The Valley of Fire is a beautiful landscape of red sandstone amongst limestone mountains. The rock formations of varied shapes and textures are incredible to photograph. The hiking is amazing, and the history of the native peoples is interesting. There is a lot to see here – including big horned sheep — and one could spend more than a day roaming the acreage.
Word to the wise: Obviously it gets hot here in the summer. You should bring about twice as much water as you think you’ll need. Also, during the summer months it would be advised to arrive around 06:00. By 10:00-11:00 it gets dangerously hot to be hiking in the desert.
If you’re visiting Las Vegas, Valley of Fire makes an excellent day trip excursion and is an amazing thing to do on a Las Vegas vacation. Below is the list of what we found to be the top ten things to do in Valley of Fire State Park.
Fire Wave is a picturesque, red and white striped section of sandstone. It is a one-of-a-kind feature and the highlight of the park. The hike is 1.5 miles RT and relatively flat.
It is worth noting that as you’re walking around the large rock near the trailhead, the trail will want to take you downhill around the end of the rock and into a riverbed. Guess how we know? Ugh. Don’t follow that path. Instead, turn right at the metal post near the corner of the rock, and head across the hillside. The path is less obvious, but you can see it.
Atlatl Rock is an ancient, monolithic canvas. The petroglyphs have remained exquisitely intact.
An atlatl is a device that attaches to a spear to supply additional speed and distance to the throw. This ancient weapon can be seen pictured here, along with many other curious shapes, including the people’s primary source of food, the big-horned sheep.
This was our favorite hike of the day because of the compelling variety of the features. The hike begins with a long descent that includes man-made staircases comprised of yellow and pink sandstone blocks.
At the bottom are the remains of a Hollywood movie set, the 1966 film, the Professionals, which is signified w/ a placard. At the back of the 1.1-mile hike is a convivial slot canyon perfect for photos (and making-out).
The backside of the hike has some expansive views and a pictorial arch. The whole thing concludes with a slog up the side of the road.
A stunning, pink and lavender striped canyon is a breezy 90 second walk from the road. Trouble is, the trail is unmarked, so you must know where to look.
To find it, when you reach the Rainbow Vista trailhead on Mouse’s Tank Road, begin to count the low points in the road (washouts). Pastel Pink Canyon is approx. 2.2 miles and four washouts beyond the Rainbow Vista trailhead.
There will be enough space to park a couple of cars on the right side of the road. You will see a trail that heads into the pinkish rocks that form a short canyon in the distance. If you reach the parking lot at Fire Wave Trailhead, you have driven a half-mile too far.
Rainbow Vista is a prominent hike off Mouse’s Tank Road. There is plenty of parking and the views are fantastic from the parking lot.
This is the hike that nearly killed us. It was 11:00 in mid-August and the heat was coming on, but we wanted to do one last hike before cooling off at the visitor center. This was a mistake! I can’t tell you exactly why, but planet earth felt hotter here than anywhere else.
The view at the end of the hike is dramatic (1.4 miles out-and-back). Special bonus points for the echo, as it provides an excellent opportunity to holler your undying love for someone. “I love you Stranger Things!” is what our 15-year-old son might yell out. He’s autistic – what’s your excuse, nerd? We recommend the fire cave and white domes hikes before this one, but it is worth the effort (maybe not in August).
Views from the car are fabulous in the Valley of Fire State Park. When you see the visitor center, turn and head past it onto Mouse’s Tank Road.
The road got its name because a Native American named Mouse once killed a man, and he hid near a pool of water in the rocky hills for several months. They eventually caught him and put him to death. Anyhow! The waterhole is called Mouse’s Tank, and the road is named thusly.
After nearly dying from heat exhaustion on the Rainbow Vista trail, we stopped into the Visitor Center. There’s nothing quite like the pleasing sensation of going from hot and sweaty to cold and sweaty.
The history of four ancient peoples whom have occupied the region are presented in the visitor center. Each people thrived for a time, then succumbed to some shifting component of the ecosystem. After they died out or moved on, another people would arrive and tackle the problem the previous peoples couldn’t navigate, only to have their own troubles, and so forth. It’s a good read.
Also, huge bonus for the surreal big horned sheep that were ever present.
The area near Fire Cave is rife with wind-shaped rocks and quasi-caves. When you find the proper place to park (described two paragraphs down) you will find no shortage of nooks to explore. To us, the area felt a bit spooky, probably because it is relatively isolated, and the rocks have taken on some strange presentations over time.
The specific feature known as Fire Cave is small and easy to miss. It was large enough for pygmy Monica to enter but was a touch less comfortable for Ryan. While the cave is worth peeping for a moment, the whole area is the draw here.
If entering the park from the west, once past the gate take the very first left onto a dirt road that is easily missed. The dirt road is right where the red rocks become prominent. You will park just a few blocks up from the turn, when you see the below pictured scenery on your right. If you miss the dirt road, take the next left toward Atlatl Rock and follow the road almost all the way back to Valley of Fire Hwy (it’s a loop).
The Beehives are bulbous, striated rock formations that resemble beehives. You can hop out of your car at the parking lot and snap some photos with little effort. If you want to spend more time, there is some quality rock scampering in this area to get a better look around. The parking lot and this feature can get crowded.
After Fire Wave, this is probably the coolest looking rock in the park. It resembles an elephant (or something out of Star Wars), and I imagine it will collapse before too long. Elephant Rock photographs well, especially from the backside – which we didn’t do, we were drained at this point, it was ten-thousand-degrees and someone was getting angry.
Perhaps it was our exhaustion, but we were underwhelmed. It reminded me of that moment in National Lampoon’s Vacation where Ellen calls Clark over to check out the Grand Canyon. We put our arm around each other, bounced for a moment, and said, “Alright, let’s go.” The couple that arrived just ahead of us did the same thing.
Best for Children: Atlatl Rock, Pastel Pink Canyon, Bee Hives
Best Time to Visit: Spring and Fall
Entry Fee: $10
Camping: $20/night at Arch Rock and Atlatl Rock Campgrounds
RV Camping: Atlatl Rock Campground $30/night. 22 Sites with Full Hook-Ups.
Physical Address: 29450 Valley of Fire Hwy, Overton, NV 89040
Big Map: Click Here
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