Spring Getaway to Moapa Valley, Nevada

Spring’s mild temperatures make it the perfect time to explore Nevada's Moapa Valley.

dramatic Fire Wave sandstone formation with woman standing in distance at Valley of Fire State Park in Moapa Valley, Nevada
Layers of sandstone create the dramatic Fire Wave at Valley of Fire State Park.
Imagebroker / Alamy

A patchwork of horse farms, hay fields, and pomegranate trees, Moapa Valley is the rural backyard of Las Vegas. Valley of Fire State Park—about 50 miles northeast of the city—is the star attraction year-round, but spring's mild temperatures make it easy to explore newer and lesser-known spots.

Powerful forces of wind and water carved the giant sedimentary rocks at Valley of Fire State Park into shapes as fantastic as an elephant's head. A half hour hike on the Fire Wave Trail leads to hypnotically undulating hills that evoke strawberries and vanilla ice cream in a parfait glass.

See the rare Moapa dace, a tiny endangered minnow, at Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge*. A viewing area below the water level of a natural stream reveals the turbulent life of this bronze-colored fish. Along various trails, you can also spot Gambel's quail, vermilion flycatchers, roadrunners, and cottontail rabbits. *The refuge is only open to the public Labor Day to Memorial Day on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from sunrise to sunset.


Overton's Lost City Museum displays arrowheads, ceramic bowls, a reconstructed pit house, and replica pueblos that evoke the lives of ancestral Puebloans who thrived in the Moapa Valley before leaving it sometime around 1200 A.D.

Moapa Valley's long wait for a Mexican restaurant was worth it. La Fonda in Overton earns raves for its pineapple-and-pork tacos al pastor and the plate of bacon-wrapped, deep fried shrimp.

On a 2.5-mile loop trail in Lake Mead National Recreation Area, you can explore the eerie ruins of St. Thomas, a 19th-century Mormon settlement inundated by the reservoir in the 1930s and now laid bare by the water's retreat.

This article was first published in February 2016 and last updated in April 2023.