Valley of Fire Close to Las Vegas - 9 Tips and Hikes - New Reservation System
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. 

A hiker sittin on the rock formation called Fire Wave
My husband Markus to the right - admiring the jaw-dropping landscape and Fire Wave.

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 visits in January and mid-June and what is new in 2023!

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

To jump immediately to the different topics, check out my Table of Contents:

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.

    One of the information boards in the exhibition
  • The visitor Centre offers souvenirs, beverages, ice cream, and ice for cooling. There is an exciting exhibition on how Valley of Fire developed.
  • Download the Hiking Map if arriving after hours! There isn't any leaflet or map displayed outside.

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 - Photo high resolution
  • $ 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

New Reservation System Since September 2023

A hiker on the edge of the pastel canyon
The tiny person in the back leaves the pink or pastel canyon.

Nevada State Parks implement a new online reservation system: Reserve Nevada.

You can purchase day-use passes, reserve your campsite or cabin, and also purchase annual permits. Unfortunately, it was necessary because of the high demand and the increasing visitor numbers, an estimated 4 million visitors in 2023. Plans are to go live on September 1st with the Valley of Fire State Park, one of the 27 State Parks in Nevada.

Camping reservations must be made at least three days in advance. If campsites are left, you can get one on a first-come, first-serve basis. Honestly, I think this is not good news. I often experience campgrounds being officially fully booked, but in the end, some sites are not occupied, taking the opportunity for other visitors to stay in a national or state park. It also takes all the flexibility.

9 Highlights and Hikes

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

1 Fire Wave and Pink Canyon

A visitor in the middle of the Fire Wave
Markus in the middle of the Fire Wave from the opposite side.

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. From the main parking Fire Wave Google Maps, follow the signposts to the Fire Wave and afterwards turn right to the pink canyon.

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

It is the most popular spot during the day and, therefore, a little busy in the transition time in spring and fall. In the winter, in January and February, you are able to enjoy the breathtaking formations almost alone 

There are several huge parking lots before and after but closed in the summer from June to September. Fire Wave location on Google Maps

2 Arches at the Campgrounds

An Arch in the Valley of Fire at sunset
The Natural Arch is not accessible to visitors.

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); ancient drawings have existed for over 4000 years, created by ancient tribes. These paintings are a reflection of the past.

5 Fire Cave

The fragile rock formation in burning orange
The Fire Cave is carved into the characteristic red sandstone of the Valley of Fire.

The Fire Cave looks inconspicuous from the gravel road, but you are able to walk and climb in it. It is just a one-minute walk from the gravel road, which leads to the Arch Rock campground. Google Maps Location

6 Hiking and Park Map

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

Download the Hiking and State Park 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 on 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.

A feeding big horn sheep in front of me
We always spot big horn sheep at Atlatl Rock.

I am not a morning person, but it was worth it for the sheep and to avoid the heat during the day. In the winter, big horn sheep are easier to spot also during the day.

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


    Road sign to both campgrounds

    There are two beautiful campgrounds located in the Valley of Fire National Park. Both have to be booked only in advance. Only left places are available on a first-come, first-served basis. They 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 and fall and on 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 is 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 (photo 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. The sites at Atlatl campground offer more privacy, which I prefer.

    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.

    Top Tip

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

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

    Where to Stay - Hotels

    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. 

    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 into 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.

    Summer is the hottest and sunniest time of the year. The Fire Wave and Seven Wonders, the Pink Caynon are closed from June 1 to September 30. All parking lots for this hike are closed. However, May 2023 was already scorching. With climate change, the statistics are no longer accurate. Always check the forecast first.

    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 closes 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. However, in January and February, a chilly wind occurs frequently.

    A slot canyon filled with water
    The pastel or pink canyon is not accessible after heavy rain.

    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.

    A hiker on the Fire Wave trail in warm clothes
    This time, we experienced a chilly wind in winter; even a beany and gloves were essential.

    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 March 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. Winter is the best option to enjoy the desert landscape without the crowds.

    'The Fire Wave at sunrise
    Tranquil in the early morning - 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, it is 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.​

    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 in this beautiful scenery at one of the BBQ areas. 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.

    ​Nearby Tip from Las Vegas

    The Newspaper Rock in Gold Butte
    It is one of the many petroglyph panels in the Gold Butte National Monument.

    My nearby tip is Gold Butte and the thousands of petroglyphs. You can easily combine Valley of Fire and Gold Butte with one night in Mesquite. This town is ideally located close to the new National Monument, which was just created in 2016.

    Best Months to Visit


    Location and Tips

    Nevada, Las Vegas
    United States
    United States

    The Valley of Fire is the oldest Nevada State Park, established in 1935. Due to the proximity to Las Vegas, it is very popular; nevertheless, you are able to escape the crowds. Most visitors pass by and visit the park for a few hours only, but there is so much more to explore than just the Fire Wave. I will let you know 9 great spots, the best time, where to find the best petroglyphs and all about the closure in summer.

    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. 

    Nearby Tip 

    A face that looks like it’s sticking out it’s tongue close to the Valley of Fire
    This is Little Finland in Gold Butte - a hidden treasure (Gold Butte Guide)

    Little Finland is just up the road from the Valley of Fire in Gold Butte, easy to reach with a 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, more than two hours drive. This tip and photo are by the fantastic photographer Ray Downs. Check out his website for more of such excellent pictures.

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

    Why do I write this here? Hundreds of my pictures are used worldwide without any credit, nor did they get my permission. I don’t mind giving permission, but I want to get asked for it and to be mentioned. The world wide web changed a lot, and rewriting honest travel content is the new business for many fake travel websites. Do you wish to know more about this topic and how to unmask such websites quickly? Read my article “The Truth About Fake Travel Websites and Picture Theft.” 

    Does honest travel content from real experiences has a future? I don't know any longer.

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