Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada
Everything the RV Renter Needs to Know
Everything the RV Renter Needs to Know
As you drive through the deserts of Nevada on your RV road trip, it seems difficult to imagine ancient people settled down and made their lives among what seems to be a desolate landscape. The stunning red sandstone outcroppings and ridges of present-day Valley of Fire State Park served as excellent shelter from the harsh desert sun for the Pueblo people. Attention was not given to the region until road construction was underway to connect Los Angeles to Salt Lake City in the early 1900s and travelers noted the vibrant red and orange colors at sunset, giving the park its name.
Today, Valley of Fire State Park is 40,000 acres of some of the most gorgeous desert scenery in the United States. Beyond the striking red sandstone geological formations, visitors will also marvel at the petrified forests and the unique desert ecosystem. After seeing all Valley of Fire State Park has to offer, you’ll definitely be adding this destination to your Nevada road trip list.
The park has over 25 miles of trails to bring you all over its diverse 40,000 acres. Whether you are looking for a quick loop or a lengthy out and back route, you’ll have plenty of options. For hikers looking to do some sight-seeing, while keeping things relatively tame, the little loops around Balancing Rock and the Petrified Logs are the best options. If you really want a challenge, go for the four-and-a-half-mile Prospect Trail with plenty of elevation change and rugged views.
One important thing to keep in mind when hiking in Valley of the Fire State Park is that the terrain is primarily sandstone. What this means for hikers is that the ground can be a little soft and unstable in places, especially if there has been any recent precipitation. Fortunately, the park staff monitors the integrity of each trail and you can check out their specific firmness and stability to inform your trail choices.
In many parks, visitors are not allowed to climb on the rock faces. Luckily, there are ample opportunities to play on the beautiful red sandstone at Valley of Fire. A couple of trails offer “Rock Scramble Areas” for visitors. What is rock scrambling, you ask? Essentially you can hop along large boulders, rocks, and outcroppings as you navigate an area. Prospective scramblers should be stable on their feet with fairly strong legs and ankles.
For scrambling within the park, look to the Prospect, Rainbow Vista, and Natural Arches Trails. By far the most scramble opportunities are available along the Prospect Trail, however, these are miles from the trailhead and can be inconvenient if you’re not looking to make a day out of it. For quicker scramble access, Rainbow Vista is your best bet.
Petroglyphs are considered one of the best indicators that ancient peoples inhabited an area. Created by a primitive hammer and chisel, petroglyphs are artwork carved into boulders or rock faces that often tell a story and can survive for thousands of years. Archaeologists have learned a lot about what was important to these early people and certain events that may have happened from these ancient carvings.
Within Valley of Fire State Park, there are a number of petroglyphs that were left by ancient people. Some of the best examples can be found at Atlatl Rock, located on the western edge of the park. Here, you will see carvings that depict spears being used for hunting and defense and remnants of these spears have been discovered within the park.
Although the beautiful red sandstone at Valley of Fire State Park is a sight to see on its own, there are about a dozen particularly striking geological formations that have earned names for themselves. All of these formations are also accessible via the trail or road system so you can see them all!
The ‘Beehives’ are one of the more interesting formations. You can see that over many thousands of years, layer after layer was formed and hardened, building up ridges that resemble beehives. This essentially allows you to see what was going on in the environment at that time in history. You should also make sure to see Elephant Rock because, well, it really does look like a huge Saharan beast.
The park’s visitor center is a must-stop for anyone looking to learn more about this amazing land and its development as Nevada’s first state park. For visitors interested in the unique geology, there are a number of exhibits about the petrified wood and the specific sandstone of the region that give the park its striking landscape. You can also learn about the resident plants and animals that call this desert ecosystem home (say hi to Elvis, the center’s live gopher snake while you’re there).
If you are interested in the anthropological history of the park, there’s plenty of information for you as well. Learn more about the ancient peoples that carved the iconic petroglyphs as well as the early Pueblo people that perfected hunting and fishing in this difficult environment. At certain times of the year, there are also competitions for visitors to throw spears resembling those used by skilled Native American hunters.
There are two RV-friendly campgrounds at the park along its western border near Arch Rock and Atlatl Rock. Together, these sites offer 72 campsites with available water and electric hookups. Additional amenities include bathhouses, a dump station, and picnic areas. Be aware that these campsites are available on a first-come-first-served basis so make sure to have a backup plan.
In the western U.S., in particular, RV campers have access to a bunch of public acreage under the control of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The Poverty Flats area just outside Valley of Fire State Park is one such example and commonly serves as overflow when the park campgrounds are full. Although you will be dry camping, you will be close to the park, have fantastic views, and because it’s public land, you won’t pay a dime to camp.
What better way to enjoy desert camping than by finding a rare campsite on a large body of water? About 16 miles to the east, you’ll find the Echo Bay RV Park on the famous Lake Mead. Here, you’ll find 55 RV campsites with full hookups and you’ll have access to swimming and some of the best bass fishing around. Additional amenities include Wi-Fi, showers, laundry, and a camp store.
You’re pretty close to downtown Vegas, so if your group wants to be nearer to all of the modern action, consider setting up camp at the Hitchin’ Post RV Park. The campground is quite large, with nearly 200 full hookup RV campsites that can accommodate rigs up to 70 feet in length. For entertainment, the park is kind of its own little Vegas with an on-site saloon, restaurant, and gaming. There’s also a golf practice facility and dog park on the premises.
If you prefer to stay on the north side of the park, the Fun ‘N Sun RV Park is 11 miles to the north in Overton. The campground has 67 available RV campsites with full hookup capability. Amenities include Wi-Fi, laundry, and a bathhouse. For fun, take a dip in the heated pool or hot tub, play some horseshoes, or try one of the available games at the rec center.
Unfortunately, there are no dining facilities within the park. There are plenty of picnic areas and grills available, however, so you can easily make your own feast on-site and enjoy the stunning views during sunset.
The closest hub for dining options would be the town of Overton just outside the northern border of the park. Here, you’ll find Mexican cuisine, sports bars, ice cream, and a few chains. There’s also a grocery store in town if you need to restock or would like to make your own meals.
You’re also less than 50 miles outside of Vegas (pictured above), possibly closer depending on where you set up camp. As is to be expected, the closer you drive to Vegas, the more dining options you’ll find. If you head into Vegas proper, you will of course have access to any cuisine you could possibly dream up.
No matter where you stay, images of the blazing red sandstone at Valley of Fire State Park is sure to be one of your fondest memories from your RV camping trip through the great state of Nevada.