A Road Trip Through the Valley of Fire State Park

By: Rebecca Frisch

June 30, 2014

Las Vegas is a magical city. You don’t have to travel far in any direction to experience some of the best restaurants, spas, entertainment and shopping in the US. But there’s something else that makes this destination more alluring than most. Something that tends to escape the notice of most visitors who are so mesmerized by the lure of the Vegas Strip that they don’t look beyond its shimmering lights. It is the city’s proximity to a stunning variety of outdoor destinations, including the incredible Valley of Fire State Park.

Head 45 minutes northwest by car and you’ll find yourself in the pristine beauty of Mount Charleston in the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, which tends to be 30 degrees cooler than the Las Vegas valley below. Explore 45 minutes to the south and discover the serenity of Lake Mead where boating, fishing and more awaits. An hour northeast along Interstate 15? Travel in this direction for the vivid colour and rich history of The Valley of Fire State Park, the oldest and largest in Nevada.

Valley of Fire_VoF Entrance Sign

Venture to the Valley of Fire State Park for the road less travelled © Greg Clarke

Named for its gorgeous red rock formations, thought to have been created by shifting sand dunes from a time when dinosaurs still roamed the earth, the park covers some 42,000 acres. Brush up on your knowledge of sandstone, shale and limestone, as you’ll be able to find them all here. And, when someone tries to take a rock back with them as a memento, you can let them know it’s illegal to do so. The same is true for the flowers, cacti and other desert vegetation that may only be admired while in the park.

Valley of Fire | Road

The wonder of never knowing what’s around the next bend © Valley of Fire State Park on Facebook

Many visitors choose to view the park’s natural beauty by travelling along its 20 miles of paved road; however, don’t come all this way without stepping foot outside your vehicle. There are trails to explore, picnic spots to enjoy, Indian petroglyphs from an incredible 3,000 years ago to discover, and natural wildlife to stumble upon, from desert tortoises to rattlesnakes. It’s not recommended you get too close to either as the former is protected under state law and the latter, while usually only seen on TV or in movies and a novelty to most, are as dangerous as you’d expect.

Valley of Fire | Desert Tortoise

A desert tortoise on a stroll © Valley of Fire State Park on Facebook

Depending on the time of your visit, roadrunners, rabbits, coyotes, lizards, and other desert inhabitants may also cross your path.

Valley of Fire | Bighorn Sheep

Bighorn sheep are among the wildlife that call Valley of Fire home © Valley of Fire State Park on Facebook

Jeff Prozeller, a resident of Canada and frequent Las Vegas visitor, says the park’s name was enough to spark his curiosity about the remote landscape. “I had gone to the Hoover Dam and Red Rock Canyon and really enjoyed the experience there,” said Prozeller. “Looking for a fuller experience, I heard of the Valley of Fire State Park and the name alone had me intrigued. That was nothing compared to the beauty the park had in store. I had a brochure from the concierge desk at my Las Vegas hotel and the pictures were so mind-blowing that I had to go. It did not disappoint.”

Valley of Fire | Elephant Rock

Elephant Rock is aptly named at Valley of Fire State Park © Ken Lund

To get the most from your trip, Prozeller recommends several landmarks and offers some important tips best known in advance. “There are quite a few spectacles you don’t want to miss, the first being Elephant Rock. It is absolutely amazing to see in person,” he says. “Other hot spots in the park are the Beehives, which aren’t literal beehives, although the rocks might have you fooled, and Fire Canyon which is an incredible contrast between fire red and creamy white formations. The view goes on for miles. It’s such a breathtaking spot.”

Valley of Fire | Red And White Rocks

Red-and-white rock formations swirl across the desert floor © John Fowler

“Make sure you gas up, bring food and sunscreen,” adds Prozeller. “Lastly, remember that it is a desert. Your clothes and shoes will be covered in red dust so leave the fashion statements for another day.”

Valley of Fire | Mountain Range

It’s almost impossible to leave Valley of Fire State Park without some stunning photographs

© Valley of Fire State Park on Facebook

Like the park itself, the Valley of Fire Visitor’s Center is open daily. Hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The recreation area can be enjoyed from sun up to sundown, and campers are welcome to stay the night in designated sites. An entry fee of $10 (US) is charged per car, however, additional charges ranging from $10-$20 will be required if camping overnight.

Valley of Fire | Map

A number of trails and driving loops can occupy visitors for a few hours or an entire day

© Valley of Fire State Park on Facebook

Although open year-round, some thought should also be given to when you visit. The Valley of Fire State Park could be named for the intense, triple-digit heat the area experiences in the summer. Temperatures can soar as high as 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Spring and autumn are the most temperate times to explore. While this road trip may not be an escape from the highs of Sin City, Prozeller says there is relief of another sort to be found.

“Las Vegas tourists should consider a trip to Valley of Fire because it gets you away from the hustle and bustle of The Strip and downtown,” he says. “You can really enjoy nature. The silence and calmness are a nice respite after a couple days of high energy fun.”

Valley of Fire | Red Rocks

Red Rocks © Greg Clarke

Header image: Drive Carefully © Greg Clarke

Virgin Atlantic operates a daily, direct service to Las Vegas from London Gatwick, so book your flight today.

Have you visited the Valley of Fire State Park? Let us know in the comments section below.

Written by Rebecca Frisch


Rebecca Frisch

An award-winning journalist, Rebecca Frisch is Editor of VegasChatter, a Conde Nast Digital publication considered a must read by Vegas tourists and locals alike. Over her career, Rebecca has helmed television news shows in some of the country’s biggest markets. She has also used her extensive experience in writing, special events, and media strategy to serve as a Public Relations representative for one of the world’s largest and most respected gaming and hospitality companies. With a career that went from covering some of the nation’s hottest tourism brands to actively shaping the public persona of one, Rebecca now directs which parses the hyperbole surrounding Las Vegas to deliver insightful coverage of Sin City provided with an insider’s knowledge and a journalist’s candor.

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