Stray a little from the twinkling lights and bustling feet of Las Vegas, and you get the equally impressive Valley of Fire State Park.
Situated 50 miles northeast of the city, this park is one of the crown jewels of the Nevada desert.
People usually visit Las Vegas for the parties, music, shows, and all of the casinos of course.
There’s no doubt the city offers something for everyone during the night and day. Plus, even though most people think of Las Vegas as the adult’s playground, kids have no chance of being bored as there are numerous fun attractions for them too.
But sometimes you want a different experience, away from the seemingly never-ending party. The Nevada desert might seem desolate at first, but it’s actually a magnificent place with breathtaking sights that are teeming with life.
Wearing strappy heels and ordering a martini might be in when visiting the city, but that’s definitely out when exploring the red sands of the Valley of Fire.
If this will be your first time trekking around the Nevada desert then here are a few things you should know.
Burning for Adventure? Here’s Why You Should Visit the Valley of Fire State Park
The Nevada desert offers a number of sensational sights, including the Grand Canyon and Death Valley.
Visiting any of those, however, requires a lot of time and planning, while the Valley of Fire State Park is only an hour’s drive from Las Vegas.
Making it the perfect choice if you’re keen on seeing the majestic beauty of the desert sands but only have enough time for a day trip.
Plus, even the drive there (if you take the Valley of Fire road) is stunning.
The region is also full of history – both old and new.
People were present in these parts as far back as 11 000 years ago, and the rocks showcase some of the most well-preserved petroglyphs from the early Basketmaker nomads.
These early settlers carved their art into the rock, scraping away the notorious red sediment layer to reveal the sandstone underneath.
The best places to see these petroglyphs is Petroglyph Canyon (yes, it’s pretty on the nose) and at the top of the staircase on Atlatl Rock.
In more recent history, you’ll find that a number of stars have visited this red-tinged landscape – and I’m not just talking about the ones in the sky.
A number of movies and shows have been shot in the Valley of Fire, Las Vegas including Viva Las Vegas, Star Trek Generations, and Total Recall.
The alien landscape of soft sand and rock outcroppings, all of which are tinged a distinct red makes for a perfect otherworldly background.
Finally, if you’re in the Las Vegas area in the springtime, then it would be almost sinful to skip the Valley of Fire and it’s many colorful desert blooms.
What’s There To Do in the Valley of Fire?
If you’re a nature lover or outdoorsy person then a visit to the Valley of Fire should be a delight, no matter what you decide to do.
Simply driving there and back is an experience all on its own thanks to the incredible vistas the region offers.
Though there are plenty of interesting stops along the way that will probably draw you out of the car.
Even if you decide to just ride through, you should try to stop at Rainbow Vista, which provides a brilliant overlook of the multicolored landscape.
If you’re up for a little more adventure then there’s a lot to see and do too. The area offers scenic spots galore for a family or a romantic picnic, as well as numerous trails to picturesque areas and interesting outcroppings.
Even though it’s great for one-day trips, with plenty of short hiking trails of about 2 miles a piece, the state park also has three camping sites for those looking for the full outdoors experience.
Nothing can truly compare to looking up at a starry sky under the Nevadan desert.
The desert really has a unique atmosphere of its own – it’s easy to understand why some people ascribe mystical qualities to it.
How you enjoy the park will depend greatly on your interests and the amount of time you have.
The rock formations come in many interesting shapes and shades, ranging from yellow and tan to soft pinks and vibrant reds. During dawn and sunset, it really looks like the rocks are on fire!
There’s a lot of unique flora to see here too (especially during spring) with a vibrant array of colors coming from the wildflowers, desert bushes, and cacti.
There is some wildlife as well and you should see plenty of birds, squirrels, lizards, and even some bighorn sheep or Denney Kitfoxes if you’re lucky.
It could be fun to see how many different plants or animals you can spot. The visitor’s center has information about all of the plant and animal species that call the area home.
How much does it cost to get into the Valley of Fire?
The entrance fee for day visitors is $10 per car. The park also charges $20 a night for camping, and an additional $10 if you want a site with utility hookups for your camper or RV.
The Best Times to Visit the Valley of Fire, Nevada
The Valley of Fire State Park resides in a harsh landscape that can reach extreme temperatures of 100 degrees F and more.
The winter temperatures are a bit more moderate so it’s much nicer to visit the park during the winter months.
That said, if you plan on going during the summer, then try to go as early as possible to avoid the worst of the midday heat.
Most of the animals in the desert are nocturnal as well, so a very early morning trip might yield more sights than during the day.
Another thing you should watch out for, weather-wise, is thunderstorms and flash floods. That might seem strange since we’re talking about the desert, but the valley has a lot of canyons that can fill up with fast running water in no time, even if the storm is far away.
So it’s best to check a few weather reports before you decide to head out. You can get more information on the weather as well as a map of the hiking trails on the park’s website.
Make Sure to Come Prepared
This is the desert and even though the stones only look like they’re on fire, the heat will make you believe they are too.
Make sure to wear comfortable shoes and airy clothing, as well as plenty of sunscreen and, maybe, a hat.
There’s almost no shade available here as there aren’t any trees.
You might be lucky enough to find a cooler spot in the shade of a rocky outcropping, depending on the time of day.
There are a few rest stops along the main road, as well as the visitor center in the middle of the park. They all have vending machines and fresh water, but there aren’t any other places to get water.
So it’s important to bring a lot of water along, especially if you plan on taking on a few of the hiking trails.
Getting to the Valley of Fire is pretty easy and it’s just a short drive away if you’re already in or traveling to Las Vegas.
It’s pretty easy to get around the park, just make sure to keep a lookout for the signs indicating the viewpoints and trails – it’s a big place and you don’t want to get lost in the scorching desert!
Cover photo credit: Andrew