In the middle of the beautiful desert scenery at the Valley of Fire, you’ll find the Rainbow Vista Trail. This short 1.0 mile round trip trail leads hikers through a red rock sandstone canyon before ending with a stunning view of Fire Canyon.
Rainbow Vista Trailhead Hiking Stats
|Trail Description||Out and Back|
|Trail Location||Valley of Fire, Mouse’s Tank Road, Overton, NV|
|Parking Lot||36.4509444374466, -114.51539914924165|
|Round Trip Mileage||1.0 miles|
|Average Time||45 minutes to an hour|
|Elevation Gain||~100 feet|
|Best time to visit||Fall, Winter, Spring|
|Entrance Fee||$10 per vehicle per day ($15 for non-NV vehicles)|
|Current Info/Closures:||Valley of Fire State Park|
|Hours||Sunrise to Sunset|
Know before you go:
- There is little shade on this trail and the canyon gets extremely hot. Bring extra water and wear sun protection.
- The trail footing is mostly sand for the entire route, except for a couple of small areas with rocks to climb down.
- Wear shoes/clothes you don’t mind ruining (potentially) with the abundance of red sand in the canyon.
- The standard warnings of hiking in the desert apply to this hike including dehydration, flash floods, weather hazards, and venomous wildlife. Learn more about what we do to keep ourselves safe in the desert here.
Our experience hiking to the Fire Canyon overlook
After hiking the Fire Wave and White Domes trails, we wanted to get one more hike in before heading home.
We arrived at the parking lot for the Rainbow Vista hike and found it about half full. The parking lot doubles as a great view of Mouse’s Tank Road and has several large sandstone rocks that are easily climbable. We found a lot of visitors never leave this parking area, as we had the trail largely to ourselves during our visit.
The trail starts out immediately on rocky/sandy terrain through several large red colored boulders.
A sign reads:
“You are looking across 150 million years of time. The great maze of canyons, domes, towers, ridges and valleys before you are carved from sand deposited during the time when dinosaurs walked the earth. This is wild, virtually untouched wilderness. It is an “adventure of color” for you to experience by car and on foot.”
We didn’t see any pterodactyls while we were there, but after all the sightings in North Carolina, I guess we can’t rule out anything?
The trail continues towards Fire Canyon and we found it to be mostly soft red sand mixed with occasional loose rock.
Insider tip: Wear clothing you don’t mind getting red sand on as it can stain your shoes, socks and even longs pants.
The trail slopes gently down through the canyon past more rock formations and towering sandstone walls.
Along the trail we found a small amount of vegetation but mostly just rock formations.
We didn’t get to see any wildlife while we were on the trail, but others have seen lizards and bighorn sheep.
Nearing the end of the trail, you’ll see a “window arch” along the right-hand side of the trail. It’s an interesting structure to stop and explore.
After the “window arch”, you’ll final reach a sign that says “end of trail.”
Here, you can enjoy the stunning view of the Fire Canyon overlook.
After enjoying the overlook, we decided to head back to the car, just as several groups were arriving. What perfect timing we had!
The way back up the trail was a little more difficult due to the slightly uphill trek to the parking lot. The elevation gain is slight, but magnified with the heavily sanded trail. We did enjoy this beautiful view as we were headed back to the car:
A Bonus Activity
We had noticed when we arrived that many people parking at the Rainbow Vista trailhead weren’t there to hike the trail, but to enjoy the view of Mouse’s Tank Road and try their hand at scaling some of the sandstone rocks.
From the parking lot, Mouse’s Tank Road looks like this:
We decided to climb up one of the most prominent rocks near the parking lot.
You can watch the video here or below:
The sandstone is fairly sticky and the slope was gradual up the hill. I’m quite adverse to heights and felt pretty safe until I reached the top. While it was pretty wide at the top, I didn’t feel very comfortable. Mr. Moose thought I was overreacting; but I was pretty happy to come back down. I’m glad I went as the view was spectacular!
Warning: Do not hike sandstone if it is wet. It becomes extremely slippery and the risk of injury or death is high.
Should you hike the Rainbow Vista Trail?
Rating: 4.0 Mooses
What we liked:
- Walking through the various colors of the sandstone and rock formations was quite a treat.
- The end of the trail at Fire Canyon was incredible. Rocks seemingly stretch out in front of you as far as the eye can see.
- We enjoyed a bit of solitude on this trail, unlike the nearby Fire Wave trail. I do think we got lucky in a lull of visitors as when we were leaving the trail started to get busier.
What we didn’t like:
- There was a ton of red sand on the trail to walk through which adds extra time to the hike.
- There is no shade on the trail and it gets hot in the Valley of Fire. Come prepared.