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The Perfect Day Trip to Valley of Fire State Park

A taste of otherworldly scenery in Nevada!

Valley of Fire State Park viewed through an arch

Valley of Fire State Park is a geological wonder in Nevada that makes a perfect day trip from Las Vegas. It also makes for an easy stop on the way to Utah’s big name parks if you happen to fly into Vegas for your National Park road trip. However you fit it into your itinerary, Valley of Fire is an astounding place and well worth the visit! Here’s how to make the most out of a day trip to the Valley of Fire.

#1 - Drive the whole length of the park

There are two entrances to Valley of Fire, the east entrance and the west entrance. Even if you’re planning on turning around after your trip and going back the same way you came, I highly recommend driving the entire route. The scenery is otherworldly for the whole length of the park. You’ll feel like you’re on Mars. You’ll wonder how this all formed in the first place. You’ll get to the visitors’ center and read the infographics and realize that the geologists are just as confused as you are.

red rocks in Valley of Fire State Park

#2 - The Visitors’ Center

You don’t need to spend much time here, but I do recommend stopping here on your way to the hiking trails. You can read the fun signs about how confused the geologists are about this area, use the clean bathrooms, and pick up a park map. The park map is essential here, because it’s very likely that you won’t have cell service inside the park grounds.

#3 - Drive Mouse’s Tank Road

From the Visitor’s Center, you’ll turn onto Mouse’s Tank Road for the drive out to the park’s best hikes. Mouse’s Tank Road is the one you’ve likely seen photographs of. The scenery is INSANE. You’re going to want to pull off to the side to take photos, but make sure you obey the signage that tells you which areas you’re not allowed to stop in. This is to keep the park from getting congested and to keep you safe. Admire the scenery, but be smart about it!

If you have the time, feel free to stop off at the Rainbow Vista Trail or the Mouse’s Tank Trail. Both of these trailheads have parking directly in front of them. I did not hike these trails on my visit, because I was short on time, but I’ve heard good things about both!

the fire wave in Valley of Fire State Park

#4 - The Fire Wave Hike

The Fire Wave is probably the most famous feature in the park, but it was only added to park literature recently. Some trail maps won’t have this place on them, but it’s quite easy to find from the second-to-last parking area on Mouse’s Tank Road. Park here and then follow the crowds!

The Fire Wave itself is a massive area of banded sandstone that looks like a river of fire. This is where you leave the trail and just go exploring. The wave looks different from every angle, so wander all over it and admire all the forms it takes!

If you’ve got a time limit, you can return to the parking lot the same way you came down. If you’ve got all the time in the world, you can follow the trail past the Fire Wave and I’ll loop back up to the far side of the lot.

#5 - The White Domes Loop

If you only have time for one trail in the Valley of Fire, make it this one! This trail was my favorite hike in the park, hands down. This loop trail takes you past every kind of rock formation the park has to offer: the ubiquitous red rocks, the white stone mentioned in the trail name, and even a slot canyon! Plus, this trail also houses the remains of an old movie set! Overall it’s the perfect loop to see the best of the park, and if you don’t feel like you’re in an episode of Star Trek, you’re probably doing it wrong.

Valley of Fire State Park Hiking Tips

Start your hikes as early in the day as you can. It gets hot in Valley of Fire, and the earlier you start the more comfortable your hike will be. Plus, early arrival means you won’t have to fight as hard for parking at the trailheads. The parking lots get congested pretty quickly so bring your patience no matter when you start your day.

Bring more water than you think you need. It’s the desert. It’s very hot and dry and your body’s going to need the assist.

Your cell phone probably won’t work in the park. Bring a good map (you can pick one up from the visitors’ center!), and have a plan to signal for help if you get stuck somewhere. A whistle will do the trick!

All in all, Valley of Fire State Park is a one-of-a-kind natural wonder and it’s absolutely worth taking the time to explore. Enjoy!

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