Nevada’s Valley of Fire State Park is the perfect escape from Las Vegas for those looking for some nature and scenery. Only about an hour from the Strip, it’s a far cry from the fake over-the-top nonsense of Las Vegas. With National Parks nearby too, it gets a little less attention, meaning the crowds are smaller. The sights are no less spectacular though and there is plenty to see and do.
Though Valley of Fire lacks the long, world renowned hiking trails like Angels Landing at Zion or the Rim Trail of Bryce Canyon, there are some memorable landmarks worth trekking out into the desert sands for. The wind blasted red rock dunes are pocked with fiery red spots, giving the area its name as well as distinctive holes in the rocks and wavy patterns through the rocks. Most of the sights are close enough to parking areas or the road so the less adventurous can see them by simply driving through the area. For those who want to get up close to the odd formations, there are several great, short hikes that lead up.
These are my favorite hiking trails in the Valley of Fire State Park.
Easy: Elephant Rock – 1 mi round trip
One of the park’s most distinctive formations, this rocky arch and outcropping form the shape of an elephant (you have to squint a little). From the parking area at the East Entrance to the park, it’s a short quarter mile up right under the rock for great pictures and views of the surrounding area of the park. Turning around at the rock is an option, but to get a little break from the selfie taking crowds, continue a bit further down the trail and up into the rocks for better views and a little more leg stretching.
Moderate: Fire Waves – 2 mi round trip
The most awe inspiring hike in the park and the one I’d do if I could only do one, this hike spans about a mile through a little sand and over some rocks making it slightly more physical than the easy walk of Elephant Rock, but still not strenuous. Along the way the trail winds along a massive rock formation that helps block the sun on hot days and the wind on less hot ones. The last part heads directly over and down the red rocks with a fiery wave look to them that gives the trail its name. These rocks are very different than what you’ll find anywhere else and totally worth the walk out to see. The trail isn’t a loop so once it hits the end of the rocks, it’s time to turn back.
Moderate: White Domes – 2 mi loop
For all the depth of color and dark redness of the Fire Wave trail, this one is essentially the opposite with a sun bleached white glow across the majority. The trail is also a loop, providing for different views across it and even a short stint through a small canyon. This is one of the more popular trails in the park, so be ready for a little bottleneck especially around the canyon. Like the other trails, it’s also super easy to get to thanks to the adjacent parking lot. This hike really explores the warm sunny stretches of the valley, bringing reality to the fire part of the name. Bring water.
Valley of Fire State Park isn’t as immense as some of the other parks around Las Vegas and doesn’t have the massive trails that require training and a full day to explore. But the compactness of the park means visitors can explore all of it in a few hours and enjoy several trails with different and unique aspects in a short visit. It’s also perfect for exploring via car as the loop hits all of the major sights and has ample parking for the trails that are worth exploring. Each trail offers something different and because they are short, allow for exploring the whole park. For a quick jaunt from Las Vegas, this park is worth the voyage for some scenery from another planet.