The Valley of Fire As Day Trip From Las Vegas With Kids

If you’re visiting Las Vegas on holiday and looking for a day trip with kids, head over to the Valley Of Fire and be enthralled by the natural rock formations there! If I thought that Red Rock Canyon (opens in new tab) was impressive (which I did) I was even more mesmerised by the rock formations and their glorious colours at The Valley of Fire and I’m sure you will be too.

Just to think that we almost didn’t go, but as fate had it, we went and had an amazing time!

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The Valley Of Fire

We Almost Didn’t Go…. Don’t Make That Mistake

We only had a short time in America (before we had to be in Mexico) and we ran out of time to do everything we had bookmarked to do in Nevada. Four days in Nevada goes really quickly, so make sure you only visit the things you absolutely must see!

Originally it was a toss up between The Grand Canyon (west rim entrance) and The Valley of Fire.  The Grand Canyon won (of course) but upon further research the West Rim Grand Canyon was going to cost us a ridiculous amount of money, more than $500/€406/£360 minimum and six hours of driving… just to get there and back.

My gut feeling told me that we would be disappointed by the west rim (too many tourists, lack of access, lack of photos etc) and the experience would be an anti-climax so The Valley of Fire was back on the agenda and I was happy!

If you only have a few days in Las Vegas we definitely recommend adding this to your Las Vegas Itinerary.

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The Valley Of Fire Rocks

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How Much Does The Valley of Fire cost?

America is expensive but we were so surprised by how cheap the national parks were.

  • The entrance fee is $10/£7 for a car
  • Camping costs $20/night plus $10/night for utility hook-ups ($2/night discount Nevada resident)
  • An annual Entrance Permit costs $75

It cost us $10 for a day trip! A little bit less than the west rim grand canyon. The only problem was, we overslept and didn’t make it there until 1pm. After that it was a mad rush to try and see everything super quickly before the sun set. We didn’t get to see everything so I’d love to go back.

We really enjoyed this park. Way more than the Red Rock Canyon in some respects as it was quieter and more authentic and the trail hikes were quite small distances – and there was enough to see and be busy with to keep the kids entertained.

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Just as the sun was starting to set

Where is it?

There are two entrances; east and west, technically described as north and south though.

The hours of opening are:  8:30 AM-4:30 PM daily and the park is open all year round too.

I am pretty sure that payment is cash only.

The Valley of Fire is Nevada’s oldest state park

The Valley of Fire is Nevada’s oldest and largest national park as it was first dedicated back in 1935.

It derives its name from the red sandstone formations which glow vibrantly as the sun is setting. Ancient trees and early man are represented throughout the park by areas of petrified wood and Indian petroglyphs. What we loved about this park is that everything is really easily visible, no hunting around and being disappointed. Perfect for children.

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Perfect As A Day Trip From Vegas

The Valley of Fire is located in the Mojave Desert approximately 58 miles north-east of the Las Vegas Strip. It took us about an hour to get there from LV as we stopped off en route to buy water.

The park covers an area of approximately 35,000 acres of sandstone formations that were formed from shifting sand dunes more than 150 million years ago during the Mesozoic Era.  These brilliant sandstone formations can appear to be on fire when reflecting the sun’s rays.  Other important rock formations include limestone, shale and conglomerates.




Stop Off At The Visitor’s Centre

Your first stop should be the visitors centre to pick up a map and for the kids they have stickers and some interesting exhibits.  They told me they were working on a kids information booklet/pack which is something our kids loved at Red Rock Park.

The exhibits include geology, ecology, prehistory and the history of The Valley of Fire.

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Spot the little people

Things To Do With Kids In The Park

Similar to Red Rock Canyon there’s a main road that runs through the park that allows you to access each view point. You’ll need to get the map from the visitors centre first otherwise it’s less clear where the best places are. From here are various walks and hikes (all listed below) that you can do with kids.

Arch Rock

Arch Rock was formed over many millennia by strong winds and rain washing away the sand grains of the rock.  The rock weakened over time allowing the natural arch to form.  Eventually it will grow too large for its support and will collapse. Hopefully in many hundreds of years though.

No climbing is allowed on this beautiful fragile structure to preserve it for longer.

There is also a 2-mile scenic loop that has views of some of the most interesting rock formations, including Arch Rock and Piano Rock. Sadly I didn’t have time to see Piano Rock. Definitely one for next time.

Atlatl Rock

An atlatl is a device used for launching a spear like stick. It usually comprises of a short cord wound around the spear so that when thrown into the air it rotates.  The Indians used these weapons for hunting and protecting themselves and they are depicted in some of the petroglyphs located at Atlatl Rock although we think it looks more like an unusual person with a huge, long nose. What do you think?! Can you see the eye too?

If you’re up for a bit of an adventure, Atlatl campground has forty-three camping spaces, some with water and power hook-ups and some primitive. How amazing would it be to watch the sun set and rise here!?

The Hike:  Atlatl Rock
Hike Time:  30-60 minutes
Distance:  1 mile round trip
Elevation Difference:  200 feet
Difficulty:  Easy

Scramble up the steep sandstone crag to the top and you will be able to see Lake Mead.  As you come back down the staircase you can see more petroglyphs along the rock wall.

The Beehives

The Beehives are sandstone formations that is an excellent representation of geologic cross bedding.  Those are the grooved lines going in different directions.  The layers or beds represent different layers of silt that are deposited at different times.

The beds indicate the angle of the wind or water that was moving at the time the material was deposited.  Cross bedding is very common in sand dunes, beach deposits and river sediments.

