Elephant Rock, Valley of Fire

Trade the Vegas Hustle for Nature’s Beauty: Valley of Fire in a Day

Introduction: The Allure of Valley of Fire

While in Vegas, this magnificent park should be a stop on anyone’s list of things to do, especially if you love nature. In stark contrast to the neon lights of the city, this natural beauty offers a peaceful escape. Here, you’ll find ancient petroglyphs, fiery red rock formations, and limestone mountains.  Valley of Fire boasts all the marvelous beauty of a National Park without the high entry fees. Whether you want to just drive though and observe or get out an hike, there is something for everyone here. In all honesty, I enjoyed my time in the park a lot more than my time on the strip. 

Scenic Loop image

A Brief History of Valley of Fire

Valley of Fire is named for its vibrant fiery sandstone formations. Long before it was a state park, it was home to Ancestral Puebloans who left behind remnants of their rich history and beliefs in ancient petroglyphs that can be seen throughout the land. The park’s geology marks the testament of time, as the landscape was formed over 150 million years ago. Over time, the elements have carved this diverse area, leaving arches, intricate canyons, and unique formations. The park is the oldest in Nevada, with over 40,000 acres of vibrant red sandstone, nestled in the Mojave Desert.
Scenic Loop Valley of Fire

Reaching Valley of Fire State Park

When I visited, I rented a car for the day, which was perfect. It’s a short 45-minute to an hour drive to the park. Most of the drive is on the interstate, which makes for a quick journey. Do not take an Uber or Lyft, as you’re unlikely to get a ride back after your day trip. If you don’t want to rent a car, there are tour options you can book from Vegas as well.

When to Visit

Average Temperatures by MonthThe best time to visit is in the spring or fall. I’ve attracted an average temperature guide for reference to the right. Avoid the summer if possible due to the excessive heat in the desert; some trails close because of the heat. I visited in February and combined it with Rock N’ Roll Vegas, and it was a perfect time for hiking. Note that when I went in February, a few of the lower parts of the trails had water that was too deep to walk through. There were also a few scattered showers and chilly winds at times during my day trip, but very manageable. 

Water on Trail past the fire wave
Valley of Fire, Stacked Rocks

Entry Fees

Cost to enter is $10 per vehicle with Nevada plates and $15 without Nevada plates. The fee includes a park map with suggested sites to see.

If you plan to camp be sure the make a reservation in advance. Camping cost is:  $20.00 per vehicle, per night (Non-Nevada Vehicles: $25.00 per vehicle, per night) + $10.00 for sites with utility hook ups

Arch on Trail

How much time should you plan?

It’s easy to spend a whole day inside the park discovering its wonders. If you’re traveling with family and want to see the park by road, it will take less time than if you plan to do a lot of hiking. The roads are paved, and you can see much of the park’s beauty just by driving through. Plan at least a couple of hours to take in the sights. If you’re planning to hike, like I did, plan for the whole day or pick and choose the trails you want to see. Aim to leave Vegas as early as possible for the best experience and to maximize your day. I didn’t regret spending the whole day here as there is so much beauty to take in. 

Must-Visit Spots in Valley of Fire

The Beehives

Located just after entering the park from the West entrance coming from Las Vegas, they can easily be seen a few steps from your car. The view is well worth the stop.


Atlatl Rock

Atlatl Rock is located on the scenic loop. Once you reach the parking lot, there’s a climb up some stairs to see some of the park’s most famous petroglyphs. This site offers a glimpse into the world of the Ancestral Puebloans.

Arch Rock

Arch Rock is not far from Atlatl Rock on the scenic loop. While there are several arches that are visible while on the trails, this one is easily visible a few steps from your car.

Visitors Center

After finishing the scenic loop, head over to the visitor center located on Mouse Tank Road. It offers educational resources about the park as well as a small gift shop. It’s open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. and closed on state holidays.

Atlatl Rock

Mouse’s Tank

If you’re on a day trip, this is a relatively easy hike that’s less than a mile out and back. It’s not paved. Here, you walk through a canyon to a natural basin that collects water when it rains. You can also find more evidence of the Ancestral Puebloans here. You pass the parking lot to this trail on the way in and out, so if you’re short on time, you can easily pass it and stop on the way back if time allows. I enjoyed the sites from this trail, the below pictures are from here. 

Rainbow Vista

This offers a stunning view of the Valley of Fire. It’s approximately a mile out and back and is an easy hike. You’ll not only get a panoramic view of the valley but also see the rainbow of colors in the rocks. If short on time or not wanting to hike, it’s still worthwhile to take in the view from the parking lot.

White Domes

The route I chose took me all the way to the end of Mouse Tank Road to the White Domes. There are picnic tables here where you can eat your lunch. To hike the loop, plan for 1.5-2 hours. It’s a moderate hike with a bit of boulder climbing. The loop is beautiful, and you get to walk through the Slot Canyon. I took the clockwise route starting at the parking lot, which was easier than if I had gone counterclockwise. This was one of my favorite hikes in the park. 

hiking slot canyon valley of fire

The Fire Wave and 7 Wonders

You pass the parking lot to this both on the way in and out of Mouse Tank Road. I chose to do it on the way back out. You can choose to just do the Fire Wave or the whole 7 Wonders Loop. The views of the Fire Wave were spectacular. The trail is moderate, and you should plan for 1-2 hours if doing the whole loop.

valley of fire

From the parking lot, I recommend starting at the Fire Wave, as it’s the most impressive part of the hike and should not be missed if you’re short on time. Parts of the trail past the Fire Wave were flooded in February when I visited, making it tricky to exit the canyon. Be mindful of this. If I were to do it again, I would stop at the end of The Fire Wave trail.

Elephant Rock

I wanted to ensure I saw Elephant Rock. As the day was coming to a close, I finished my trip with a stop here. Located on the East entrance side, it’s a quick hike out and back to the formation. I’m glad I made the hike.

Elephant Rock, Valley of Fire

Top Stops in a Hurry

  1. The Beehives
  2. The Fire Wave
  3. Drive Mouse Tank Road
  4. White Domes
  5. Elephant Rock
hiking at Valley of Fire

Tips for a Perfect Trip

  • Stay Hydrated- Even in cooler temperatures, it’s easy to get dehydrated in the desert. Bring plenty of water and drink often.
  • Bring a Lunch- If planning a day trip or even a half a day, be sure to bring food with you. There are no restaurants in the park.
  • Dress Appropriately- I recommend bringing layers, as temperatures can vary drastically. Hiking shoes are essential if you plan to hit the trails. Lightweight, breathable material will help with temperature control.
  • Sun Protection- A hat and sunscreen is recommended.
  • Leave No Trace- Stay on the trails, respect the petroglyphs and formations

Concluding Thoughts: A Day Well Spent

Trading in the neon lights for the natural beauty of Valley of Fire is a choice you won’t regret. It was honestly my favorite part of my trip to Las Vegas. If you love nature, want to explore the wonders of the Mojave Desert, and desire a spectacular day away from the hustle and bustle of the Strip, head out to Valley of Fire.

Please note that this is the route I took coming from the West. This is the way most will becoming from if day-tripping from Las Vegas to Valley of Fire. You can see the sights in any order you wish. Hopefully, this will assist you on your next adventure, and you’ll be as captivated by this beautiful place as I was.