Valley of Fire and Lake Mead in Nevada | Favorite Ride

A 'Ring of Fire' Loop From Sin City to the Valley of Fire

Valley of Fire State Park Nevada
The roads in Nevada’s Valley of Fire State Park cut through some of the world’s most stunning red rock formations.

Johnny Cash sang about fire, murder, heartbreak, and sin, and I think he would have appreciated the symbolism of this ride, given its route. Northeast of Las Vegas is one of the most visually stunning state parks in the Southwest. The added bonus for motorcyclists is that the park’s roads trace through the crimson landscape like slithering black mambas. A ride through Valley of Fire State Park and Lake Mead National Recreation Area makes for a fantastic motorized respite from the neon bustle of Vegas. 

Scan QR code above or click here to view the route on REVER

The Las Vegas Strip, with its massive themed casinos, sidewalk solicitations, and congestion, is not my cup of tea. That’s why my staging point for this ride was Fremont Street. While still over-the-top, this area has the feel of an older, more genuine version of Vegas.

The night before my ride, I watched a cover band play classic rock tunes under the lights and video canopy that spans Fremont and enjoyed a variety of street performers. The next day, I put a couple bottles of water and lunch in the saddlebags of my BMW R 1200 GS and mounted up. 

Read all of Rider’s BMW coverage here

Fremont Street is well north of the traffic and congestion of the Strip, so getting out of the city was much more convenient than it would have been if I had opted for lodging at one of the mega-casinos. On my way out of town, I rode past the Mob Museum and the Neon Museum – Vegas-themed tributes that were added to my post-ride entertainment schedule. 

Lake Mead National Recreation Area Nevada
The Las Vegas Wash runs as a tributary to Lake Mead, adding yet another unique visual element to this great ride.

The cruise northeast on the Las Vegas Freeway (Interstate 15) was a nice warm-up to this loop ride. The muted hues and desert views were expansive as I climbed out of the neon valley. There were a few floating cotton balls in the otherwise intense blue of the mid-morning Nevada sky. The line where the horizon meets the sky was as crisp and sharp as I have ever seen. 

After 30 miles of motoring on the freeway, I diverted the GS eastward onto the Valley of Fire Highway. The two-lane tarmac starts as a gently curving and undulating climb into the gray stone mountains that were part of the striking delineation I enjoyed just miles before. However, the monochromatic gray soon gives way to vibrant blotches of crimson. Contemplating the name of the Valley of Fire State Park, I couldn’t help but imagine those red spots as flare-ups caused by the wind-carried embers of an approaching wildfire. 

Valley of Fire State Park Nevada
The various hues of the desert landscape in the Valley of Fire make for a ride with an almost cinematic feel.

My first stop in the park was at the aptly named Beehives. There is little doubt what all the buzz is about. Cringe-worthy puns aside, the Beehives are a spectacular object lesson on the artistic creativity of erosion. The hives are stratified tributes to the power of wind, water, and time.

Valley of Fire State Park Nevada Beehives
The Beehives are whimsical sentinels that add to the region’s other-worldly feel.

By the time I got to the turnoff for the park’s visitor center, I was fully engulfed in the figurative flames of the Valley of Fire. I live near Sedona, Arizona, and I have ridden extensively through the red rocks of southern Utah, so I have a solid base of reference for the hue of red sandstone. Valley of Fire is something different. The terrain carries a deeper, more blood-like patina in this region. It is stunning. 

Valley of Fire State Park Nevada
The smooth and well-maintained winding roads through the Valley of Fire are tailor-made for motorcycling.

I bought a $10 park pass at a self-serve kiosk and rode up Mouse’s Tank Road. The endgame of this beautiful ride was a short hike on The White Domes Trail, where I enjoyed a drink of water and a snack and took in the majesty.

I am not usually a fan of out-and-back routes; however, this ride, carving through the curvaceous rock formations of the park, is fantastic in both directions. It’s only about 6 miles from the visitor center to the end of Mouse’s Tank Road, so the ride through the heart of the park is short but very scenic.  

See all of Rider‘s touring stories by region/state here

Valley of Fire State Park Nevada
The mix of elevation changes and a smorgasbord of turns makes the ride through the Valley of Fire very entertaining.

Back on the Valley of Fire Highway, I was awed at the beauty around me. The road follows the undulations and sinews of the red rocks. I made a final stop at Elephant Rock and meandered up the trail in my Sidi boots. It was well worth the wear on the soles of those expensive kicks. Elephant Rock is yet another of the park’s formations that is stunningly indicative of nature’s wonders. 

If this were a full daytrip rather than a through-ride, I would have stopped and hiked several more of the park’s features, like Arch Rock and Atlatl Rock with its Native American petroglyphs. The park is deserving of more exploration than I was able to give it. 

Lake Mead National Recreation Area Nevada
A fellow biker gives the universal salute as he rolls through Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

Back on the BMW, I made my way to the end of the park’s highway at its intersection with North Shore Road (State Route 167). The referenced shore is the bank of Lake Mead. The “shore road” moniker is a bit of a misnomer. The Southwest’s unprecedented drought has drawn the reservoir down to a record low, so I was quite some distance from the lake. While not a waterside trek, the ride in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area is entertaining and beautiful. I was back in that fringe environment where red outcroppings dot the gray landscape. The fire was to my back this time. 

Lake Mead National Recreation Area Nevada
The terrain within Lake Mead National Recreation Area is stark, barren, and beautiful.

Farther west on my return toward Vegas, the flatter, muted desert landscape returned. Cactus, desert brush, and the occasional dwarf palm dotted the horizon, and the final leg was relaxing as I traveled back from the Valley of Fire to the valley of neon. With proper gear choices, this is a ride that can be made virtually year-round, and I will certainly be back. From the City of Sin to the Valley of Fire, it’s a heavenly ride indeed. The Man in Black would approve.


  1. A crazy beautiful place – as you note it is so different than Utah. Kind of like a frozen explosion or something. A lot of what you are seeing is fossilized sand dunes. Bring water – bring a lot of water.

    • Andrew, thank you for pointing that out. The QR code went to the correct ride, but the link was indeed to the White Rim Trail we also wrote about recently. I have made that fix to the link. Thanks again!

      Paul Dail
      Associate Editor

  2. Hey Tim,
    Thanks for a great read on a weekend ride near my winter home of Las Vegas NV.
    I too will check this out come fall my favorite time of the year on location. Lots to see & explore without the distance to Bryce Canyon or Sedona! Happy Trails!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here