Las Vegas was a bit of a hub to meet up with family and friends, so we were in and out of the area several times over the course of a few weeks. Hence, we wanted to try out a few different sites in the area to switch it up a bit. This led us to find an awesome Bureau of Land Management site just outside of Valley of Fire State Park, about an hour Northeast of Vegas.
Since we were planning to pick our friend, Rob, up at the airport the next morning and swing by Valley of Fire en route to Utah, this was the perfect positioning and gave us one of the most serene nights we’ve had.
Valley of Fire has two campgrounds within the park, but we had heard about a relatively popular BLM area informally called, “Snowbird Mesa” in Overton, NV, and wanted to give it a try. Since access to shower facilities were included in the $10 per vehicle day fee to the park anyway, this was a win-win. Taking 167 out of Vegas (as opposed to the boring drive on 15), we had to pass through Lake Mead National Recreation Area, which admittedly would have been a drawback had our National Parks All Access Pass not gotten us through free. The drive was extremely scenic though, so it might have actually been worth that extra admission anyway.
Going north on 167, just past a Lake Mead toll booth and an intersection leading left to Valley of Fire, the access road is around a bend on the right and – at least when we were there – was marked by a balloon and a brown sign mentioning the 14-day limit for free camping that usually comes with a BLM site. The set of access roads were expectedly bumpy but fairly well defined. The spots were a little less well defined though and it was difficult to find a good turnaround for the travel trailer given that the sagebrush had grown high enough to be an obstacle in this area. After a few tries, a little scraping of the bottom of the trailer on sharp branches (luckily we could rub most of the “scratches” off!), and admittedly a few obscenities, we finally got into position in a perfect spot alongside the canyon and with a good distance between us and our neighbors. We later came to find that we had picked a more difficult to navigate area as we saw a lot of other RVs congregated in other, more open areas, but this offered us more privacy, which was all well with us as we enjoyed the better part of an afternoon and sunset here. It’s not that we don’t like making friends, but when enjoying the vast expanse of nature, we love the peace and quiet!
The next day after a round-trip to McCarran International, we hitched up and headed to Valley of Fire to be headed for the St. George Walmart that night en route to get a first-come, first-served spot the next morning at South Campground in Zion. Valley of Fire covers 46,000 acres in the Mojave Desert and is known for its brightly colored sandstone formations. It looks so much like another planet that it has been used a few times by Hollywood, including for the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, Total Recall, and the setting for the death of Captain Kirk in Star Trek.
The 10-mile main road through the park is considered a scenic byway and probably enough to get a feel for the park if the heat is too intense to really get out and explore. The temperatures felt hot but not totally unbearable in late October, but we only had time to do two fairly short hikes while there anyway – the White Domes Trail and Rainbow Vista Trail. We still got to see a good amount of its iconic scenery though. By the way, the map they gave us upon entry only really highlighted the shorter hikes. This appears to be a better trail map, should you find yourself there when temperatures are comfortable.
Overall, we are already longing to go back to Snowbird Mesa and Valley of Fire is absolutely worth a stop in the Vegas area!