The Valley of Fire. A breathtaking landscape of bright red Aztec sandstone that is nestled against the gray and tan limestone of the Nevada desert. This 40,000 acre state park has something for everyone, whether you’re looking for a scenic byway to breakup a monotonous drive on I-15, a place to camp, hike, or take drool-worthy photos for the gram…this is the spot.
The history of the park is quite remarkable as well. These hills were first settled by the Basketmaker culture about 2,500 years ago, then later by the Early Pueblo Culture, followed by the Paiutes and in 1865 the Mormons settled nearby in St. Thomas. A road was finally roughed out in 1912 as part of the Arrowhead Trail which connected Salt Lake City to Los Angeles. In 1933 the first facilities and campgrounds were built in the park and in 1935 The Valley of Fire was formally declared Nevada’s first state park!
(Vehicle on Arrowhead Rd. Circa 1920) (Photo source: parks.nv.gov)
The park attracts visitors and adventures from all of the world due to its close proximity to the ever popular city that never sleeps, Las Vegas! An easy one hour drive from McCarran International Airport, can drop you right at the park entrance for a fun-in-the-sun day of exploration.
We headed in from the opposite direction, about an hour trip from Mesquite where we were staying the weekend with good friends celebrating the birth of the Punishers LEMC Wasatch Chapter!
It takes a while to get nine bikers out of bed after a late night at the casino but after a quick breakfast, we headed out to get the motorcycles ready. This entails a good wipe down and gassing up. We’re bundled up in leathers as we head out this cool fall morning. Don’t forget your helmet if you’re riding…it’s Nevada state law!
It’s a highway ride on I-15 South for about 30 minutes before exiting onto NV-169 (exit 93) towards Overton. We stop into Sugars Home Plate to grab a bite before heading into the park. Sugars may look like a shoebox of a building but the food and service are outstanding! Decorated from floor to ceiling with sports memorabilia, a full bar and serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner - this place is a winner (note: closed Monday)! Although I’m drinking mimosas at this hole in the wall, a burger with onion rings seems to be the best choice and l was not disappointed! We decided to make a quick stop in to the little dive bar next door, Roosters, and I’m gonna let you in on a little secret….if you’re into bloody Mary’s this joint has one that is out of this world!
Another 20 minutes on one lane country roads and we drop right into The Valley of Fire State Park. It’s quite unassuming on approach but once you get to the park entrance you immediately realize how this little slice of heaven got its name.
The main road through the park is paved and well maintained, but only takes about 30 minutes to drive if you’re going straight through. However, the best way to take in the breathtaking views and explore the hidden gems of the Valley of Fire is to ditch the car and go on foot! Bonus points for camping overnight (the best way to experience the magic of the sunrise and sunset in this beautifully unique dessert terrain!)
Going to explore? Here are a few extra tips for your visit:
The three most popular hikes are:
Distance: 1.5 miles (out and back)
Elevation gain: 180 feet
Time required: 45-60 minutes (plan to spend a while exploring The Fire Wave and surrounding area)
Trailhead location: From the visitor center, take White Domes Road/Mouse’s Tank Road into the park for 4.7 miles. Park in parking lot #3. The trailhead is across the street from the parking lot.
Note: There is cell reception at parking lot #3.
Distance: 1.2 mile (loop)
Elevation gain: 150 feet
Time to hike: 30-45 minutes
Difficulty: Easy (however the first portion of the trail includes steep and uneven natural staircases)
Trailhead location: From the visitor center, take White Domes Road/Mouse’s Tank Road into the park for 5.6 miles until the road dead-ends at the parking lot for the White Domes Loop.
Distance: 4.6 miles (one way)
Elevation gain: 507 feet (starting from White Domes Parking lot)
Time to hike: 3-4 hours
North Trailhead location: From the visitor center, take the White Domes Road into the park for 5.6 miles until the road dead-ends in the parking lot for the White Domes Loop. Hike the White Domes Loop starting in the southern direction, after exiting the Slot Canyon the Prospect Trail intersects White Domes Loop from the west.
South Trailhead location: From the visitor center, travel south to Valley of Fire Highway and turn right heading towards the parks west entrance. Travel 1.5 miles along Valley of Fire Highway. An unmarked small dirt parking lot will be o the right just as the road takes a sharp bend to the left. The trail ends at this dirt parking area.
As the sun begins to drop from the sky, the red rock reflects the light and the valley is beautifully set ablaze. We leave this other-worldy landscape in the rearview as we begin our trip back toward I-15 for the quick (and chilly) 60 minute ride back to Mesquite.
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Have you visited The Valley of Fire? Let me know what you enjoyed the most in the comments!