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  4. It's nearly impossible to hike The Wave. Instead, I found a spot near Las Vegas that looks similar and costs $10 to explore.

It's nearly impossible to hike The Wave. Instead, I found a spot near Las Vegas that looks similar and costs $10 to explore.

Bernadette Rankin   

It's nearly impossible to hike The Wave. Instead, I found a spot near Las Vegas that looks similar and costs $10 to explore.
  • For years, I've been trying to get my hands on a hard-to-obtain permit to hike The Wave.
  • I decided to visit the Fire Wave at Nevada's Valley of Fire State Park, which offers similar views.

For the past 10 years, I've obsessed over getting my hands on a permit to hike The Wave. Although I haven't had any luck, this experience has remained at the top of my bucket list.

Located on the border of Utah and Arizona, this spectacular natural wonder is a highly sought-after hiking destination. In fact, the experience requires a permit, which is only granted to about 8% of applicants.

While I remain hopeful that my chance to hike The Wave will come, I decided to check out the next best option: the Fire Wave, located in Nevada's Valley of Fire State Park.

The park, known for its 40,000 acres featuring Aztec sandstone formations, is open to the public between October and May. When I read that it was considered a geologic marvel AND didn't require a permit, I was sold.

Here's what my experience at Valley of Fire State Park was like.

Getting to Valley of Fire State Park was simple

Valley of Fire State Park is situated an hour northeast of Las Vegas, with easily accessible, fully paved roads throughout the entire route.

After following signs into Nevada's oldest and largest state park, my husband and I stopped at the ranger station to pay the entrance fee —$10 for those who live in the state or $15 for non-Nevada residents.

The road led us from the ranger station into the park's interior, with stops along the way that included ancient petrified trees, 2,500-year-old petroglyphs, slot canyons, painted hills, and of course, the Fire Wave.

After parking, we grabbed our backpacks and started on the mostly flat, out-and-back, 1.5-mile round-trip hike — a drastic difference from The Wave's difficult 6.4-mile, round-trip hike.

We were mesmerized by the Fire Wave

Our hike was a quick and easy stroll that took us longer than it should have due to all the beautiful photo opportunities.

Once we arrived at the Fire Wave, there was zero question as to why this spellbinding geologic formation is the most popular feature in the park.

We found ourselves surrounded by layers of waved sandstone, carved by the elements to reveal stripes of pink, red, and white.

We took our time wandering the area surrounding The Fire Wave to ensure we didn't miss a bit of the otherworldly scene surrounding us.

As I took pictures showcasing the dreamscape, I couldn't help feeling like we were standing in the middle of the cover of Dr. Seuss' "Oh, The Places You'll Go."

As we turned away to start our hike back to our car, I was so glad we made the drive out to explore Valley of Fire State Park. In the end, we came across more bighorn sheep than we did visitors to this underrated gem in Nevada's park system, and I would gladly go back again and again.

Valley of Fire State Park was a great, next-best alternative to The Wave. But deep down, I also knew it was only a temporary fix for my insatiable need to experience The Wave, which still sits permanently at the very top of my adventure bucket list.


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