Our family has traveled numerous times to St. George in southern Utah. Popular day trips during out weekend trips include Snow Canyon State Park and Zion National Park. Some friends introduced us to Valley of Fire State Park, so we ventured into Nevada to explore what the park had to offer.
Here’s your guide to four hiking trails that are perfect for kids. They provide a little bit of adventure, rock climbing and fun.
Getting to the Valley of Fire
Valley of Fire State Park is about an hour north of Las Vegas, or an hour and 40 minutes south of St. George, Utah. Depending on which direction you’re coming from, here’s how you get to the visitor center.
- LAS VEGAS: Head north on I-15. Take Exit 75 and head east along Valley of Fire highway. The entrance to the park will be on your left.
- ST GEORGE, UTAH: Head south on I-15. Take Exit 93 and head south along Moapa Valley Blvd (Highway 169). The highway winds through town, but you’ll eventually turn right onto Valley of Fire highway. The park entrance will be on your right.
The entrance fee is $10. If camping is more your style, it’s $20 per night for overnight camping. Add $10 each night if you need utility hookups for your campsite.
When you arrive at the visitor center, ensure that each member of your group has enough water. Two to three liters of water per person should be adequate. More may be required if you’re taking multiple hikes in a single day, and depending on the temperature. Sunblock and appropriate clothing is also beneficial. We were at the park in December, so coats were required. But in the summer, our attire would’ve been completely different.
If you need ideas on how to make hiking more fun for kids, here are seven things you can try for yourself.
From the visitor center, take Mouse Tank road into the park. A parking area on your right hand side, roughly 1.5 miles from the visitor center, is the trailhead to Mouse’s Tank. The best part about Mouse’s Tank trail is that kids can explore rock alcoves, while climbing around on more rocks. Part of the trail includes a narrow canyon, too.
During that narrow canyon, take the time to stop and look up along the rock face. You’ll likely notice native american petroglyphs marking the rocks. What’s interesting, is that many of the rocks in this area, especially those where the petroglyphs are carved, have a black color almost painted on them. That is known as desert varnish.
Near the end of the short and rather flat trail, there are some pools of water. The end of the trail also has some rather steep cliffs down into the mouse’s tank, so you’ll want to keep an eye on your kids so no one tumbles over. After you and your kids have explored the trail to their heart’s content, it’s time to head back to the car and explore another trail in Valley of Fire State Park.
DISTANCE: About one mile roundtrip.
CATEGORY: Easy, but note you’ll be hiking in loose sand.
ELEVATION CHANGE: Less than 100 feet of elevation change.
Roughly 3.5 miles north of Mouse’s Tank trailhead parking is the trailhead to Fire Wave. The parking is on the west side of the road, so be cautious when you cross the road to the trailhead on the east side. There is little to no shade along this trail, so be prepared with plenty of water, hats, appropriate clothing and sunblock to avoid any dangers. During the summer, the right equipment is a must!
The first part of the trail is pretty easy to follow. The trail winds across a relatively solid dirt path, with the occasional sandy area. About halfway to the end, the trail turns to solid rock and cairns (little stacks of small rocks) mark the trail to the Fire Wave. Please be mindful of others and don’t topple the cairns or add your own. Too many cairns become litter to the landscape.
When you arrive at the Fire Wave, you’ll find swirls of reds, oranges and whites in the rocks. The first photo above is of the Fire Wave and you can see how it has a stark contrast from the surrounding landscapes. My kids loved climbing around on the rocks, although some of the steeper rock faces made my young son who is afraid of heights a little nervous.
If it’s summertime, remember to be drinking a lot of water. The rock will heat up in the sun, so you’ll have the heat beating on you from above and below. You don’t want to get dehydrated on the trail, even though it’s not a very long trail.
After returning to your car, you can head further up the road and hike White Domes Trail to see an old movie set, hike a narrow canyon and see amazing terrain – all in a one-mile loop trail. We weren’t able to hike the trail during our trip because we didn’t hit the road as early as we wanted to, but it looked like a fun trail to take.
DISTANCE: About 1.5 miles roundtrip.
ELEVATION CHANGE: About 175 feet of elevation change.
To get to Atlatl Rock, head south back to the visitor center and on to the Valley of Fire highway. Head west for about two miles until you reach Campground road (on your right). Signs will guide you to the parking area for Atlatl Rock, approximately .5 a mile down the road.
Once parked, take the trail to the base of a large boulder. Metal stairs will take you up the side of the rock to a nice vantage point of some petroglyphs carved into the rock. Although many of the trails we hiked had petroglyphs, it was nice to see the ones carved into Atlatl Rock.
The parking area also has a little picnic area, so if you brought lunch, it may be a good time to stop and eat something.
DISTANCE: About 500 feet roundtrip – including the trek up the stairs.
CATEGORY: Easy – but you will be climbing a few flights of stairs.
ELEVATION CHANGE: About 100 feet of elevation change.
While you’re near the campgrounds checking out Atlatl Rock, take a moment to drive a little further down the road to see Arch Rock. I do think they could’ve selected a better name than Arch Rock, but that’s my opinion.
The campground area and nearby rock formations make for a fun area for kids to play and explore.
Once your explorations inside Valley of Fire State Park are complete, you can make your way back to the main highway and head to I-15 for the drive home.
Location: Moapa Valley, Nevada. Roughly one hour north of Las Vegas, and one hour 40 minutes south of St. George, Utah.
Cost: $10 entrance fee. Camp sites are first come, first served. Campsite fees are $20 + $10 if your site has utility hookups.
Hours: Open daily, 365 days of the year, from sunrise until sunset. During the night, activity in the park is limited to the campground areas.
Phone: (702) 397-2088