This guest post is by Monica Chapon, a California-based desert enthusiast:
No other park I’ve visited has been so aptly named as Valley of Fire State Park.
In the summer, when the air shimmers and sways from the desert heat, the vibrant red rocks dance and glow under the bright sun. They appear to be composed of fire.
I was so impressed by the rugged beauty within the park that I was already planning another visit before I’d even left Nevada. It’s that good.
If you are visiting the Las Vegas, Nevada area, I highly recommend setting aside 24 hours to spend in the Valley of Fire. Luckily, I’ve been there a couple of times now and have all the best spots memorized.
When To Visit
The park is open year round from sunrise to sunset, but there are things to know about visiting in each season.
Summer (June to August): This won’t come as a surprise, but summer months will be the hottest time of year here. Temperatures can exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit. If you visit Valley of Fire State Park in the summer months, plan to start your day early. Most hikes have little shade, however, they are also on the short side. The scenic drive can be enjoyed once the sun is high.
Fall (September to November) & Spring (March to May): Maximum temperatures are much more comfortable in fall and spring, typically hovering in the 80s. These months are much cooler for hiking and exploring, but they can also be the busiest months of the year in terms of visitors.
Winter (December to February): The winter months are an excellent option if you are looking for cooler nights and active days. The only downside is that with winter months come shorter daylight hours, limiting your time on the trails (and in the park). Expect maximum temperatures in the 60s during the winter.
Entrance Fees for Valley of Fire
The entrance fee for Valley of Fire State Park is $10 for Nevada residents and $15 for out-of-state or foreign visitors.
Upon entry, you will pass by a small booth where you can pay your fee.
If you enter the park at sunrise, you will likely arrive before the booths are staffed. In this case, use the self-pay envelopes. You’ll need exact change to place in the self-pay envelope, which has a tear-off ticket to display on your car.
Note that the America the Beautiful pass is not valid here, as this is a Nevada State Park and not part of the National Park System.
What to See in 24 Hours
Valley of Fire sits on over 40,000 acres of land near the Moapa Valley in Nevada. It is just one hour east of Las Vegas, making it an easy day trip from Sin City.
No matter the season, start your day early. In the hotter months, cooler morning temps will be necessary for hiking. In winter months, an early start will give you more daylight hours.
Cell reception in the park is extremely limited. Be sure to pick up a map at the Visitor’s center, or, download the digital park map here. The Visitor’s Center is located near Balancing Rock Trail and is open from 8am to 5pm daily.
I recommend driving the entire park, and picking and choosing several hikes and scenic stops along the way. Valley of Fire offers endless vistas for visitors – from fiery oranges to stark white to purple, the sandstone, limestone and shale scenery is unreal.
Though you could easily spend an entire week exploring the various nooks and crannies, here are some of my favorites that can all be fit into just one day in Valley of Fire State Park.
The Seven Sisters
The Seven Sisters is a roadside photo op featuring seven glowing orange rocks of various sizes. There are picnic tables here, so this is also an excellent place to eat a packed lunch, but personally I was enjoying scrambling on the rocks too much to do anything else.
An iconic orange rock formation near the East entrance, there are two ways to see this elephant.
First, you can use the parking area immediately after the East entrance fee booth. Walk on the right hand side of the road, into the park, for less than two minutes. Just above you will be Elephant Rock.
You can also view Elephant Rock on the short and easy 1.2 mile Elephant Rock Loop hike.
The Visitor Center
The Visitor Center hosts exhibits about the park’s geology throughout the year. Some of the rocks here date back to the time of the dinosaurs, so make it a point to stop by if you want to learn more!
Note that the Visitor Center is the only place to purchase water inside the Valley of Fire. Best to bring your own, but this is useful information in a pinch.
The Visitor Center is also the best place to park in order to walk to Balanced Rock – a small attraction that is worth a quick peek.
Arch Rock is worth a short stop on the Scenic Loop. Similar to other arches you might see in the southwest, this rock formation is fun to photograph.
Enjoy this rock formation from afar, though; climbing up to the arch is not allowed, as the area is extremely fragile.
Arch Rock is located right off of the scenic roadside, near the Western Entrance and Arch Rock Campgrounds.
Atlatl rock on the Scenic Loop Drive is named after the hunting device built by native tribesmen. Here you can walk up a small stairway to view more than 2,000-year-old petroglyphs carved onto the rock’s surface.
The Fire Wave
In my opinion, the Fire Wave is one of the park’s must-see features. Note that older park maps do not list this trail. It is located on White Domes Road past the Fire Canyon overlook.
This short hike will only take between 30 minutes to one hour to complete, and is not strenuous at all. Definitely add the Fire Wave Hike to your list! The rock formations seen here are some of my favorites in the entire park.
I stumbled upon the Fire Canyon scenic overlook accidentally, and I’m so glad that I did. It showcases jagged white, red, and purple rocks stacking on top of one another into the distance. It’s quite breathtaking!
Rainbow Vista’s domes and valleys were formed from sand deposits dating back to the time of the dinosaurs. Think about that as you enjoy the views!
The one mile out and back hike is easy but worthwhile to get up close and personal with some of these rocks.
The Polaroid Sign
Okay, I admit, this is a bit of a touristy suggestion. But I thought it was clever to frame the colorful mountains within this Polaroid frame! This cutout is located in the same spot that you will park for Elephant Rock. Note that restrooms are also located here.
These massive sandstone rock formations and their pockmarked, textured surface took millions of years to form. These are super fun to walk through and explore close-up.
Valley of Fire Cabins
This stop features a bit of manmade history. The cabins at the Valley of Fire were built around 1935 to house travelers and tourists, and are an interesting sight in the desert.
Follow the Valley of Fire Highway past Elephant Rock and the road to the cabins will be on the right.
Where to Sleep
After spending one full day exploring and hiking in Valley of Fire, you’re likely to need a good night’s sleep. Consider camping inside the park and enjoying a morning sunrise before moving on.
Valley of Fire State Park has two fairly large campgrounds on site, with restrooms, picnic tables, and grills. Campsites are $20 for Nevada residents and $25 dollars for out of state or foreign visitors. Advanced reservations are not accepted.
Both campgrounds can be found along the Scenic Loop Drive – one is near Arch Rock and the other at Atlatl Rock. RV sites are also available.
If you are in the Las Vegas area, Valley of Fire State Park is one stop that you cannot miss. The sweeping views and colorful hikes are unlike anything else I’ve seen recently! Whether you have one day in Valley of Fire or one week, I promise that you’ll be impressed.
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About the author: Monica Chapon has traveled to 6 continents solo and chronicles her adventures on her blog, This Rare Earth. She can usually be found exploring the deserts of the world, taking impromptu road trips, or performing as an aerialist on silks. Follow along with Monica’s adventures on Instagram.