Whenever I travel to Las Vegas, especially if I’m in town for more than a few days, I like to rent a car, leave the city and do a loop drive that includes the Hoover Dam and the shore of Lake Mead, ending in Valley of the Fire State Park (before returning to Las Vegas). Valley of Fire is about six miles (10 km) from Lake Mead and 55 miles (90 km) northeast of Las Vegas. I try to time my arrival at Valley of the Fire for late afternoon so that I can enjoy the cooler temperatures, take a short hike and watch the setting sun.
Valley of Fire is Nevada’s oldest state park, dedicated in 1935, and also its largest. The Park’s name derives from its red sandstone formations that in the light of dawn or dusk truly look like they’re on fire (which is why I’d recommend you time your visit with the rising or setting of the sun). The landscape itself has been sculpted by many years of erosion by the elements. I’ve seen wild mules on several occasions.
There’s evidence of early man here including some 3,000 year-old Indian petroglyphs, some of which you can visit. The park is extremely hot in the summer and is most popular in the spring and fall seasons — also the best time of year to visit Las Vegas. But it’s the color of the rock in the setting sun you’ll remember far longer than the money the one-armed bandits stole or what the selection in the buffet line was.
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