Sweeping desert vistas, a classic slot canyon, a historic movie set, and various rock formations… Can you say no to the White Domes hike after all of these?
The slot canyon of the White Domes Trail was the main point that won me over when I was selecting hikes for our outdoor adventures in Valley of Fire State Park. Something about towering rocks and a narrow trail between them felt unreal. After hiking in Antelope Canyon a few years ago, I was down for any slot canyons, regardless of how short or long they were.
Add to this the historic movie set, and any movie enthusiast like yours truly can say that a hike along the White Domes Trail is the best experience one can dream of. And so we did. We went on a hike to the White Domes, although it almost costed us a visit to Zion National Park the following day.
White Domes Hike: Introduction
The White Domes, a number of sandstone formations with vibrant contrasting colors and an expansive collection of shapes and forms, is nestled in the far end of Nevada’s Valley of Fire State Park. The place as we can see it today was born centuries and centuries ago.
Originally, the signature red Aztec sandstones of the White Domes were nothing more than sand dunes. The forces of nature, however, got to work and eventually transformed the sandy hills into rocky plates and and domes. Diverse landscapes adorn the area nowadays, making the hike along the White Domes Trail one of the most visually rewarding endeavors in the area.
As the name suggests, the White Domes was named after towering white peaks that guard the entry to the park’s longest slot canyon.
Before the crowds of enthusiastic outdoor adventurers, however, became obsessed with the remarkable white rocks and slot canyon, the astounding terrain had conquered Hollywood. The popular western “The Professionals” was filmed in the White Domes area in 1966. In fact, the remains of the movie set still live along the trail, intriguing even those visitors who hike the White Domes for the sake of nature, not its movie heritage.
Later, the place was featured in such classics as “The Electric Horseman” and “Star Trek Generations”.
While Hollywood started claiming the region as its exclusive movie set only in the 1960s, commercial photography has thrived in the park since 1920s. Today, dozens of photo shoots take place in the White Domes area every year.
How to Get to White Domes
The coveted area of Valley of Fire State Park is easy to get to. The hike along the White Domes Loop starts at the end of scenic White Domes Road. Enter Valley of Fire State Park from either of its two entrances and follow the following directions.
From West Entrance
Upon accessing Valley of Fire State Park, drive for approximately 3.5 miles, then turn left toward the Visitor Center. Continue on for a tenth of a mile until you reach another intersection. Keep left here to stay on the White Domes Road. Drive for about 5.6 miles to a dead end near the White Domes day use area.
The place sits nearly 1 mile away from parking lot #3, home to a trailhead to the Fire Wave. Park and head to picnic and map area where your hike along the White Domes Loop starts.
From East Entrance
Drive for approximately 3.3 miles along Valley of Fire Highway until you reach the intersection. Turn right and drive for about 5.6 miles to the White Domes day use area. Find an empty parking spot and get ready for your hike to the famous slot canyon and rock formations along the White Dome Trail.
The Best Time to Hike White Domes
The area is accessible for hiking or walking all year round. A part of the White Domes Trail has shade, making it easies to hike during the hot summer months. Once you pass the slot canyon, the trail runs through an open area where the heat can be unbearable. Thus, it’s recommended to hike the White Domes Trail early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Otherwise, bring lots of water and make frequent stops if needed.
It leads us to the best season to hike the White Domes Loop, which is fall and spring when the temperatures are mild.
TIP: Stay away from the trail in rainy season, July – August and winter. At some point, the slot canyon gets too narrow, keeping its tall walls just a few feet apart. White the area is quite enjoyable to hike during the dry season, it becomes the most dangerous part of the White Domes Trail during a flash flood.
TIP: Regardless of the time of the year you plan to hike to the famous White Domes, make sure to arrive early. This popular day trip from Las Vegas gets packed fast, making it problematic to find an open parking spot.
White Domes Trail Stats
- Distance: 1.25-mile loop
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Elevation Gain: 108 ft
Hike along the White Domes Trail
The trailhead of the White Domes Loop sits near the picnic area. A large map is located right next to it, detailing the route you’re about to take. From the map stand, walk a few feet to the left until you see a narrow sandy trail with a smaller sign, confirming that you’re heading in the right direction.
The sandy start makes the White Domes hike a little bit difficult. As you descend a series of steps, the sand gets packed. From now on, hiking and enjoying the views of the diverse rock formations, including the While Domes, becomes significantly easier.
