Valley of Fire Close to Las Vegas - 9 Tips and Hikes

Valley of Fire Close to Las Vegas - 9 Tips and Hikes

United States
United States

When Is the Best Time

The Valley of Fire State Park is an explosion of colours just an hour from Las Vegas. The wintertime is the quietest, and this park is magical, constantly changing with the sunlight. The best pictures can be taken at sunrise, later in the afternoon, and at sunset. 

The Fire Wave and its fantastic structure in Valley of Fire
The Fire Wave is close to the road and parking Google Maps Location - photo by Ray

If you wish to visit the park, come here for an entire day and bring your lunch in a cooler. Don't miss these spectacular vistas even if you have just a couple of hours available. And check out my tips, hikes, and updates below from our recent trip in mid-June 2022!

Valley of Fire Weather

Red and pink sandstone rock formations
Red Aztec sandstone and pink layers to the right shortly before the White Domes.

The state park has a warm and arid climate due to its location in the Mojave Desert. I only categorize the weather and temperatures in the Valley of Fire in three seasons. Why? The summer lasts much longer, and the climate is utterly different to the typical four seasons. I will try to give you an idea of the best time with the most pleasant temperatures for an outstanding experience in the Valley of Fire.

Scorching in the Summer (May-September)

Heat warning sign at White Domes
We hiked at White Domes at 7 am mid-June - the hiking sign Markus is looking to

May to September temperatures range on average from 33°C/91°F to an unpleasant heat topping 42°C/108°F in the shade. Although it cools down a little without the sunshine, nights are still warm. In May and September, temperatures are below 20°C/68°F at night. From June to August, night temperatures are above 20°C/68°F. Sometimes thunderstorms and downpours occur.

Information board about temps and sunrise, sunset June 11
111°F is the hottest temp we have ever experienced.

The summer is the hottest and sunniest time of the year. The Fire Wave and Seven Wonders; the Pink Caynon are closed from June first to September 30. All parking lots for this hike are closed.

The Valley of Fire view through a window arch to the sun
The sunrise is the perfect time in the summer. Photo by Ray

If you wish to visit in the summer, the best daytime for exploring the Valley of Fire is early morning and continues after 5 pm. The midday heat is too hot for hiking and exploring. Usually, the Fire Wave and Seven Wonders trail gets closed during the extreme summer heat. What means early morning? Sunrise is around 5.30 am so get up at 5 am and enjoy this wonderful landscape before it gets scorching from 9 am onwards. sunrise and sunset times

Bearable in the Transition Time in Spring and Autumn

Valley of Fire early morning at sunrise
The Fire Wave at sunrise before the crowds appear.

April and October range from 26-29°C/79-84°F during the day. Night temperatures are cooler on average, around 10°C/50°F. Occasional showers occur in April and October, and it is rare to experience overcast days. The spring highlights are the blooming plants like the desert marigold, indigo bush or desert mallow.

Pleasant in the Winter (November-March)

A man hiking through red sand and red sandstone formations
Rainbow Vista Hike - 1-mile return.

The best time to visit the Valley of Fire is November to March. During winter, the temperatures are mild, ranging from 15-23°C/59°F-73°F during the day.

'The Fire Wave at sunrise
Tranquil in the early morning - photo by Ray

November and March are topping 20°C/68°F. It is the perfect time for hiking and exploring the valley. Nights are chilly temperatures are around freezing. It is the coolest and most pleasant time with occasional light showers and overcast days. Rain occurs, but you are in the desert it is not an issue here. Is there snow in the winter? It is rare but happens sometimes, and you must drive carefully on the roads. 

Avoiding the Crowds

The Valley of Fire Highway and the White Domes
White Domes parking in front of these rocks.

The park is busier during the colder season, especially from February to late May. Both campgrounds are filled up before midday. Weekends are more crowded than weekdays, and it's less busy in the summer as many visitors want to avoid the heat during the day. The winter is the best option to enjoy the desert landscape without the crowds.

A window in a ruin offering an excellent view to the Valley of Fire
The fantastic Valley of Fire - Photo by Ray

However, it's a lot busier in winter than in the summer months. Always keep in mind, that it’s a State Park and not a National Park; therefore often underestimated. Limited parking at all stops: Arrive either early (before 9 am) or late (after 6 pm) during the peak season. Overflow parking is available.

