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.
With unique rock formations that you cannot see anywhere else on the planet and a network of awesome hikes to take you up close with the landscape, the Valley of Fire is one of the best day trips from Las Vegas for adventurers, photographers, and content creators.
This blog post is going to 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!
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Where is Valley of Fire located?
The Valley of Fire State Park is located in the Mojave Desert, Nevada, north of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. It is 16 miles (25.7 km) south of Overton and 55 miles (88 km) northwest of Las Vegas. The park sits at an elevation between 1,320-3,009 feet (402-917 meters).
With its close proximity to Sin City, taking a day trip to Valley of Fire from Las Vegas is a popular and easily attainable option that’s perfect for all levels of fitness, hiking ability, and age.
How to Get to Valley of Fire State Park
Getting to Valley of Fire independently
If you have your own vehicle or rental, you can elect to drive yourself 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. Follow the Las Vegas Freeway (I-15) and make a right at Crystal onto the Valley of Fire Highway which marks the West Entrance to the park.
This will eventually meet Mouse’s Tank Road (also known as White Domes Road) which is the major thoroughfare within the park.
Leave Vegas as early as possible to beat congestion on the Strip and DTLV!
If you are driving from the east – such as Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam – you can use the East Entrance off Northshore Road (Route 167/169).
Getting to Valley of Fire as part of a tour
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.
Round transport from Vegas is provided and a guide will escort you to the most impressive things to do in Valley of Fire while filling you in on the valley’s history.
If you’re eager to learn as much about the park as possible, make some friends along the way, and avoid expensive car rental fees then joining an organized Valley of Fire day trip from Las Vegas is exactly what you need. Here are a few recommendations to consider.
A popular choice for a reason, this Small-Group Valley of Fire Tour sweeps you through the highlights of the park. Led by a professional guide, you will hear about the park’s geological history and the Native American tribes who called this land home for thousands of years. You also get to spend some time in the park’s excellent visitor center.
Adventure-seekers may prefer to join a Valley of Fire Guided Hiking Tour from Las Vegas. This gives you a choice of easy, moderate, or difficult hike options that vary from 4-6 hours subject to the grade you choose.
Hiking trails range from mild wanders to extreme rock scrambles so you will need to choose carefully. You can consult my guide to the best easy hikes in the Valley of Fire as part of the selection process.
Last but not least – for those who want to combine two of the best day trips from Vegas, you can visit two parks in one swoop! This Valley of Fire and Red Rock Canyon Day Trip starts with the sandstone park before heading west to complete a scenic loop of the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Reserve.
How Much Time to Spend in Valley of Fire
There are so many things to do in Valley of Fire that you can easily spend an entire day there from dawn until dusk.
At a push, you can visit the park as a half-day if you’re visiting Las Vegas in a shorter time frame. At a size of 46,000 acres (19,000 hectares), the park is large but it’s actually fairly compact and you can cover a lot of ground in one day.
In fact, a lot of the viewpoints are located close to the road and require minimal hiking.
If you want to see all of the landmarks within the park and complete a couple of hikes then you might want to consider camping overnight in the Valley of Fire.
As we go through exactly what to do in Valley of Fire, you can decide whether or not to devote an entire day to tick every item off the itinerary. Otherwise, just select the scenic areas and hikes that most appeal to you.
Best Time to Visit Valley of Fire State Park
Valley of Fire State Park is open to the public seven days a week, every day of the year. That includes over the Christmas period and any other public holidays.
Hiking trails to the lookouts and rock formations are open between the hours of sunrise and sunset.
While you can technically visit the park at any time of the year, you will need to consider that the summer months bring high temperatures to the park. If you want to check out the viewpoints and not hike too much then you can visit during summer but you will want to arrive as early as possible or visit later in the afternoon.
If hiking is top of your Valley of Fire things to do list, you are best visiting between October and April when the temperatures are cooler.
Valley of Fire Entrance Fee
Access to the Valley of Fire State Park is $10 per vehicle or $15 for non-Nevada vehicles.
This permits entrance for the full day and allows you to visit all scenic viewpoints, hiking trails, and use the restroom facilities and picnic spots. 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.
If you visit as part of a tour, the admission fee will be included in the tour price.
As this Valley of Fire itinerary starts at sunrise, you will need to do a self-check-in and deposit the fee in cash alongside a form and leave it in an envelope at the entrance.
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.
The park is divided into distinct regions. The most popular scenic spots and hikes are located in the central parts of the park – north of the visitor’s center. However, there are also rock formations and hikes to the west and east, which is why some advance planning for your Valley of Fire day trip is essential.
Mouse’s Tank Road which runs northwards from the center is where you will find the majority of the sights, landmarks, and trailheads. There are parking areas located close to all of the recognized formations and trails.
Where to Stay in 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.
LUXURY – The Venetian Resort Las Vegas
You’ll struggle to find a more luxurious home away from home in Vegas than the resort that recreates the grandeur of Italy. Rooms and suites are beautifully appointed while the amenities include gourmet eating destinations, four pools, and gondola rides. You can read my in-depth review of the Venetian Las Vegas here.
MID-RANGE – Holiday Inn Express Las Vegas South
Breakfast is included in this friendly and centrally-located hotel. The property features a pool that you will appreciate at the end of a full day ticking off the exciting things to do at Valley of Fire.
This budget-friendly hotel features pleasant rooms with private bathrooms and lots of space. Its location is ideal for zipping out of the city bright and early for your day trip to Valley of Fire State Park.
Staying closer 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.
We personally stayed at the North Shore Inn at Lake Mead for 2 nights when visiting Valley of Fire State Park. This is the closest option to the park located in Moapa Valley, you can reach the entrance within 15 minutes from the inn.
Staying somewhere such as the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Mesquite Nevada or Eureka Casino Resort means that you would avoid getting caught in Vegas traffic jams. Both of these resorts are affordably priced and family-friendly with beautiful outdoor swimming pools. However, you can still calculate with an hour of driving time from Mesquite.
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. This means you can start your Valley of Fire itinerary by catching the sunrise as below!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
That concludes my guide to the best things to do in Valley of Fire in one day. It might sound ambitious but you can absolutely tackle all 17 suggestions on this list as a day trip from Vegas!
Now you know what to do at Valley of Fire, you can go ahead and start planning your day out. If you have any other questions about your trip to Nevada’s oldest national park, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can contact me via email, social media, or by leaving a comment below.
Have already taken a Valley of Fire day trip? Let us all know in the comments what you loved the most!
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