As you continue your walk, the Hollywood movie set comes into view and adorns the trail right before the first bend to the left. It’s hard to say “the set” today, as only the ruins of an old stone wall remind of the cinematographic past of the area. Once you bypass the remains of the movie set, hike along the White Domes Trail into Kaolin Wash. Keep a watchful eye on the arrow-signs at all times to stay on the trail.
My favorite part of the White Domes hike follows shorty after you pass the movie set. After traversing through different shade-free routes in Valley of Fire State Park, this secluded spot is just like a breath of fresh air. Enticing, alluring, and almost magical… And surely, it’s a perfect destination for photographers. You can linger here guilt-free a little bit longer before resuming your White Domes hike.
TIP: If you hit the trail during the slower season as we did, you can even have the entire slot canyon to yourself.
Although the slot is exciting, it makes only a small portion of the hike, about 200 feet. The trail leaves the canyon almost as unexpectedly as it enters it.
After passing through the slot canyon, the path swirls to the right. Left trail takes you to a 5.5-mile section of the Prospect Trail. Those who prefer to continue on along the White Domes Loop, should get ready for a gradual ascent. The terrain looks completely different here. As you hike farther along the White Domes Trail, the desert to your left begins to open up. The red sandstone formations appear more frequently here, reminding of colossal rocky walls of the Grand Canyon.
To your right, a small arch surprises you with its shape. If you’re lucky you might even take a selfie or even instagram-worthy picture here. In most cases, though, the place is occupied with other hikers, taking a break to strike a pose.
Eventually, the trail cuts across the top of an arroyo that offers different hues to feast your eyes on while hiking along the last stretch of the White Domes Trail. Finally, the path curves to the right and runs through a gap in the sandstone, taking you back to the paved road. Hike along this section of the White Domes Loop that runs parallel to the road until you reach the day use area.
How much Time do You Need to Hike White Domes Loop?
Normally, it takes anywhere from 45 minutes to 1 hour 20 minutes to hike the entire White Domes loop. We did it in 35 minutes, making multiple stops for pictures along the way. Overall, there is no specific timeline you need to follow. Walk at your own pace and take as much time as you need to complete the White Domes hike.
What to Pack for a Hike
- Water bottle. Stay hydrated. Although the White Domes hike has more shade than other trails in the Valley of Fire, a good portion of it is still exposed to the scorching Nevada’s sun.
- Hiking staffs. The area has several descents and ascents. Thus, you might want to bring the hiking staffs for extra support while traversing along the White Domes Trail.
- Sunscreen and hat. Once in the open area, you can’t escape the sun. Protect your skin by wearing a wide-brimmed hat or a cap. Furthermore, don’t forget to apply sunscreen on your skin to avoid sunburns.
- Non-slip shoes. Good shoes can literally make or break your White Domes hike. As you will be walking down several slippery – due to accumulation of the sand on them – steps and through the sandstone, be sure to wear the non-slip shoes to avoid sliding down and injuring yourself.
- Camera. Bring the camera along for the White Domes hike. The path runs through diverse terrain that you will certainly want to capture.
White Domes Hike: Admission and Permits
Valley of Fire State Park charges day-use and camping fees. The tickets range from $10 per car ($15 for non-Nevada residents) for day use to $25 per car for day use and camping. Residents of Nevada pay $20 per car for day use and camping.
TIP: Since the Valley of Fire is a state park, any annual national passes such as the America the Beautiful pass are not accepted.
No permits are required for the majority of the trails, including the White Domes hike. Parking fees are included in the park’s admission. Furthermore, free picnic tables and toilets are available near the White Domes day use area.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you hike along the White Domes Trail with a dog?
Yes, dogs are allowed on the White Domes Trail. Make sure to have them on leash at all times, though.
Does the White Domes area have cell phone reception?
Cell phone reception and internet connectively near the White Domes Trail are limited. Normally, you wouldn’t rely on the latter to make a hotel reservation or browse the Internet. Yet you can make a phone call. Walking up and down the sandstone in search of the better signal is often inevitable, though.
Is the White Domes hike kid-friendly?
Yes. Despite some steep descents, the White Domes Trail is easy enough for a hike with the kids. You will certainly need to give them a helping hand at some point, but overall it’s a beautiful area to bring your young hikers along.
Final Thoughts on how to Hike White Domes Trail in Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada
Hiking or not hiking the White Domes Trail is a matter of preferences. I’ll be the first person to admit that Valley of Fire State Park is packed with the remarkable places and scenic trails you want to explore. Yet since you have made all the way to the Nevada’s hidden gem, do yourself a favor and add the White Domes hike to your itinerary. This relatively easy trail is a great example of how drastically Nevada’s terrain changes within a one-mile walk.
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