Introducing Valley of Fire State Park
A masterpiece of desert scenery filled with psychedelically shaped sandstone outcroppings, this park on the north edge of Lake Mead wows. It's amazing that this fantasyland of wondrous shapes carved in psychedelic sandstone by the erosive forces of wind and water is also a relaxing escape that's only 55 miles from Vegas.
Hwy 169 runs right past the visitor center, which offers information on hiking, and excellent desert-life exhibits. sells books and maps, and has information about ranger-led activities like guided hikes and stargazing.
Take the winding scenic side road out to White Domes, an 11-mile round-trip. En route you'll pass Rainbow Vista, followed by the turn-off to Fire Canyon and Silica Dome (incidentally, where Captain Kirk perished in Star Trek: Generations).
Spring and fall are the best times to visit; daytime summer temperatures typically exceed 100°F (more than 37°C). The valley is at its most fiery at dawn and dusk, so consider grabbing a first-come, first-served site in the campgrounds (tent/RV sites $20/30). The fastest way here from Las Vegas is to drive I-15 north to NV Hwy 169, taking about an hour.