White Domes Trail Hiking Guide – Valley of Fire State Park
The best thing about going to Las Vegas is not actually spending any time in Las Vegas. One of the sprawling desert city’s best known secrets is actually about an hour north outside of Las Vegas and called Valley of Fire State Park. This 40,000 acre state park is Nevada’s oldest and is popular for its vibrant reddish orange rock formations and twisting valleys, canyons, and washes. The bright red rocks mark a stunning island amidst the typical beige color of the surrounding desert landscape. The rocks are a remnant of Aztek sandstone dated back to the Jurassic Period. As time elapsed, ancient seas, wind, and rising land mass exposed the bright red rocks for us to see and enjoy (1).
Historically the Valley of Fire area has been home to several cultures that have settled the area. The earliest known civilization is the Basketmaker culture with evidence of their settling dating back to around 2,500 years ago. The Basketmaker gave way to the Pueblo and then the Paiute. Eventually the Mormons settled in the area in the mid-1800s. Native American culture can still be seen in the park in the form of petroglyphs that are scattered throughout the area.
The White Domes trail can be hiked as a short loop. This trail will wind through a spectacular sandstone landscape with several domed formations throughout the trail. What’s unique about this hike is that the red fire colored Aztek sandstone will be met softer white colored sandstone from the Colorado plateau. The end result on the White Domes trail is polished sandstone intertwined with colors of red and white. A portion of the White Domes hike will also wind through a short slot canyon along the Kaolin wash (2). Also scattered throughout the hike are several wind blown caves. They are formed by the same erosion process that eventually forms arches such as those in Arches National Park.
On A Personal Note:
The woven layers of red and white sandstone at the White Dome’s hike make for some stunning landscape. If you can, I recommend doing this hike in the afternoon hours. The soft sun brings about vibrant colors across this particular landscape. There is a longer way to hike the White Dome’s trail as well. A longer route combines a loop trail called the Fire Wave, White Domes, and Seven Loops trail; also the Fire Wave and Seven Wonders Loop Trail. These two trails will be approximately 3.2 miles in length. My wife and I wanted to include more activities in our itinerary so we opted for the version that this particular write up is about.
Valley Of Fire State Park is a great place to visit if you happen to be near the Las Vegas area. There are many short trails and they can all be paired together for more mileage. For a list of other things to do in the park, check out the Guide To Exploring Valley Of Fire.
1. N.a. “History of Valley of Fire State Park.” Nevada State Parks. http://parks.nv.gov/learn/park-histories/valley-of-fire-history. Accessed 25 March 2022.
2. N.a. “Valley of Fire: An Island of Red Rock In The Desert.” Valley of Fire State Park Placard. Exhibited at Valley of Fire State Park February 2021.
- Overall Difficulty: 35% 35%
- Overall Views: 85% 85%
White Dome Loop Trail Quick Facts:
- Max Elevation: 2,087 feet.
- Elevation Gain: 171 feet.
- Estimated Distance: 1.1 miles.
- My Actual Distance: 1.2 miles.
- Estimated Time: 30-90 minutes.
- My Time: 30 minutes moving; 36 minutes total.
White Dome's Loop Trail Directions:
White Domes Trail Pictures:
Who The White Domes Trail Is For:
Novice Hikers: This is a great trail for new hikers or those with limited hiking experience. The trail is short enough for families as well.
Advanced Hikers: This trail is no challenge. Pair several short hikes together in the area for a full day of hiking. Another option would be to combine this with the longer loop trail, The Seven Wonders.
Expert Hikers: Same as above.
It’s always a good idea to be aware of what type of hiking level you’re at.
Best Time Of Year To Hike The White Domes Trail:
The best time to hike this trail is from mid-fall into the winter and towards mid-Spring. Outside of mid-spring the days just get hotter and hotter until summer and eventually cool towards the back half of fall. During the summer it’s not uncommon for summer temperatures to be anywhere from 100-120 degrees F. Annual rainfall tends to be an average of no more than six inches of rain at best. The bulk of the rain comes from rare passing winter storms and monsoonal thunderstorms during the summer.
On a rare winter day it can snow here but it’s usually short lasting. Summer monsoons bring about other problems than just rain: lightning. If dark clouds are approaching and the sound of thunder is in the air seek shelter immediately.This trail is completely exposed and it is never a good idea to be out in the open when lightning is present.It’s always a good idea to check the weather before heading out on a hike.
White Domes Trail Conditions:
The White Domes Trail is in excellent condition and maintained by the Nevada State Park service. The route is a loop trail and can be hiked in either a clockwise or counter-clockwise way. The great majority of people do the hike in a clockwise route heading south then circling back to the parking lot. From the parking lot the trail starts out with a mild bit of elevation gain through a hump straight through hills of domes and vibrant sandstone. After a short incline the hike dips down two hundred feet into the Kaolin wash where you will be greeted with some remnants of an old Hollywood Film, The Professionals, filmed in 1965. Kaolin wash will lead to a short slot canyon.
Keep an eye out for small windblown caves throughout the hike. The wind formed caves are a natural erosion process and same process which eventually forms arches. After a heavy thunderstorm it is possible for the trail to become slightly washed out but it will otherwise be fine. Being that this is a desert environment, keep an eye out for rattlesnakes.