Camping in the Valley of Fire

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You know Nevada for a few things.  You’ve have heard of Las Vegas, but what about the Valley of Fire?

Camping in the Valley of Fire is the best way to experience the ancient aztec sandstone landscape full of pink, red and orange rock formations.  Only a short 80km ride from the gambling capital of the world, the park is far cry from the hustle and bustle of the big city.  The perfect place to spend a couple days wild camping, so check out my experience of camping in the valley of fire.

The sandstone is formed from compressed sand dunes over millions of years.

The sandstone is formed from compressed sand dunes over millions of years.

What is the Valley of Fire?

The Valley of Fire national park covers an area of 40,000 acres.  Amongst the sandstone outcrops, there are petrified wood and camel tracks dating back thousands years ago.   A major highlight are the rock paintings (petroglyphs) found in the park showing how our ancestors once lived in the region.

 

As each layer is compressed on top of each other, it forms a ring type pattern in the rock.

As each layer is compressed on top of each other, it forms a ring type pattern in the rock.

 

The park takes its name from firey appearance of the rock formations on a sunny day.  The Aztec sandstone structures fill the 46,000 acre state park.

With the moon like feel to the place, it’s no wonder that movies such as Star Trek and Total Recall were filmed there.

Depending on how long you want to stay in the park,  you can just spend a couple of hours driving through the park admiring the scenery.  After hearing how beautiful the sunrises are in the park, I choose to stay a night and do more intense hikes through the valley of fire.

First Impressons of the Valley of Fire

The orange, red and pink sandstone rocks greet you from the main road as soon as you enter the park.  The road Meanders through the rocky formations, meaning you’ll get insane views straight from the car on Mouse’s Tank Road.

 

Loads of interesting trails and things to see in the park

Loads of interesting trails and things to see in the park

 

Parking up the car

There are loads of car parks along the main road.  Just make sure if you aren’t following a trail you pick out obvious markers near you car, so you can make your way back.

Finding the perfect spot to make camp

A short walk from the main road, and you’ll be find yourself right in the middle of the Valley of Fire.   The landscape is full of gorges and steep hills of sandstone.   It can get hazardous and don’t forget, it’s not unlikely that you’ll see snakes in the area.

During the night

The huge sandstone structures provide perfect cover.  During the night, there was only a light breeze.  There were a few sandflies but they don’t bite. Staying there during September meant temperatures were mild.  The overnight lows ranged between 4-8°C.

 

Setting up camp for the evening

Setting up camp for the evening in the middle of the valley of fire

 

Waking up for Sunrise

The bright early morning sun glistened bright orange and fiery red.  Here’s a shot from the sunrise.

 

The highest point in the park is over 900 meters.

The highest point in the park is over 900 meters.

 

You won’t get the amenties of the designated camping areas, but for me its worth having the freedom to find the spot you want meaning these views in the morning will be all to yourself.

Camping in the designated areas

There are three camping sites (Poverty Flats, Arch Rock and Atlati Rock) are open all year.  These offer a more comfortable and secure option when thinking about camping in the Valley of Fire.   It costs $20 per night and the amenties are comfortable.  They all have access to water, grills and shaded tables.  They are also ideally located to the main trails.  Arrive early (11a.m.) to ensure you get a spot at the campgrounds.

Atlati Rock (LAT / LONG: 36.41778, -114.55139)
  • 44 campsites set
  • Campsites are $20 per night + $10 per night for campsites with utility hookups
  • amenities include drinking water, flush toilets, showers and an RV dump station. Each campsite also has a table (most with a shade structure)
  • Campsites 23 to 44 have electric/water hookups at Atlatl Rock campground.
  • First come, first serve

 

A typical bay at the Atlati Rock campground

A typical bay at the Atlati Rock campground

Arch Rock Overview ( LAT / LONG: 36.41759, -114.55667)
  • 29 campsites set
  •  first-come first-serve and can accommodate tents, trailers and RVs.
  • There are no hookups at this campground.
  •  amenities include drinking water, flush toilets, showers and an RV dump station
Poverty Flats  (LAT / LONG: 48.996990, -115.059120)
  • 100 Campsites set
  • Free camping
  • Not any amentities at this site
  • Situated a few kilmeters from the Valley of Fire national park

TOP 3 EXPERIENCES IN THE PARK

Here were my three favourite spots in the park.

  • Fire Wave:  This is the spot for amazing photos.  Only a 1.5 mile hike, where on a sunny day the rocks turn a bright red.
  • Pink Canyon (Pastel Canyon):  A shorter walk through a light coloured pink canyon.
  • The Beehives:  Beehive type rock formations, just be carefull when climbing them.
THE FIRE WAVE

The most popular spot in the park.  The effect of the white and red stripes on the rock makes for an awesome photo.  It’s only a short 1.5 mile hike.

 

One of the most gorgeous spots in the valley

One of the most gorgeous spots in the valley. Source Earthtrekkers

THE BEEHIVES

The wind has carved out these strange structures.  Easily scalable and once on top of them, there are some great views of the park.

 

These structures are only a short walk from the road.

These structures are only a short walk from the road.

PINK CANYON

This is not a well known spot, yet it’s one of the prettiest places in the Valley of Fire.   Pink Canyon (or Pastel Canyon) is at coordinates: 36°28’47” N 114°31’36” W.  From the car park, you need to head east into the canyon.

 

A stunning canyon to walk through

A stunning canyon to walk through

 

Animals in the Valley of Fire

THIS IS SNAKE COUNTRY! It’s a must to be to be vigilant at all times.  Also it’s a good idea to bring a snake bite kit.

 

Sidewinders (Rattlesnakes) can get up to speeds of nearly 30 KPH. Source machine design.

Sidewinders (Rattlesnakes) can get up to speeds of nearly 30 KPH. Source Machine Design.

 

Due to the inhospitable nature,  you’ll often run into animal bones.  This is especially true in the canyons as animals seek out a water source.

Ancient Landscape

Hunter gatherers lived in the region from around 300 BC, there are several examples of rock art (petroglyphs) throughout the park.

 

People believe the region held great importance to our ancestors. Yet being a year round residence is unlikely due to the lack of water.

People believe the region held great importance to our ancestors. Yet being a year round residence is unlikely due to the lack of water.

 

Over the millions of years, wind erosion has been a constant battering force upon the soft sandstone rock.  Resulting in spectacular wind tunnels which make for a surreal landscape.

 

Lots of evidence of wind erosion in the park

Lots of evidence of wind erosion in the park

 

Best times to visit

Campsites are open all year round.  It’s just during the winter months (Oct to Feb), overnight temperatures can get down to 3-8 °C so come prepared.

How to get there?

Situated 50 miles Northeast of Las Vegas.  From Las Vegas you mostly drive on Interstate 15 for one hour and a half.  As you enter the national park the road turns into a two lane road.

Links to help you

The official site of the park

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