HomeCar CultureLeaving Las Vegas for a delightful drive

Leaving Las Vegas for a delightful drive

Lake Meade, Valley of Fire provide a great day behind the wheel


The Strip and its many enticements may be the favorite destination for visitors to Las Vegas, but the vast majority of them likely have no idea what they’re missing, because just 25 miles to the east awaits a fantastic day of driving.

Officially designated as Nevada Highway 167, the Northshore Road through the Lake Meade National Recreation Area not only provides some spectacular vistas and various tangents from its winding and hilly roadway, but it leads north to the Valley of Fire State Park, where the road and the scenery become even more intense.

In the days before car commercials could be created totally with computer graphics… Sorry, perhaps I should have said “spoiler alert,” because many of the car commercials you see on television are created by computer graphics software, and in many cases the cars are not real cars but computer-generated images.

Anyway, back in the days before such technology was available, automakers, and especially those known for their sports cars, would come from around the world to the Valley of Fire to film their commercials. Yes, the roadway and the scenery are that intense!

There is a fee to enter the Lake Mead National Recreation Area ($25 per car, but good for 7 days) and another to enter the Valley of Fire State Park ($10 per car). In both cases, it is money well spent.

Lake Meade as seen from the Northshore Road

The Northshore Road winds through various rock formations and there are several spurs — some paved, some gravel — that lead down to the lakeshore. (There’s also a Lakeshore Road that goes south to Boulder City, the quaint community created to house the workers who built Hoover Dam.)

Along Northshore there are parking areas for various hiking trails, including a personal favorite, the Redstone Dune, which has covered picnic tables and restrooms.

Near the north end of the Northshore Road you can turn left (or continue straight ahead toward I-15) to enter the Valley of Fire, named because of its red sandstone formations, the result of centuries of erosion of what likely were petrified sand dunes, as well as those comprising limestone, shale and conglomerate, and all of it wound through by a road that climbs and dips and twists and turns.

Valley of Fire State Park

It’s the sort of road on which you’d love to exercise a sports car, but to do that you’d have to be an automaker who rents the entire park for one of those old-fashioned commercial shoots. But don’t worry, the scenery more than makes up for the lack of speed.

And again, there are parking areas and hiking trails. There also are petrified logs, petroglyphs, an arch, and the famed Fire Wave. I’ve also seen desert bighorn sheep on my most recent visits.

Head west out of the park and it’s a brief but again scenic drive to I-15, and then a short sprint back to The Strip.

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Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


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