Opening Hours for the Valley of Fire State Park and Visitor Center

The Valley of Fire State Park Entrance Sign

  • The Valley of Fire State Park is open from sunrise to sunset, and this means the Fire Wave and Seven Wonders trail are open from sunrise to sunset. Closed during extreme temperatures in summer from June to September for four months.
  • The Visitor Center is open from 8.30 am until 4.30 pm - summer, 9 am - 4 pm.
    It's a small and lovely visitor centre with attentive staff. They provide you with information about the history and grab a map to avoid missing any outstanding sandstone rock formations. Also, a short film about the State Park is shown.
  • Download the Hiking Map if arriving after hours! There isn't any leaflet or map outside displayed.

2 Top Tips

Valley of Fire Beehives Rock Formation
Pay attention to the speed limit.

Pay attention to the speed limit like the 35 mph in the picture above; the Highway is frequently patrolled!!

A face that looks like it’s sticking out it’s tongue close to the Valley of Fire
This is Little Finland (Google Maps location)

Little Finland is just up the road from the Valley of Fire in Gold Butte easy to reach with 4x4. Continue down the mud wash and take a right which takes you to the parking lot  Getting there by 2WD is a much longer route of more than 2 hours drive. This tip and photo are by the fantastic photographer Ray Downs. Check out his website for more of such excellent pictures.

Where to Stay

Las Vegas by night

This question is easy to answer; either you camp in this outstanding scenery or you stay in Las Vegas. Check out some of the best hotels in this vibrant city in the desert. 

Best Months to Visit

Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec

Location and Tips

Nevada, Las Vegas
United States
United States

The Valley of Fire is the oldest Nevada State Park, established in 1935. The park has a size of 19 thousand ha. The valley is famous for bright red Aztec sandstone formations and petroglyphs. Rock art from a prehistoric culture can be found at several locations within the park, like Atlatl Rock, dating back 2.500 years ago. 

Balancing Rock in the Valley of Fire State Park
Balancing Rock - is a short 1/4 mile next to the visitor centre

The scenic landscape with incredible rock formations and narrow slot canyons is mind-blowing. The Nevada Scenic Byway leads through the park, offering plenty of hikes for all levels. Very popular are Balancing Rock, Elephant Rock, and Arch Rock. Take plenty of water for hiking. 

    9 Tips and Hikes

    A hiker in the Slot Canyon
    Slot Canyon at White Domes Loop.

    1 Fire Wave and Pink Canyon

    The Seven Wonders or Pink Canyon
    The Pink-Pastel Canyon looks best without sunlight in it. 

    Don’t miss the colourful Fire Wave and the Pink or Pastel Canyon close to the road. The trail is less than 2 mi/ 3 km long. It is the most popular spot during the day and therefore busy. There are several huge parking lots before and after but closed in the summer. Fire Wave location at Google Maps

    2 Arches at the Campgrounds

    An Arch in the Valley of Fire

    Drive the loop around the campgrounds with some of the most magnificent arches.

    3 White Domes Hiking Trail

    View down from white domes to the film location
    The movie location is in the middle, and the Slot Canyon is to the right.

    The White Domes Loop Trail leads to a movie location and through a short slot canyon. We climbed up to the rocks on the left for awesome views of this picturesque landscape.

    The White Domes and facilities
    White Domes limited parking to the left - restrooms and picnic area to the right.

    There are restrooms and a picnic area but limited parking. Honestly, the toilets are smelly during the heat in summer, if possible go to the visitor centre before.

    4 Check Out the Petroglyphs

    Petroglyphs at Mouse's Tank
    Look at big black spots on the walls - there are the petroglyphs.

    Most petroglyphs can be seen at Mouse's Tank, some impressive ones already after a few hundred ft to the left. Another fantastic spot is Atlatl Rock (pic attached); petroglyphs exist for over 4000 years, created by ancient tribes. These paintings are a reflection of the past.

    5 Visitor Centre Exhibition

    One of the information boards in the exhibition

    The visitor centre is open from 9 am to 4 pm, offering souvenirs, beverages, ice cream, and ice for cooling. There is an exciting exhibition on how Valley of Fire developed.

    6 Hiking Map

    Road sign with directions in the Valley of Fire
    These road signs and information boards at the trailheads exist.

    Download the Hiking Map if you arrive after visitor centre hours. There isn't any map or board with a park map available. Several visitors took pictures of our map for their two hours visit on their way to Las Vegas.

    7 Petrified Logs

    Petrified Log - trunk in the Valley of Fire
    An ancient pine approx. 150 million years old.

    There are two spots where you can see petrified trunks; one close to the campground and the other toward elephant rock; the east entrance.

    8 Seven Sisters - Picnic Area and Wedding Location

    Me, standing on the top of one of the Seven Sisters
    Beautiful scenery at Seven Sisters.

    The Seven Sisters are red sandstone formations, a sheltered picnic area and a breathtaking location for wedding pictures.

