the valley of fire.

As I mentioned in a recent post, my trip to visit my mom was a bit of a roller coaster.  And that included the weather.  We saw everything from cold and blustery to warm and sunny while we were there.  There were high winds one evening, and that brought down a fairly good sized tree out behind my mom’s townhouse.  One afternoon it even snowed!  Ugh!  We went to Las Vegas to get away from the snow!

Granted, it wasn’t our Minnesota style snow.  More like just flurries in the air.  But still, not what we were hoping for.

Naturally, on our last full day the weather turned perfect.  Sunny and a high of 70.  So my sister and I decided to drive out to the Valley of Fire State Park.

We hadn’t been out there since our dad was still alive, so it was probably at least 20 years ago or more.  I’d forgotten how beautiful it is.

I think most people heading to the Valley of Fire from Las Vegas will take the interstate highway, I15.  But we were leaving from my mom’s place in Henderson and thus decided to take a more scenic route through the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

It wasn’t until we got to the entrance gate for the Recreation Area that we discovered there was a separate $25 fee for driving through, then another $15 fee to enter the Valley of Fire (note:  one is a state park, one is a national park).  Yikes!  I have to admit, I’m not sure we would have chosen that route had we known, but there was no turning around at that point so we ponied up the cash and kept going.

Ultimately though, it was worth it for a few reasons.  First, the views along the way are pretty fabulous.

Second, we pretty much had the road mainly to ourselves (maybe because nobody else wanted to pay $25??).

That’s pretty unusual considering it was a holiday (President’s Day) and the perfect day for a road trip (and as I’ll mention in a minute, the Valley of Fire itself was mobbed).

I takes about an hour to drive this route from Henderson to the Valley of Fire, so it was nice taking this peaceful scenic route rather than a crowded interstate.

Lastly, there was some decent hiking along this road before we even got to our final destination.

We pulled off at the Redstone Dunes Trail, which is an easy 30 minute walk around some red sandstone rock formations.

This was a great place to stop and stretch our legs a bit.

One thing to note about the $25 entrance fee is that it’s good for a full week of entry.  Of course, we were on the last day of our vacation, so that didn’t really help us any.  But the Lake Mead National Recreation Area is huge, so next time we’re out visiting mom we’ll start earlier in the week and take advantage of that.

The route through the Recreation Area takes you to the east entrance into the Valley of Fire, if you take I15 you’ll end up at the west entrance.  So our initial couple of stops inside the park were still rather empty of crowds.

That gave us some time to appreciate the C.C.C. cabins in peace and quiet.

Can you imagine being able to stay in such a location for your holiday?

You could wake up to that view every morning!

Of course, you can no longer stay in these cabins but there are two campgrounds in the Valley of Fire for those of you that are campers.

There are some petroglyphs on the sandstone wall behind the cabins.

These carvings are as much as 2,000 years old.  It always bums me out to see that people have scratched over some of them with modern graffiti, which I did see here.  Things like “M.K. loves J.B” are clearly not original.  What is wrong with people?

Unfortunately, that was our last stop before we caught up to the Vegas crowds.  After making a pit stop at the Visitor Center, we headed up towards the Fire Canyon Overlook to see if we could find an available picnic spot for our lunch.

We found a spectacular view, but the picnic tables were all taken.

So we got back in the car and drove up to the White Domes Loop.  Once there, we couldn’t even find a parking spot, let alone an unoccupied picnic table.  By this time we were getting pretty hungry, so we just pulled into a parking area a ways back down the road and ate in the car.  We did have a gorgeous view from there though.

Next up we headed to Mouse’s Tank.  According to their website, “Mouse’s Tank is named for a Southern Paiute Indian renegade (“Little Mouse”) who used Valley of Fire as a hideout in the 1890s after he was accused of killing two prospectors and other crimes in the area.”

Hmmm, no sign of renegades or prospectors while we were there, but there were lots of signs of other hikers.

This is a very sandy trail, and the sand got deeper further along.  We had to take our shoes off and dump out the sand after this one.

There are supposed to be petroglyphs visible from this trail as well, but we were so busy watching our footing that we never did spot them.  Although the trail is mostly easy going over sand (sort of like walking on the beach), there are a couple of rockier spots and one area with probably about a 4′ drop to navigate.

The scenery is spectacular along the way.

After getting all of that sand out of our shoes, we made one more quick stop to check out Elephant Rock on our way out of the park.

Then we had to head back to Henderson and get our rental car returned before the place closed for the day.

No matter which route you take to get there, I totally recommend a day trip out to the Valley of Fire if you’re in the Vegas area.  Unfortunately, it will require a car.  Although there seem to be many tour companies that offer day tours out there from the strip as well.  A quick google search reveals that most of them run around $129/person though, so at that rate you may as well rent a car if there are two of you or more.  That way you can pick your own hikes and other stops along the way.

How about you?  Have you been to the Valley of Fire?  Or the Lake Mead National Recreation Area?  Or maybe you have some other tips about places to visit near Las Vegas.  If so, be sure to leave a comment and let us know.

7 thoughts on “the valley of fire.

  1. This was beautiful and thanks for sharing. We went to red rock canyon last time we were in Vegas. It was a beautiful scenic drive also. I am adding this one to the list! I sure didn’t know you could get flurries out there.


    1. Yep, this wasn’t the first time I’ve been out there and there have been snow flurries. My mom says this has been a particularly cold winter for them though. In fact, it snowed again a couple of days ago. Last year when I visited in February we had much nicer weather. As for Red Rock Canyon, I do enjoy hiking there as well, but Valley of Fire has even more spectacular scenery. It’s definitely worth a visit!


  2. I would think that after having no visitors to the National Park, it must have been something of a letdown to encounter the crowds. Let’s just do the first part when we go.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I was wondering if you would go to Valley of Fire and/or Lake Mead National Recreation Area. We live in rural Eastern Oregon and traveled to Arizona several years for the winter. We hated Las Vegas traffic so we usually went through Lake Mead. We always used our senior pass from the federal government so entry was free. The pass cost $10 when I bought mine. It could be more now but it’s very worth it as it allows entrance to all national parks. There’s another beautiful spot in Nevada out toward Moapa. It’s small with a spring and is dedicated to saving a little endangered fish. It’s out of the way and peaceful. It is beautiful country. Too bad Lake Mead is drying up. I always enjoy your posts.


    1. Well, I’m not quite eligible for the senior pass yet. According to the person at the tollbooth you have to be 62. But I will definitely look into that when I qualify! I can totally understand why you chose to avoid that Las Vegas traffic, it is a bit much. And there seems to be traffic no matter what the time of day rather than just during your typical rush hour. Great idea to bypass all of that by going through the recreation area.


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