This blog post combines two separate half-day trips, but if you start in the morning, you can pack all this into one full day or a leisurely weekend trip!
I pass Valley of Fire State Park, an hour north of Las Vegas, in Nevada on EVERY Southwest road trip from SoCal and always told myself I would stop by on the way home if I wasn’t tired… so this time we stopped there at the beginning of our Escalante road trip! I was only there for less than 12 hours, several of which we spent sleeping… but got to see a lot including the insta-famous Valley of Fire road shot, Fire Wave and Pastel Canyon.
Camping near Valley of Fire
Valley of Fire Campground: There are two campgrounds inside Valley of Fire State Park: Arch Rock Campground and Atlatl Rock Campground. They are both first-come, first-serve and cost $20/ night which includes your entry fee. We had no plans of camping on our visit but we got lucky and found an open campsite at Arch Rock Campground on 2.22.21. There are fewer campsites than Atlatl which means fewer people = winning. Campsites have a picnic table with a shade-maker, firepit, grill, and potable water.
*Pro tip: Pick a site away from the toilets
BLM Camping: We drove in late at night around 3 am (left LA at 10 pm) and pulled out in a free camping area just 6 miles before the park boundaries. This is the “overflow” camping for Valley of Fire and is close off Valley of Fire Road, but on a dirt road for less than half a mile. It’s just a large dirt area and a good option for sleeping in your car, but I’ve also slept in a tent here and it smelled like pee and our neighbors were extremely loud in the middle of the night – wouldn’t recommend pitching a tent here.
Remember, it’s BLM so there are no campground services here which include toilets, running water, fire pits, etc. Pack it in, pack it out.
Park Entrance Fee: Bring cash if you plan to visit when the kiosk is closed so you can do the self-pay ($10 for entrance, $20 with camping inside park)
MOUSE’S TANK ROAD
Mouse’s Tank Road.
This insta-famous view can easily be found while driving through the park on Mouse’s Tank Road. This is NOT a hiking trail, nor is it an actual viewpoint! There are pullouts for parking or you can park at Mouse’s Tank trailhead and walk. Cars go flying by so make sure you’re always watching out for that and try to stay off the road when unnecessary. I’m just a hiker that likes to take pretty photos, but for any photographers that want to get a shot without shadows, I’d recommend going early morning or possibly sunset.
Fire Wave: This trail is different than the famous Wave in Arizona. For starters, this hike does not require a permit.
Distance: 0.6 miles one way (less than 15 mins)
Conditions/ temps: fully exposed 82-90 degrees when we went late Spring; would not recommend it in the summer unless you start super early but the park is only open from sunrise to sunset and I heard they strictly enforce sunset closing…
On my second trip out here, we hiked right before sunset to end the day and it was the perfect temps in late Feb… just rushed to get out before the park closed.
Elevation: min 1948 ft; max 2114 ft.
There’s also cell phone reception at the parking lot if you find yourself needing it.
AKA PETROGLYPH CANYON TRAIL
Mouse’s Tank Trail (aka Petroglyph Canyon Trail)!: I skipped this hike on my first visit given my short amount of time… but don’t skip it! It’s only 0.75-miles round trip and there are several petroglyphs along the trail. It’s very sandy, hikes through a canyon, and the end (Mouse’s Tank) wasn’t too impressive… BUT we found some other cool spots to check out off this trail:
*Secluded views of the valley: When you reach Mouse’s Tank, hike up the rocks to your left for a beautiful and secluded view of the valley.
**See a secret arch! Right before you turn left at the end of the trail, continue straight along the wash for less than 5 mins and keep your eyes peeled on the right for the arch below.
Don’t skip the White Domes Trail!: I skipped this hike on my first visit and was pleasantly surprised by the beauty and variety of the trail on my second trip out here.
Distance: 1.25-mile loop
Conditions: hikes through a canyon for the first half, then a slot canyon, then it opens up completely exposed
Elevation gain: 108 ft
This trail hikes past an old movie set, through a small slot canyon, is surrounded by the most beautiful red rocks I’ve seen in the park, and we saw a lot of curious big horn sheep!
Pink Canyon aka Pastel Canyon: It’s a short 5-minute walk to see the Pink Corral Canyon, also known as Pastel Canyon. There’s no official trailhead and there’s only a small turnout on both sides of the road that fits 2-3 cars each. From the trailhead, head left and you’ll start to see the colors right away.
There are many places inside the park we did not get to visit as this was only a quick stop on day one of our road trips. Other popular recommendations from my research include Elephant Rock, Beehives, Mouse’s Tank, and White Domes.
For more ideas to extend your road trip within 1.5 hours from Valley of Fire, check out these Utah State Parks in St. George below! Gunlock State Park was our next destination and highly recommended right now because it’s the first time the water has flowed (& is currently still flowing) in YEARS!
Booking travel soon?
Please consider using my affiliate links below. It costs nothing additional for you but helps me maintain the ever-increasing costs of running a travel blog:
Book your flights here.
Book your accommodations here on Expedia, Booking.com, Hotels.com, and VRBO.
Book your car rentals here.
Book your tours here.
Book your travel insurance here.