The average holiday in Las Vegas is all about casinos, clubs and cabaret. But since the city is so close to some amazing natural attractions, I think it’s worth doing something a bit different and sprinkling a few excursions into your trip, with the Valley of Fire State Park being my top choice.
What is the Valley of Fire?
What exactly is the Valley of Fire, I hear you ask? Well, this is the oldest and biggest state park in Nevada, and it’s one that’s famous for its unusual landscapes. In fact, its striking red sandstone is what gave the park its name.
Located around 55 miles north-east of Las Vegas, this 35,000-acre park is not only famous for its stunning rock formations, but also its ancient petroglyphs (rock carvings) and its frequent role as a setting for TV and film scenes. Among the productions it has been used in are Total Recall, Star Trek Generations and Transformers.
Because the Valley of Fire has such a unique landscape, I think it would be well worth a visit no matter where you’re staying in Nevada. However, in my mind I think it’s a particularly good choice if you’re holidaying in Las Vegas.
Why? Well, a trip here provides such a total contrast to Sin City’s gaudy glamour. Coming here, you’ll see there’s much more to Nevada than the bright lights of the Strip. For a day, you can leave your luxury hotel behind (if you haven’t yet booked a place to stay, this website has some great options) and venture into the park’s otherworldly terrain.
How to make the most of your trip
The best way to experience the Valley of Fire is by booking yourself on a specialist tour. This way, you can take advantage of all the expertise of a knowledgeable tour guide – something that means you can do more than simply admire the landscape (though of course that’s a major part of any trip here!).
There are several excursions available, such as a bus tour that will drive you through the park, with your guide telling you some of the amazing stories associated with the historical petroglyphs and the landscape as a whole. There will be a few stops so you can stretch your legs among the 150-million-year-old rocks, and get a closer look at the scenery.
Alternatively, opt to spend a day being driven round the valley in a ten-passenger touring vehicle, which is designed for off-road adventures. On this kind of trip, you can see some of the park’s most famous sites, including Atlatl Rock – so-named for the ancient carvings of atlatls on it – and Rainbow Vista.
Rainbow Vista is one of my favourite spots in the park. Not only offering amazing panoramic scenery, this viewpoint also gives you the chance to admire a stunning landscape of multicoloured rock, which contrasts with the darker red terrain found in the more southern areas of the park.
Another option is to head out in a two-seat dune buggy and have a unique off-road adventure. You’ll travel with a guide, who will decide the best route for you to take. Generally, you’ll travel around 17 miles through the park, with this being the best way to get a few thrills while you explore it.