to find representations of people, animals, and cultural icons. Atlatl Rock was called for an atlatl, a stick used while hunting. 

The mighty rock is rigged with a sturdy metal staircase so you can clamber up all the way to the top without worrying about damaging the history. It only takes 10 minutes to walk up to the base of the boulder from the Atlatl Rock parking lot on Campground Road.

It’s basically an ancient form of graffiti so seeing the Atlatl Rock petroglyphs is one of the coolest things to do at Valley of Fire State Park.

13. Check out Arch Rock

Arch Rock is a small yet beautiful archway of red sandstone that was created as a result of strong winds and rains that have lashed the Mojave Desert for millennia. As the archway is delicate (eventually it will cease to exist!) you are not permitted to climb on it. 

The drive time from the Atlatl Rock parking lot to Arch Rock is literally a minute and it’s right by the roadside so you should manage to squeeze both of these in.

Arch Rock in Valley of Fire State Park

14. Explore the Fire Caves

What to do in Valley of Fire when you need a break from the relentless sun? Pay a visit to the Fire Caves!

The Fire Caves comprise a system of orange and red sandstone. Located near the western meeting point of Campground Road and the Valley of Fire Highway, the Fire Caves are the westernmost attraction within the park.

It’s often forgotten from day-long itineraries and if you’re lucky you might not have to share the cave with many other sightseers. 

Fire Caves in the Valley of Fire State Park

15. Photograph the Beehives

The Beehives really do resemble giant honeycombs! The is a cluster of amber-colored mounds that were rendered by natural erosion. For the geology fanatics out there, the Beehives are a manifestation of cross-bedding.

They look particularly special in the morning light or in the run-up to sunset when the golden hour brings out the russet and apricot tones. 

As with the other things to do in Valley of Fire State Park off Campground Road, the Beehives demand little effort. They’re a mere 10-minute walk from the Beehives parking lot just off the Valley of Fire Highway. 

16. Find the Petrified Logs

The Valley of Fire is home to a patch of petrified forestry that dates back to over 225 million years.

The petrified wood has become fossilized as such natural elements as sunshine, rain, water, and wind have gradually been replaced by minerals. If you love your history, then you should also prioritize seeing the petrified logs alongside the petroglyphs.

Situated in the west of the park close to the last couple of things to do in Valley of Fire, the Petrified Logs Loop is a short trail that takes you up close with the timber trunks. 

Keep a lookout for the signage that provides a comprehensive insight into this natural phenomenon. Note that you cannot get too close to the petrified stumps due to fences that have been erected to preserve the forest.

Access to the Petrified Logs Loop is via an unmarked dead-end lane opposite Campground Road. It’s an out and back trail of 0.3 miles (0.5 km) that only takes around 10 minutes to complete. 

While the petrified logs aren’t quite as spectacular as other points of interest within the park, they are worth seeing as a comparison to the other features within the park.

Petrified Log in the Valley of Fire State Park
Petrified Log in the Valley of Fire State Park

17. Watch for wildlife

The final item on this list is actually a general recommendation to keep in mind throughout your day trip to Valley of Fire from Las Vegas.

As you navigate your way around the park and check out the highlights, keep your eyes peeled for local wildlife species that call the state park home!

Snakes, lizards, coyotes, bobcats, badgers, foxes, jackrabbits, skunks, and antelope ground squirrels are resident across the state park – as well as the Desert Bighorn Sheep (Nevada’s state animal!).

Desert tortoises also dwell in the Valley of Fire but they burrow underground and are rarely sighted. 
You are more likely to spot wildlife on the quieter trails with fewer footfalls. 

Bighorn sheep in Valley of Fire State Park
Bighorn sheep spotted in Valley of Fire State Park

Useful Info for Visiting Valley of Fire State Park

How to get to Valley of Fire State Park

If you have your own vehicle or rental, you can drive to the park and plan your independent Valley of Fire day trip. This is ideal as it means you can coordinate the day to suit your own preferences and visit the places that mean the most to you.

The state park is located 55 miles (88 km) west of Las Vegas and it takes 45-60 minutes to drive there. Leave Vegas as early as possible to beat congestion on the Strip and DTLV!

Alternatively, if you do not have your own means of transportation, you can join a tour. These typically fill up a whole day and require an early start.

Here are a few recommendations to consider.

Fire Wave Hike in Valley of Fire State Park
The unique Fire Wave in Valley of Fire State Park

Entrance fee

Access to the Valley of Fire State Park is $10 per vehicle or $15 for non-Nevada vehicles.

It’s important to note that since this is a state park and not a national park, unfortunately, the America the Beautiful Card does not grant you free entrance.

The park has two entrances – the West Entrance and the East Entrance – where you can pay your fee in person. The ticket booth at the entrance is only open between 9 am-4 pm.

If you arrive earlier than 9 am, you will need to do a self-check-in, which means you have to fill out a form and leave it in an envelope along with the cash for the entrance fee.

East entrance station at Valley of Fire State Park
The east entrance station with the self-check-in booth
This is the envelope you have to fill out for a self-check-in

How to get around Valley of Fire State Park

The only way to get around the Valley of Fire is via private vehicle or as part of an organized tour. Once you’ve got your feet on the ground you get around on foot or via bicycle (paved roads only). 

There are 11 official hiking trails dotted around the park which range from an easy 0.1 miles (0.16 km) to a grueling 6.8 miles (10.5 km).

You can consult the official map and download a PDF and read my guide to the easy hikes in the Valley of Fire for more details about the trails, terrain, and other tips.

Sunrise in Valley of Fire State Park at Mouse's Tank Road
Mouse’s Tank Road in Valley of Fire State Park

Where to stay close to Valley of Fire State Park

Staying in Las Vegas

You have several options for where to stay in or around the Valley of Fire. If you are planning on taking a Valley of Fire day trip from Las Vegas then you can go ahead and book a hotel in the city. 

The Strip is the most desirable part of the city as that is where you will find all of the big hotels, shops, nightlife, tourist attractions, and amenities.

If the accommodation on the Strip is too expensive then you can stay in DTLV (Downtown Las Vegas) where properties are more budget-friendly. As a final option, staying east of the Strip will make it easier to start your day trip.

These are my recommendations for where to stay in Las Vegas.

Outdoor canal with gondolas at The Venetian Las Vegas
The beautiful Venetian Resort in Las Vegas

Staying close to Valley of Fire

Alternatively, you can spend the night closer to the Valley of Fire itself. Just a little heads up that accommodations near the park are very limited, so you won’t have many options to choose from.

Camping at Valley of Fire

As a final option, you might want to turn your day trip into an even greater adventure and camp in the park.

There are two campgrounds within the park: Atlatl Rock Campground and Arch Rock Campground. Both are located in the west of the park and are equipped with shaded tables, grills, drinking water, restrooms, a dump station, and showers. 

It costs $20 per vehicle, per night ($25 for non-Nevada vehicles) plus an additional $10 for sites with utility hookups. All campsites are first-come, first-served and the campground fee includes access to the park.

Planning a trip to Nevada?

Then you might want to take a look at all our other travel guides about Nevada. I promise, they are just as awesome as this article was!

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