Spring has sprung in Las Vegas. Many visitors don’t get past the bright lights and action on Las Vegas Boulevard, but for those that are willing to venture a bit beyond the city limits, there are some fantastic places to explore in Nevada. Our family recently took a trip to the Valley of Fire State Park, a remarkable state park that’s about an hour’s drive north of Las Vegas. Our top reasons why you need to visit NOW…
#1 Take in the Beautiful Views
It’s hard to believe that only 50 miles away from the strip, an almost otherworldly landscape exists with petrified trees, bright red Aztec sandstone, and multi-colored limestone that inspires the name Rainbow Vista. You’ll want to have a camera handy to capture the picturesque rock formations, desert plants, and any wildlife that might cross your path!
#2 Explore the Cool Trails
The Valley of Fire has some great hiking for both novices and experts and offers a great way for the entire family to get a bit of exercise. One of our favorite easy hikes is Mouse’s Tank. Legend has it that an outlaw used the area as a hideout in the late 1800s. It’s a simple 3/4 mile trail with bright red-orange sand (that gets in your shoes, beware!) and ends at Mouse’s Tank, a natural basin in the rock where water collects.
Another favorite is White Domes, a 45 min circular trail that takes you down sandstone steps, through an area with an old movie prop from the 1960s picture The Professionals, and into a short slot canyon called The Narrows. While the steps can be a little tricky, the rest of the hike is a breeze and the views are stunning!
#3 Climb Rocks Like a Kid
Get in touch with your inner child and scale a few rocks in the park–it’s allowed in specific areas. Not only do you work up a sweat, but climbing allows for even better views!
#4 See Petroglyphs!
The Valley of Fire State Park has been home to prehistoric civilizations since 300 BC, and their petroglyphs can still be seen in the park’s Petroglyph Canyon (at the start of the Mouse’s Tank trail) as well as Atlatl Rock.
Prior to the start of the trek down Petroglyph Canyon, visitors can see possible translations for the petroglyphs, which include tortoise/turtle clan, bighorn sheep, personal signature and more.
Nevada’s first and largest state park has plenty of things to see and do. Plan to spend a few hours climbing, taking in the sights, and enjoying the park. We hope your family finds it as amazing as ours does!
Tips to know before you go to the Valley of Fire:
- The park entrance fee is $10 or $8 if you have a Nevada ID. Bring cash if you can to help get through the line quickly. The west entrance (where you’ll likely enter if you’re traveling from Las Vegas) tends to get stacked with cars, so anticipate a small line of cars and 10-15 minutes to get past the gate.
- The park is open from sunrise to sunset; arriving early typically means a shorter wait time at the entrance.
- The best months to visit are March, April, October, or November — the weather is mild and only a light jacket is needed.
- Bring sunscreen and plenty of water! Even in mild 70-degree weather, we packed several bottles of water and wished we’d had more.
- There aren’t any places to purchase food in the park (that we’ve seen), but there are some very nice picnic tables both by the visitor center and the White Domes trail if you bring snacks or lunch.
- Leashed dogs are welcome, so bring Fido for some exercise too!
- Reception is spotty at best–if you bring a phone, plan on using it to snap photos but not much else.
- To learn more about the Valley of Fire State Park, visit Nevada State Parks’ website.