Was it here already? The last day of our all-too-short road trip though the American Southwest? We weren’t ready for it to be over, but we didn’t have much time to linger on that thought — it was a three state day. We started the morning in St. George, Utah, crossed briefly back into the northwest corner of Arizona on I-15, and then made our way into Nevada and towards Valley of Fire State Park, eventually ending back where we started in Las Vegas.
We’d spent the night in St. George, Utah at Temple View RV Resort. We’d picked it because it had a hot tub we had ambitious plans of soaking in it while toasting to our final night on the road, but in the end we arrived after dark and didn’t bother. Other amenities included shuffle boards, a fitness room, a pool and beyond. Suddenly we were in a city with a movie theater and McDonald’s across the street, yet the rural charm of our previous digs was replaced with luxuries like free hot showers, so that eased the transition. We did get a hilarious taste of the RV world that we hadn’t seen at our other stops — this was more or less a retirement village filled partially with fully parked trailers of snowbirds who come for the winter and rent by the month, and partially with gargantuan luxury RVs that could easily double as a fleet of tour buses.
As with everywhere we went, we gave plenty of tours around our brightly colored JUCY to curious onlookers.
It was definitely a little bittersweet to pass through Utah but have enough time to really enjoy it. Luckily I’d been once before on a springtime trip to Sundance to attend a close family friend’s graduation, so I didn’t have to waffle over whether or not I’d count this drive-by in my pursuit to eventually visit — and make a significant memory in — all fifty states.
While most setting off from St. George that morning were heading to nearby big draws like Zion and Bryce National Parks, we had to be back in Vegas in time to drop off our camper and catch a 5pm flight to Reno, leaving little time to veer off our route. Which is what made our stop at Nevada’s Valley of Fire State Park, just an hour outside Vegas, a no-brainer! Though the park is dwarfed in size by some of its nearby National Park neighbors, it is in fact Nevada’s largest — and oldest — State Park.
I admit that we drove in with few expectations. Other parts of the trip had monopolized our planning hours and so we didn’t really know what we were getting into when we hit the park’s east entrance, less than two hours after setting off from St. George.
We stopped briefly to admire Elephant Rock before heading onward to the Visitor’s Center, where we were hit with a big ‘ol dose of reality regarding what we could realistically see with our timeframe and the current August temperature. While we’d hoped to tackle some of the park’s shorter hiking trails, the ranger on duty politely informed us that we were looney tunes. At 114°F outside, the trails were effectively closed. My dream of photographing Fire Wave was temporarily on hold. But luckily for us, many of the park’s most popular rock formations and desert vistas were viewable more or less right from the road.
We set off White Domes Road, the park’s north-south, most scenic thoroughfare. And guys. We. were. awe. struck. I don’t know if it was the fact that we’d done so little research and so had no idea what to expect or early onset heatstroke but we simply could not shut up about the beauty of the surreal landscape opening up in front of us.
It felt like we were driving through a tub of rainbow sherbert, or into the thick strokes of a Wayne Tiebaud painting. I don’t say this often, but photos just didn’t do it justice.
How had I been to Las Vegas five times and never made it here? I certainly won’t make the same mistake again. With such a crazy short commute from Sin City, I look forward to returning here again for a hiking trip at a cooler time of the year. With $10 campgrounds onsite and Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam nearby neighbors, I might just made a weekend out of it.
see the size of that tiny van aside aptly-named Balancing Rock?
After returning to the park’s main road, we made one final stop on our way towards the west entrance — The Beehives. Eroded by wind and water, they were the perfect bizarre goodbye to our short but super sweet time in the park.
By the time the Sin City skyline came back into view, it felt like weeks rather than days since we’d last laid eyes on it. Handing over those JUCY keys felt like saying goodbye to an old friend. Yet filled as I was with nostalgia already, I’d have to save the pining for another day. For in that moment, we were already looking forward to our next adventure.
We were Burning Man bound.
Stay tuned for one last post — a roundup of our roadtrip and a tour inside our ride!
Many thanks to JUCY for our sweet ride! As always, you receive my honest thoughts, full opinions and poorly written jokes regardless of who is footing the bill.
Looks a fantastic place to visit Alex!
It’s a really fun little park. And with that drive time from Vegas, there’s no excuse not to!
For some reason the scenery suddenly reminded me of Wile E. Coyote and The Road Runner! Did you find coyotes carrying anvils around by any chance? 🙂
Ha! That is the perfect description 🙂 Didn’t notice one, but I’m sure he was just lurking around the nearest corner.
What a great ending to a great roadtrip!! If you are ever in Omaha, Nebraska I would be honored to meet and show you around!!;
Aw, thanks Cate! Maybe for the next road trip 😉
I really only have one burning question: Can I join you next time???
Le duh! Are Tucker and Ella coming?
I LOVE Valley of Fire and I feel like nobody knows about it. Like you, I can’t believe how many times I visited Vegas before discovering it (and I obviously hadn’t discovered it all that well since I didn’t know about the Fire Wave until your post…ah, well something to do next time!)
Yeah, I’m surprised how little I’ve heard of it as well! I’ve definitely known about the buzz around Red Rock Canyon but don’t think I’d even heard the name Valley of Fire prior to planning this trip.
Ohh I know exactly the wave rock you mean! That would have been awesome to photograph. I’m so into the idea of a US roadtrip now, gotta make it happen this year! 🙂
If that was an invitation… I accept.
This looks awesome! heading there next year and am super excited 🙂
Ah, enjoy, Jason! Hope you get a slightly cooler day than we had 🙂
Valley of Fire is a great little trip from Vegas! People think Vegas is just hotels and gambling but seriously name another major city with as many awesome things within one-day driving distance! I will note that almost none of those things (with the exception of the Las Vegas Ski Resort; yes a ski resort in Vegas) have anything resembling cold weather, which is definitely my biggest con. But it seems you handled the heat just fine!
What?! I had no idea there was a Las Vegas Ski Resort… off to Google I go 🙂
Roap trip wow,Valley of fire State park looks like an amazing place and it seems like you had a great day. Thanks for your expereince at valley
You’re so welcome Maggie. Thanks for coming along!
Those stunning views are exactly why that part of the US is on my bucket list. It’s incredible how similar yet diverse the landscape is in that area, and I really long to see it with my own eyes.
It really is one of the most geographically diverse countries on earth. I’ve only just begun to grasp that!
I had the opportunity to visit this gem in January! I had been to Vegas many times but never escaped to this rock kaleidoscope! I wrote about my adventures here: https://adventuretramp.com/2020/10/10/from-glaciers-to-a-valley-of-fire/ I can’t imagine what it was like in the middle of August but it looks like you were still able to capture the beauty of the park!
I would love to return in cooler times, Kara, ha. Someday!
Thank you so much for putting this great list together! The Valley of Fire is my favorite park in Nevada and you did a great job catching its essence!
Thanks so much Lena — that’s a huge compliment! I adore this park and have to go back when it’s a tad cooler!