Valley of Fire State Park in One Day
Valley of Fire is Nevada’s oldest State Park and it absolutely blew us away! Its red rock formations and stunning desert landscapes made for a perfect day of adventuring and exploring nature. We decided to wake up for sunrise and try to see the whole park in one day. It’s $10 for entry for day use, so make sure to get your money’s worth! It does get hot here, so we recommend checking out this spot during winter or spring! If you plan on camping at the beautiful campground here, make sure to read our camping gear guide. Here’s our itinerary on how to accomplish seeing the highlights of Valley of Fire State Park in ONE day!
Overview of 1-Day Itinerary:
- Arch Rock: Drive-Up
- Windstone Arch: Drive-Up/Short Walk
- Atlatl Rock: Drive-Up [MUST SEE]
- Elephant Rock: 0.25 miles RT
- Mouse’s Tank: 0.75 miles roundtrip (RT)
- Rainbow Vista (Fire Canyon): 1 mile RT
- Fire Arch: 1 mile RT
- White Domes: 1.25 miles RT [MUST SEE]
- Fire Wave: 1.25 miles RT [MUST SEE]
Valley of Fire West Entrance Spots to Hit
We decided to start our adventure through the park by driving the whole radius to get our bearings, and started exploring on the West Entrance side first. As we drove, we saw sunrise light up the the infamous red rocks along the side of the road. There are several pull-offs that you can admire the rocks from! We decided to park at Arch Rock first to see the sun peak through the arch, which was nice! The other spot in the area is Piano Rock (more of a drive by location than something you need to get out and admire).
Afterward, while in the area, we recommend checking out Windstone Arch if you are into photography; otherwise it’s pretty small so you could pass on it. Morning light is the best time to photograph it. After passing the Arch Rock campground on the paved part of Campground Road in Valley of Fire State Park, reset your odometer as you leave the paved road and drive 0.1 miles on a graded gravel road suitable for any vehicle. At the point where this road makes its first bend to the right and starts to dip into a wash, pull off to the right side and stop. There are no signs and no trails. You won’t see the Windstone Arch from the road because the small arch is hidden inside a cavern, carved into a large mound of rocks shown below. A ground-level opening is 150 feet from the right side of the road.
Even with these directions, it is a little difficult to find! If you want more info on how to find it check out this link! One thing that should definitely be on your Valley of Fire State Park in One Day itinerary is visiting Atlatl Rock. It has a bunch of ancient petroglyphs that are over 4000 years old etched into its side. If you are lovers of history, these cave drawings are absolutely incredible to look at. Go in the morning while the sun is still on the rocks! You can see carvings of big-horned sheep, snakes, people with spears, rivers, and more. Apparently there are more locations around the park where you can find petroglyphs, however, we were unable to find any more outside of this location!
Valley of Fire East Entrance Spots to Hit
After hitting this side of the park, we recommend heading over to the east end of the park. This is where we actually initially drove in, and you’ll park in the designated area next to the gate. From there, it’s a 5-minute walk to Elephant Rock, which does, indeed, look like an elephant. It was cool but there were several spots that we hit in Valley of Fire State Park that actually looked like elephants. Afterward, you have the chance to hike off-trail to a really intricate, less known rock area! We then hiked off-trail to go see Pretzel Arch (Lighthouse Arch) which was a fun adventure away from the crowds. Here is a link to the All Trails data to find this unique triple arch as it isn’t marked anywhere!
Also known as Triple Arch or Lighthouse Arch, this is a less commonly found area in the park. We had it all to ourselves and got to overlook the entire east side of the park from up above. If you don’t mind going off-trail, check it out!
Once we finished everything at the west entrance we headed up to the Rainbow Vista area. This area was very hot and not a lot of views, but there were a few short little hikes around. We completed the one-mile hike to Fire Canyon, which we would honestly recommend passing on it because the views weren’t mindblowing. However, if you have kids this is a great trail for them! It’s flat and short and great for beginning hikers. We didn’t do Mouse’s Tank since the parking area was too full but if you want another spot to find petroglyphs, this is the spot for you!
Silica Dome & Fire Canyon Arch
Shortly down the road from Rainbow Vista, you will make a right turn and find Silica Dome and Fire Canyon. The contrast of the white and red rock looks really interesting from afar, but this is one of those drive-up spots that we wouldn’t recommend hiking around. It’s also where Star Trek was filmed, and it makes sense as the rocks look crazy! The Fire Arch hike is next to Silica Dome and it turned out to be pretty small. Unless you’re a photographer, we think it’d be fun to find your own arches around the park since there are so many unnamed bigger ones that are fascinating! We recommend then saving the best (Fire Wave) for last, so while waiting to hit that at sunset, move on to the White Domes Trail!
Fire Canyon Arch
Believe it or not, this arch could not even fit either of us through it. If you are a photographer that loves to play around with perspective this is a spot for you!
The trailhead to White Domes is found at the very end of the park road. It is 100% one of the hikes that you must include on your Valley of Fire State Park in One Day itinerary. There are bathrooms, a nice picnic area where you can grill, and a bunch of parking at the trailhead. This short 1.25-mile hike has got it all: stunning vistas, the remains of an old movie set, a beautiful slot canyon, and caves along a pleasant desert trail. The trail forms a loop, but we recommend starting on the side nearest to the restrooms as that way the trail is entirely downhill. Make sure to wear some nice grippy shoes, as the sand and rocks on the trail can be slippery.
We continued making our way down the road until we hit Parking Lot 3. This is where you’ll park for the hike to get to the Fire Wave. The Fire Wave for sunset was absolutely incredible. The rock was glowing so red that pictures could not do the colors justice. We got there early and enjoyed people watching, and had the perfect lighting to snap some pictures of the bacon-looking rock! If you can only choose one thing to see the entirety of your trip, this would be it.
We then drove the long stretch of road that goes through the Valley after Rainbow Vista to enjoy more red rock as the sun was setting. We definitely noticed that the rocks were way redder during sunset versus sunrise. Valley of Fire State Park is totally doable in 1 day and we took a lot of time to relax and enjoy the sites. Bring lots of water, start the day early, and enjoy your own adventure! For more information and to book a campsite, check out the Nevada Park Service’s page!