The Gem of the American Southwest
I have been amazed time and time again by the American southwest. Having visited some of the most popular sites in the region, I thought I knew what to expect. I figured I had seen the landscape at it's most spectacular... that is until I visited the Valley of Fire State Park.
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A Naturally Colorful Nevada
I am embarrassed to admit that I had not even heard of the Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada until our friend, who was visiting from Ireland, suggested we go there. The park is relatively small when compared to some of the other big name parks throughout the southwest. However, the 40,000+ acres of sandstone and limestone formations offer much to discover. Most striking to me were the colors! Red! Pink! Orange! Yellow! The landscapes found within this park are some of my favorite to date!
Getting There From Las Vegas
The Valley of Fire State Park is an easy day trip from Las Vegas. The park is located about 50 miles from the strip so ideally, you could arrive at the park within an hour. Located just a few minutes off of I-15 in Overton, Nevada, this desert park offers a stark contrast to the masses and glitz of Las Vegas. Keep in mind there is an admission fee to enter the Valley of Fire State Park. Check out the Park’s website for all fees, rules and regulations.
Ancient History Preserved
Long ago the land was inhabited by natives that found shelter within the formations. The marks they left have been well preserved along with their stories. We were blown away by the amount and quality of petroglyphs found on the rock walls. These "toast people" as we lovingly named them are 2,000 + years old!
Things To Do At The Valley of Fire State Park
We only had a couple of hours to explore the park (which is another reason why I really want to return). We didn't know much about the park to begin with so we stopped at the visitor center first. They were super helpful and were able to recommend an itinerary for us based off of our interests.
If you are short on time, like we were, you can drive the length of Mouse's Tank Road which cuts through the park. The panoramic views will amaze you - all from the comfort of your car! There are many lookout areas where you can pull over to view the gorgeous formations as well. Most of the hikes are only a mile or two so squeezing in a couple (or as many as you can) is highly recommended. We were only able to complete 2 of the 13 hikes.
Hiking White Domes Loop
The White Domes Loop hike is one of the more challenging hikes at the park. I enjoy hikes that require, or at least offer a the change to climb on rocks. We went during January, and the park was not crowded at all. During the walk we ran into only a few other people; otherwise, it was just us and the wild landscape. White Domes is a 1.2-mile loop trail that starts off going down stairs made of rock to the sandy floor below. You then head through the canyon that eventually narrows into a slot canyon before opening back up to the desert formations. The rainbow-colored rocks were the highlight for me.
Prospect Trail connects to the White Domes Loop trail about halfway around. We extended our hike by going down Prospect Trail for a while before turning back around. We were truly alone during this section of the trail, and the landscape was absolutely stunning! Prospect Trail is 5 miles long (a total of 10 miles counting your return unless you have a shuttle system in place). I am glad we took the little detour on to Prospect Trial. I have since read that some of the best scenery can be found by starting at White Domes Loop and then walking the first 2-3 miles of Prospect Trail before turning back.
Mouse's Tank Trail
Mouse’s Tank trail is super short and is an easy hike. The best part about this hike is the petroglyphs. This trail is excellent if you are interested in seeing the ancient drawings or if you don't have time for any of the other trails. Mouse's Tank Trail is located near a picnic area and was a convenient option for us at the time. I recommend checking out some of the other hikes if you have more time. Look up Pink Canyon (Pastel Canyon) and The Fire Wave trails - they seem fantastic!
Enjoy a Picnic and the Scenery
We took time in between our hikes for a picnic lunch. The park has shelters and barbeques available for guest use. Nothing beats delicious food in a beautiful setting!
Inspiration - The Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada
I took inspiration from some of the bright colors found throughout the park. This park deserves a much better illustration which I will complete next time I visit this park, because I will return again! The diversity of these rock formations warrants a second look and there was so just much we didn’t get to experience the first time through.
Cheers! To a dessert desert!
Freelance Graphic Designer
This trip took place during January of 2018. When planning your own adventures, please be sure to check for any current travel alerts or changes in destination conditions first. Keep in mind that businesses mentioned may no longer exist or offer the same products recommended in this post.