Nevada is famous for a few things, ever thought about checking out the Valley of fire
There are few state parks in the US which are comparable to national parks, yet the Valley of fire is certainly one of them.
An 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 towering rock formations are never ending, and you can why it’s said that outlaws once hid here, in their efforts to try and avoid the law!
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.
The visitor centre explains in depth about the area, if you wanted to gain a better understanding of the park.
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.
Things to think about
- Suitable footwear – the trails can be slippy and hard-going.
- Bring water – In the heat of the day, the sun beats down intensely. There are facilities to buy refreshments on the official routes, but treks like pink canyon which aren’t signposted you will need to bring water with you.
- Warm clothing – Late afternoon with the sun going down around 4.30 ish, this combined with the wind-chill, it can get chilly.
THE FIRE WAVE
One of the most popular spot in the park, and there’s a reason why that is. It is stunning, especially if you can manage it at sunset. The route is home to white and red wavey and stripey patterns on the rocks of the different layers of sandstone.
The initial stage of the hike is very sandy, so bring suitable foodwear. Then the path gets rugged and slippery, then suddenly striped rocks appear. It’s only a short 1.5 mile hike.
The wind has carved out these strange sandstone structures. Easily scalable and once on top of them, there are some great views of the park.
Made from the process of cross-bedding. At different times silt has been deposited which the wind and rain has moulded into these unique designs.
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.
This trek is quieter compared with other routes and still has loads of photo opportunites. It’s located near firewave and white dome, yet it isn’t on any official trail, hence the lack of people.
With no signposting or markings, it’s easy to get lost around here. The canyon stretches for miles and miles, just make sure you don’t go to far and get lost!
The White Domes Trail
It maybe the most difficult trek of the park, yet it is still certainly manageable. At the start you will need to make you way down a fairly steep trail and this means on the way back you will need to scale it.
The 1.6 km hike is a circular trail, which is especailly recommended for children who enjoy climbing boulders and walking through narrow canyon.
The 150 feet elevation change along this hike make for varied and breaktaking views. Out of all routes this one is the best to take the natural beauty of the park. Plus don’t forget the old movie sets!
Here is a great example of wind erosion in the park. There is a large arch in the rock. This one is certainly not scalable! From here it’s easy to get to Atlatl Rock, where you can see more pletographs.
Eventually the erosion will become to severe and the arch will collapse under its own weight.
Driving Along Mouse’s Tank Road
Along this stretch is the most impressive scenery of the park. There is also a hike here, where you can spot petroglyphs. The track is fairly flat and compared to the other treks you can do is fairly mundane.
This track has amazing panoramic views of the whole park. It’s only a one mile round trip and well worth it.
TOP EXPERIENCES IN THE PARK
When you sign up to get in the park, these are the most popular routes to do. Range from half a mile to one and half miles for each one. If you are fairly fit, you’ll be able to explore these routes in one day.
Here were my three favourite spots in the park.
- Fire Wave: This is the spot for amazing photos. Only a 0.6 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 White Domes Trail – Really cool slot canyon to navigate.
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.
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.
Hunter gatherers lived in the region from around 300 BC, there are several examples of rock art (petroglyphs) throughout the park.
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.
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.
10$ to enter the park
$20 for camping
A further $10 extra to use the utilities at camping grounds.
Thinking About Camping For The Night?
Wether its wild camping or staying in an organised camping site, it’s an awesome way to spend an evening under the stars.
Finding the perfect spot to make camp
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. 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.
Waking up for Sunrise
The bright early morning sun glistened bright orange and fiery red. Here’s a shot from the sunrise.
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
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
Links to help you
The official site of the park