Welcome to Valley of Fire State Park, on the edge of the Mojave Desert. Located a short distance outside Las Vegas, Nevada, Valley of Fire State Park makes for a perfect outdoor escape from the bright lights and non-stop action that is Las Vegas.
Come along with us into this beautiful yet barren desert landscape where ancient trees and early man once lived. Explore seven sure-fired sites destined to keep everyone “on fire” at Valley of Fire State Park. For our viewing pleasure today, we begin this adventure from the East Entrance of the park. Let’s get exploring!
Petrified Logs & Red Sandstone Vistas
Just beyond Valley of Fire’s East Entrance is the site of two petrified logs thought to have washed up here some 225 million years ago. It’s a short uphill hike, but one certainly worth your while, even if you’ve seen petrified logs before!
The trail is perfect for stretching legs and getting acquainted with this vastly barren desert landscape. Though the petrified logs themselves may not overwhelm, the surrounding vistas just might. The views awaiting at trail’s end and beyond the logs, are just a preview of what’s to come further on down the road.
The Seven Sisters
Speaking of what’s just down the road, next up are the Seven Sisters. These seven towering rock formations are all that remain from years of windy erosion eating away at the rock’s surrounding red sandstone.
Stop the car at the nearby picnic area and count out the towering sisters. Gain perspective of how tall they really are when standing nearby. Sit back and contemplate the beauty that Mother Nature’s handiwork has created out here in the desert.
Marvel upon this natural masterpiece. Wonder how these seven sisters have weathered the test of time, and the ravages Mother Nature has thrown at them over the years. Imagine what might be left of these majestic towers in a 100, a 1000, years from now.
The Petroglyph Canyon Trail
The Petroglyph Canyon Trail is a fairly easy 1.5 mile long trail just right for exploring these desert lands and the secrets held within. Look high. Look low. Look all around to capture the essence of this narrow red rock canyon.
Get an early start though, and consider wearing closed-toe shoes to keep the hot sand away from sensitive feet. The canyon can get quite hot on a summer afternoon hike, and the sandy trail can be scorching hot!
Keep a keen eye open for prehistoric Indian petroglyphs scratched into the surrounding red sandstone rocks and cliffs. This rock art tells the story of days long ago, by a people who somehow managed to eek out a living in these harsh lands.
Be transported back in time, to when a stick was your pen, this desert landscape, your life. Imagine yourself one with these ancient people writing their life stories upon these rocks. No one truly knows what these ancient drawing represent.
The White Domes Trail
Deep in Valley of Fire State Park, at the end of the road, is the White Domes Trail. This one mile hike begins across a beach-like sandy expanse cutting through surrounding sandstone ridges. Notice how these sandstone formations are more cream colored, and not nearly as red as other areas of the park.
Walk the one mile loop through the desert terrain, noticing the contrasting multi-colored sandstone rocks. Don’t miss the opportunity to hike into a short, but blessedly shady, slot canyon. Pretty cool, especially if you’ve never experienced a slot canyon before. And great respite from the hot sun!
Though a relatively short hike in length, this hike can be more challenging than it looks, especially if hiking on a hot summer afternoon. Come prepared with lots of water, and lots of sun screen. There’s minimal shade to be found, until you reach that slot canyon.
Atlatl Rock Petroglyphs
Don’t miss the short hike at Atlatl Rock to another amazing display of ancient Indian petroglyphs. Imagine the stories told upon these rocks, and about life here when these petroglyphs were carved into the rock. They are now all that remains of a prehistoric Indian tribe that once inhabited this nearly inhospitable lands.
Search the petroglyphs for the atlatl for which this site is aptly named. What’s an atlatl, you ask? It’s a notched stick used by the ancient Indians who once lived here to throw their spears further, and was the predecessor of the more well known bow and arrow.
And remember – please don’t touch the petroglyphs!
That’s A Wrap At Valley of Fire State Park!
Escape the bright lights and action of Las Vegas and take a drive to this other worldly desert landscape. At a mere 55 miles northeast of Las Vegas, Valley of Fire State Park is little more than an hour’s drive, and a perfect respite into a different kind of action.
Don’t forget to bring lots of water, especially if hiking during the steamy summer months. This is the Mojave Desert, after all, and it can get quite hot along the trails. And with minimal shade for cooling respite, take a break whenever you find a shady spot!
Have you been to Valley of Fire State Park? What do you think? Was it worth the escape from the Las Vegas action? Have you been desert hiking? What tips would you share?
All images by C.Biederman