    Picnic area with shelter at Seven Sisters
    The picnic area at Seven Sisters is a popular wedding location.

    When we took a break at the picnic area, wedding pictures were taken at the impressive rocks. Shortly after I climbed up the rock below, the bride and groom came here.

    9 Wildlife in the Valley of Fire

    Big Horn Sheep at sunrise
    A big horn sheep at Atlatl Rock, and we spotted several in the State Park.

    If you like to spot big horn sheep, you have to get up early at sunrise. Because of the heat, we got up at 5 am and spotted big horn sheep at Atlatl and on the road to the White Domes. I am not a morning person, but it was worth it for the sheep and to avoid the heat during the day.

    Balancing Rock and the surroundings
    The otherworldly landscape at Valley of Fire.

    The State Park is a popular filming location well known for different movies like Star Trek Generations, Transformers, Airwolf, Total Recall, Viva Las Vegas, etc.

    Entrance Fee

    Entrance Fees Info board and self-pay instructions
    Put the fee in cash in an envelope and into the box to the right
    • $ 10 per car for Nevada residents (vehicles)
    • $ 15 non-residents and vehicle
    • $ 2 p.p. by bus, bike, horse-ride, walk-in
    • Free admission during our visit on June 11, 2022 - Nevada State Parks Day

    Camping

    Road sign to both campgrounds

    There are two beautiful campgrounds located in the Valley of Fire National Park. Both are on a first-come, first-served basis and are equipped with flush toilets and coin-operated showers. Each site has a sheltered picnic table, BBQ, and fire pit. Bring all supplies; there is nothing available inside the park except water and ice cubes for cooling. Check-in with a simple form plus the camping fee of $10 in cash and put the envelope into a dropbox.

    Our campsite next to the red walls in shade
    Our campsite at Arch Rock - first-come-first-serve

    The campgrounds are busy in spring, fall and at weekends. It’s recommended to arrive at midday. Weekdays are less crowded, and you can choose one of the different sites. Summer is less busy because of the heat therefore, Atlatl campground gets closed during this time of the year.

    Atlatl Rock Campground - Closed in the Hot Summer

    The Atlatl Rock next to the campground
    Climb up the staircase to see these petroglyphs (pic attached)

    Picturesquely located at red sandstone formations where stairs lead to the top with a spectacular view. This campground has 43 sites, some with water and power hook-ups, and some are basic. Closed in summer because of the low demand due to the heat.

    Arch Rock Campground - Open Throughout the Year

    The facilities at Arch Rock integrated to nature
    Facilities and shower at Arch Rock Campground.

    More primitive campground with 29 spacious sites beautifully located. It is an excellent location for star gazing.

    Three Most Asked Questions

    The Cabins in the Valley of Fire

    1. Why is it Called Valley of Fire? 
      The red sandstone formations look like the entire valley is on fire during sunset. 
    2. How much time should I spend in the Valley of Fire?
      From my own experience spent here at least an entire day - 24 hours watching the sunrise and sunset. There are several awesome hikes available. Bring a cooler and prepare your lunch at one of the BBQ areas in this beautiful scenery. If travelling by camper, stay a night and enjoy the outstanding night sky and sunrise as well. Stargazing is spectacular in the desert. 
    3. What makes camping here so unique?
      The breathtaking night sky and the sound of silence! If you come from Las Vegas, you appreciate the silence even more. The spacious campsites give privacy in a beautiful setting of different coloured rock formations.

    Valley of Fire Geology

    Elephant Rock with a blue sky - perfect light in the morning
    Elephant Rock next to the east entrance of Valley of Fire
    • The Valley of Fire was developed by an ancient sea 400 million years ago.
    • The grey ridge and rocks are older, estimated 250-500 million years old.
    • The red rocks are younger from the Mesozoic Era, estimated at 250-66 million years old.
    • The red sandstone formations are different in their shade which is caused by the amount of iron oxide. 
    • An estimated 10 thousand ft/ 3 km disappeared by erosion in 70 million years.
    • Do you wish to know more details? Check out the exhibition in the visitor centre!

    Is the Valley of Fire Worth Visiting?

    Rock formations Valley of Fire
    I am looking to the Fire Canyon - getting here by car.

    Yes, and I am sure you are convinced after reading my article. Please, don't come in a rush; spend at least an entire day in this fascinating landscape developed from an ancient sea. However, it is worth driving through, even if only a few hours are available. Lots of great spots are easily accessible.

    These pictures are a collection of my friend and photographer Chris, the wonderful Ray Downs, and mine, mainly from the recent visit in mid-June. Please get in touch with me if you wish to use any of my photos, but I will take action against picture theft!

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