A short path winds through rocky dunes with hills of the Muddy Mountains visible in the distance.

I don’t seem to have taken a photo of the BeeHives, not sure why, so here’s a general photo from the park instead. You can still see the cross bedding though which is apparent throughout most of the sandstone rocks in the park.

Petrified Logs

Petrified wood is wood so old that it has become fossilised – it is nothing to do with being scared lol.

All the organic matter has been removed by sun, wind, water, and time and has been completely replaced with minerals.  Logs and stumps washed into Valley of Fire about 225 million years ago and are visible in two locations.  The logs are several colorful tree trunks lying close to the road, safely fenced off for all to enjoy.

We didn’t get a chance to see the logs either…

Balanced Rock

Right outside the visitor center is another one of the famous Valley of Fire formations; Balanced Rock.

Mouse’s Tank

Mouse’s Tank is a natural basin in the rock where water collects after each rainfall.  A half-mile round trip trail leads to Mouse’s Tank from the trailhead parking area.

There are excellent examples of prehistoric petroglyphs on the trail.  Mouse’s Tank is named after a Southern Paiute Indian renegade (“Little Mouse”) who hid out in the Valley of Fire as a hideout in the 1890’s after he was accused of gunning down two prospectors.

When I heard this story, I was cynical as to how anybody could hide out here but having been up in those rocks hiding, I can see just how possible it would be.

The Hike:  Mouse’s Tank
Hike Time:  20-30 minutes
Distance:  7/10 of a mile round trip
Elevation Difference:  80 feet
Difficulty:  Very Easy

The great thing about all of these hikes is that they’ve really easy. The parking is spacious and the ground is nearly all sand and soft.

The trail is also known as Petroglyph Canyon Trail due to the number of petroglyphs on the side of the rocks which you’re free to climb and explore.

The sides that lead into the ‘tank’ are relatively steep but it is possible to climb down into the basin or up on the rocks to look down. The rock is very soft here and the rain over time has worn holes into it making perfect cubby holes for kids to climb into and hide.

Rainbow Vista

The canyons, domes, towers, ridges and valleys of Rainbow Vista were carved from sand deposited 150 million years ago when the dinosaurs walked the earth.

Rainbow Vista is a viewpoint in Valley of Fire State Park, where the road reaches the top of a low ridge revealing a vast area of multicolored rocks stretching for many miles northwards, rather different than the dark red cliffs found further south.

Fire Canyon/Silica Dome

In this region, forces within the earth have been powerful enough to cause thousands of feet of surface rock to fold, break and in some areas push several miles from their original location.

Today, erosion has worn away the top of one great fold, exposing the sharply angles layer of rock, and creating numerous canyons.

White Domes

The White Domes are sandstone formations with brilliant contrasting colors and a short one-mile hike.

The White Domes Trail combines sweeping desert vistas, a slot canyon, windows, caves and a historic movie site.

The White Domes area was the location for the 1966 movie The Professionals. This western is responsible for the development of the road and access to this remarkable area. The remains of the site include a small portion of the wall of the hacienda.

Hike Time:  30 minutes
Distance:  1 mile round trip
Elevation Difference:  200 feet
Difficulty:  Easy

The Hike:  The hike goes up a hill into a narrow canyon area. At the top of the hill, you get an extraordinary view of the Valley. Descend down the rocks and you come to an open area where some of the movie set remains. The temperature drops quite a bit here in the narrows in contrast to the heat of the dessert.

Once through the canyon, the trail makes the loop back to the car park.

Seven Sisters

The Seven Sisters are a group of seven tall, red, eroded boulders surrounded by the sandy desert. What’s the big deal you might be thinking? Well, there are picnic tables and everywhere you look these cute little rodents run around.

When we visited a wedding was taking place! The best location near Las Vegas for a wedding?

For me the Seven Sisters were best appreciated from the other side of the road rather than up close where the ground looks more akin to Mars than Earth with its red and dusty soil.

The Cabins

Now a picnic area, these historic cabins were built with Valley of Fire sandstone by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930’s for travellers.

Elephant Rock

This rock is shaped as an arch, similar to that of an elephant.  The rock is right next to the road, but as parking is limited on Valley of Fire Road, it is best to park in the nearby parking lot and take the 1/3 of a mile trail to reach the formation.

The walk from the car takes just five minutes.

Top Tips For Visiting The Valley Of Fire

  1. Get there early to avoid the heat of the day and to be able to spend a full day exploring.
  2. Visit the information centre for a map and stickers for the kids.
  3. Take drinks. Many drinks! If you can take a cold box (esky) and some ice too, do it. We visited in winter and it was still very hot and dry.
  4. Take a picnic so you can spend all day here. There’s enough to see.
  5. I would have loved to camp at Atlatl Rock, if you can definitely do it. It looked so much fun.
  6. Wear trainers/sneakers for comfort and rock climbing. Walking boots are unnecessary.
  7. If you’re going in the summer, definitely take a hat.

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I LOVED the Valley of Fire & was enthralled by it. I thought  it was really interesting and all of the hikes are short and there’s lots to see. Our kids had an amazing time running, jumping, hiding and climbing. If you’re taking kids to Las Vegas this is a great day trip to have with them.

All our kids agreed that they would like to go back. We were a bit worried about taking the kids to Vegas and wondered if there’d be anything appropriate for them to do. As it turns out, we had a brilliant time and there was loads to do.

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The Valley of Fire is an amazing national park in Nevada. Just an hour from Las Vegas, it's perfect for kids and adults to explore! Short hikes & loads to see.

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