Valley of Fire

Day Trip from Las Vegas: Valley of Fire

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While you can occupy your entire Las Vegas vacation with activities inside the city’s limits, it would be a shame to come all the way to Nevada and not enjoy some of its natural beauty outside the city. I’ve managed to pry myself away from Las Vegas long enough to go see the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, Lake Mead, and Laughlin (on the Arizona border) on previous trips, and in September, I finally made it to the Valley of Fire. While it was a place I’ve wanted to visit for years, I was shocked to learn that not everyone’s heard of it.

Valley of Fire

That's desert sage lending a splash of green to the earth tones of the desert.

When I mentioned I was going, several people asked me “What’s the Valley of Fire?”

Gasp. Oh, people.

Simply put, it is Nevada’s oldest state park which lies about an hour outside of Las Vegas and is filled with gorgeous natural rock formations.

Sandstone rock formation

The Valley of Fire gets its name from the fiery color of its sandstone rock formations.

In case you were wondering, The Valley of Fire gets its name from the fiery color of its sandstone rock formations. Sandstone is a soft rock that crumbles easily. It’s amazing these formations have lasted as long as they have. A couple of well-known arches in the Valley have crumbled in just the past decade. People come out for the day to drive around, enjoy the views, hike and take photos; and other people go camping here, staying for longer periods of time.

Desert Road

You know that expression "Get outta town!"? Do it.

If you’re a day-tripper, there are two ways to get out of Las Vegas to see the Valley of Fire: Rent a car or take a tour. The benefits of renting a car are that you get to move at your own pace, stop when you want to stop, and see only what you want to see. You are in complete control of your time. And it’s cheaper than a tour. (Note: You do have to pay $10 admission per vehicle.)

The benefit of taking a tour is that, as a solo traveler, it gives you a built-in opportunity to socialize with the others on your tour, you get expert information from a knowledgeable guide, and you don’t have to stress out about driving in a strange place or getting lost out in the desert. (As directionally-challenged as I am, this is a very real possibility.) But it’s a lot more expensive.

Arch Rock

Arch Rock

I chose to take a tour to avoid the hassle of renting a car, but I also deliberately chose a tour company that specializes in photography tours, because I was hoping to have some dedicated time with a knowledgeable photographer and get some tips on using my manual settings. It didn’t actually work out that way. It was a fine tour, and he was a fun guide, but I got the impression he didn’t know  any more about the manual settings of a camera than I did. Also, he kept making the rookie mistake of standing too far away from me when taking my picture in front of landmarks. But despite that disappointment, I had a great day.

Stairs to the petroglyphs and valley views

This is not the Stairway to Heaven, but it is the stairway to close-up viewing of some amazing petroglyphs and valley views.

We made a handful of stops at various points around the valley, including some rock formations, sites of petroglyphs, a rest area for lunch, the Visitors Center, and the Lost City Museum. We also went on a short, easy hike at a scenic vista. There had been floods in the Valley just the week before, so we were lucky the roads were actually open.

Petroglyphs

At Atlatl Rock, you can see 4,000 year-old Native American petroglyphs.

The Beehive

Some of the more interesting rock formations in the Valley include the Beehives

I do recommend that if you book a tour, you choose a small group tour. (Mine was just three people, thank God.) The more people there are on your tour, the more it becomes like herding cats to get them back to the bus at the time the guide indicates. Someone dawdles and holds up the entire group, and you wind up missing some sights because you’ve run out of time. (Remember Gray’s second rule of solo travel: Don’t let someone else ruin your vacation!)

Cactus

Did that sound a bit prickly?

But no matter how you choose to go, just go visit the Valley of Fire. It was breathtakingly beautiful and every time we got out of the van, it was so quiet, so peaceful–a refreshing change from all the constant noise in Las Vegas. I think I’m going to have to build in “get outta town” time on every trip to Vegas in the future!

15 thoughts on “Day Trip from Las Vegas: Valley of Fire

  1. Dave

    Whoa. Gorgeous photos! I’ve added this to my list of Las Vegas Things to Do. Thank you!

    And I’m with you — I need to build in a “get out of town” day to my trips. It’s not like the casinos won’t still be there when I get back, eh?

  2. Andy

    Star Trek fans should know that this is where Captain Kirk’s final battle and death was filmed for “Star Trek: Generations,” for those who want to pay their final respects.

    Dr. Evil’s secret lair from the first Austin Powers movie also uses footage from the Valley of Fire.

  3. jack

    hello gray I enjoy your site. I want to recommend another gorgeous scenic place outside of Vegas ,Red Rock Canyon.If you rent a car its about a half hour from the strip going west down Charleston Blvd.There are about a dozen hiking trails for those so inclined or you can simply drive around the circular road and admire the scenery.I will always find time in my Vegas trips to drive there.Especially if you are on a bad run at the casinos ,its a great place to just relax and recharge your batteries so to speak.

    1. Gray

      Hi, Jack, Thank you very much. I have heard Red Rock Canyon is great, too, I just haven’t made it out there yet. Probably next trip.

  4. Hardware

    As I Tweeted earlier, having been to Red Rock on Nov. 1 and Valley of Fire May 1 of this year, VoF is the winner in terms of scenery. RRC is worth seeing, and has better hiking, but you see much more “red rock” at VoF. I haven’t posted any pics of my recent RRC trip, but I did post a few VoF. http://www.flickr.com/photos/halloweenmn/7319375794/in/photostream

    Thanks to Casino Boy, I got to read your blog today and take a trip down memory lane. God forbid I have to wait until May for another Vegas vacation, it hasn’t gotten nearly cold enough yet in Minnesota to be considered winter.

    1. Gray

      Good to hear from you, Hardware! I love that photo of the VOF “cabins”. What a shame that you can’t camp in them any more.

  5. Happygirl21

    Hi I am planning a solo trip next month and would like to day trip to Valley of Fire, is it possible that you could state which tour you used? Thanks 🙂

  6. Steven

    Great photos as always! Love Valley of Fire too. For some reason, I really enjoy the drive out there and back. The highway and desert surroundings are so tranquil they pretty much cast a spell on me. Just enough to hypnotize but not enough to put me to sleep. Which is a good thing because I’m usually driving.

    Headed back in January with my better half, and Valley of Fire is her favorite place to visit. So we’ll be headed there for a few hours, although it can get a little cold in Jan. Favorite thing for us is to sit up on a big rock and watch the sun go down.

    Red Rock is great, too. Definitely check it out (and nearby Bonnie Springs Ranch). You can drive around the entire circle quicker than the Valley of Fire, and be back in Vegas faster so you won’t have to allow as much time.

    Love the desert!

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