The Best Escape Into Nature Near Las Vegas Is This Otherworldly State Park

When you're on the ground, it's pretty easy to believe that the sprawl of Las Vegas goes on forever. However, if you look out as you're landing or heading to Vegas as part of a wider road trip, you realize that the city is an urban island in a vast area of majestic wilderness. In fact, as well as being a gambler's paradise, Las Vegas is also a fantastic destination for nature lovers, with the Grand Canyon and Death Valley both just a couple of hours away.

Luckily, there's an escape into nature that's much closer to Las Vegas. Valley of Fire State Park is only around 50 minutes from downtown, and it couldn't be more different from the bright lights of Sin City. As you head out of Las Vegas, you quickly enter a sweeping desert landscape of scrubby vegetation and pale rocks. After a short drive, you come to Valley of Fire State Park, where visitors are met by dramatic red sandstone rock formations rising from the earth. This otherworldly park provides the perfect contrast to your fast-paced Las Vegas vacation.

Hiking in Valley of Fire State Park

There are a ton of short walks and longer hikes within the Valley of Fire's 40,000 gorgeous acres. The park is easy to navigate as there's only one main road running through it, and a lot of the hikes start from the roadside. Popular and relatively short trails include Mouse's Tank and Rainbow Vista.

Mouse's Tank Trail is only 0.7 miles long, but it leads you past one of the park's highlights — the ancient petroglyphs. AllTrails users recommend going early in the morning or late afternoon to avoid both the heat of the day and the crowds, with one reviewer calling it an "awesome and easy trail." Heading north from Mouse's Tank will bring you to Rainbow Vista, one of the park's most colorful trails. This mile-long hike serves up gorgeous views of the park's iconic multicolored rocks. As with all trails in the park, it's best to explore when the weather is cooler.

There are many other trails in Valley of Fire, including the stunning White Domes Trail, which features a slot canyon and huge domes of white sandstone rocks, and the amazing Fire Wave and Seven Wonders Loop. This longer loop, which takes you through the park's glorious landscapes to the Fire Wave rock formation, garnered the review, "This is the best trail ever!" from another AllTrails user. However, these two trails and many others close in the summer months (generally mid-May until the end of September).

Extra information about Valley of Fire

If you're looking to escape the hustle and bustle of Las Vegas for longer than just a day, you can stay overnight at Valley of Fire in one of the two campgrounds. Atlatl Rock and Arch Rock campgrounds are next to each other, and the sites have grills, water, restrooms, and, importantly, shaded tables. One reviewer on Google Maps wrote, "Really awesome camping," and several reviewers mentioned seeing bighorn sheep around the campgrounds. Spots can be confirmed at the Reserve Nevada website.

We've already mentioned hiking when the weather is cooler. Many visitors prefer the spring and fall for visiting Valley of Fire, as temperatures are pleasant. In summer, highs can reach over 120 degrees Fahrenheit, while in winter, nighttime temperatures can be freezing (though days are usually warm).

There are two more things to know before visiting the park, one good and one bad, so we'll start with the bad. Several Tripadvisor users mentioned waiting for a long time in a line of cars to enter the park. It may be best to arrive early to avoid the queues. On the flip side, many visitors to Valley of Fire talk about the excellent visitor center, so make sure to stop in when you visit. Whatever you do, if you're visiting the Entertainment Capital of the World, make time to get out of the city. In fact, not doing this is a major mistake to avoid when visiting Las Vegas.