Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

Photo by Matt Harding

Where in the West Should I Go? • 52 Places to Visit in 2022

When I frequently visited friends in Las Vegas, I often found myself heading to “Red Rocks,” or as it’s officially called – Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. It’s only about 30 minutes from the heart of Vegas and quite beautiful. 

But on one particular trip, I headed out a bit further, and in the other direction. Valley of Fire State Park is about an hour from Vegas and is a perfect getaway from that city and a must-stop on a road trip to more popular regional destinations like Grand Canyon, Zion and Bryce.

The Valley of Fire is some 40,000-plus acres of “bright red Aztec sandstone outcrops nestled in gray and tan limestone,” as Nevada State Parks describes it. More than that, it’s home to ancient petrified trees and petroglyphs dating back more than 2,000 years.

Hiking through the park is the best way to see it. A couple of popular trails include one near the aptly-named Elephant Rock and the 1.2-mile Fire Wave Trail, which is also appropriately named.

For a different experience, head to the White Domes Trail, a moderate 1.1-mile loop amid sandstone formations. Escape the crowds by heading down Prospect Trail, the 8.8-mile (roundtrip) trek. Depending on the day, you’re more likely to see a bighorn sheep than another person. 

As with any trip to the desert, pack your sunscreen and plenty of water. There’s not much shade or H2O in this part of the world!