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Nevada Outdoor School inspires exploration of the natural world, responsible stewardship of our habitat and dedication to community.
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Friday, April 14, 2023

Destination Recreation: Valley of Fire State Park

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Breathtaking views, scenic drives and hikes, cool wildlife, and a stunning array of colors, Valley of Fire State Park in southern Nevada is well worth the trip!

Located about 1-hour northeast of Las Vegas, near the town of Overton, Valley of Fire State Park is a great place for a day trip or an overnight adventure.  Many of the park’s stunning features are easily viewed from the car but don’t be fooled, there’s much more to discover on the trails.

Valley of Fire gets its name from red sandstone formations, formed from great shifting sand dunes during the age of dinosaurs, 150 million years ago.  Red isn’t the only color you see though, whites, pinks, and yellows blend together to create a beautiful rainbow landscape. 

When visiting Valley of Fire State Park, I would recommend making the visitor center, located near the center of the park and open from 8:30am-4:30pm daily your first stop.  At the visitor center, you can pick up a helpful map and visitor guide, learn about the park’s history, plants and animals, see some of the cool wildlife up close, look around their small gift shop, and talk to someone at the help desk if needed.  Don’t forget to fill up your water bottles and also take the small hike out back up to an impressive sight!

Valley of Fire State Park can be done pretty easily as a day trip – a lot of the notable features including Elephant Rock, the arch and Fire Canyon can be viewed from the road and most of the main trails are only about 1 mile long, making it possible to hike multiple trails in 1 day.  However, you could spend many days in the park and still not get bored, there is so much to see! It’s super important to practice Leave No Trace and plan ahead and prepare for your visit.  Fall, winter and early spring are good times to go if you plan to get out and hike as temperatures in the summer months usually exceed 100 degrees, making it dangerous to be outside for too long.  Proper footwear is also important as desert plants can be quite poky and many of the trails are located in desert washes making them extremely sandy (not fun if you are wearing tennis shoes). 

The Fire Wave is another notable feature in the park which can be accessed on the Fire Wave trail which is only 1.5 miles, but don’t be fooled though - lack of shade and extreme temperatures in the summer can make this trail extremely dangerous.

My favorite trail in the park is White Domes, located at the end of the road going north out of the visitor’s center.  This trail is about 1.25 miles long and takes you through an old movie sight and super cool slot canyon.  Another one of my favorite places in the park is the Rainbow Vista trail.  The trail itself is cool but the overlook view at the end which gives the trail its name is amazing!  Ancient Indian artwork can be found all around the park, but taking a quick hike down the Mouse Tank trail is definitely one of the best ways to see a lot all together.  It’s fun trying to “read” the petroglyphs left by the ancient people.  Other cool features in the park include massive petrified wood logs, crypobiotic soil, and tons of desert wildlife including lizards, tarantulas, and big horn sheep.

Camping at Valley of Fire is a unique experience that I definitely recommend.  If you are going with a big group and are up for planning your trip WAY in advance, you can call and try to reserve one of the three big group use sights which are AMAZING!  They book up pretty fast though and are hard to get especially on the weekends.  Don’t stress though, the park has 2 other first-come campsites with 72 units and additional RV spots that are also really cool to stay at. 

So, whether you are just going for the day or staying for a while, Valley of Fire State Park is definitely worth the trip!

 Happy Trails!

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