Awesome for All Ages and Abilities!

If you haven’t been to the nearby Valley of Fire State Park, well—-go!

In the few years my wife and I have lived in Mesquite, we’ve been to Valley of Fire State Park at least a dozen times, and still have many trails yet to explore, as the park covers over 40,000 acres! Whether viewing from the air-conditioned comfort of your vehicle or stopping at the multitude of short and long trail options, Valley of Fire is truly a wonder!  It is the perfect place to take visiting guests, any time of year, who want to see unique rock formations and even petroglyphs of our unique area. Just a simple one-hour drive from the Vegas Strip and your visitors can get out of the bustle of Las Vegas to the soul-calming majesty of the multi-hued rocks of this one-of-a-kind state park. The park is also an easy hour’s drive from Mesquite. I include driving directions at the end of this article.

The clouds on this chilly, somewhat rainy day made for great engagement photos, visiting in December with my daughter and fiancee. Just off the road at the Fire Wave trailhead. (photo D. Kilker)

You can see a lot in a little time, so a visit to the Park can be easily combined with dinner and a show back in Vegas that night! If it’s unbearably hot in the mid-day summer sun, you can tour in the cool comfort of your vehicle, with optional stops at overlooks and points of interest. Of course, early morning hikes are best in the hottest months, but late afternoon hikes may take you onto trails partially shaded by the high rocks. 

Nevada’s largest and oldest state, Valley of Fire State Park can be fully experienced by all ages and physical abilities, whether by car for a spectacular scenic drive with a plethora of overlooks, hiking, camping, or a combination of all. It is not uncommon to see bighorn sheep from the trail or the road, although usually, this is later in the afternoon when the sun is lower in the sky. Keep your eyes open. We have repeatedly encountered groups of as many as ten sheep, and they are generally not shy, as you can see by the photos I’ve included here. My 87-year-old mother loved the ride through the park, and the clean, accessible bathrooms at the Visitors Center made it a very easy outing.

The Visitors Center houses exhibits on the wildlife, geology, ecology, and history of the park and surrounding regions. I highly recommend going to the visitor center shortly after you enter the park, as it is worthwhile.  Short films on the area, and if you are lucky, will be showing the short video specifically on the Valley of Fire itself, explaining the three main minerals/rocks you’ll see:  red sandstone, white silica, and the black “Desert Varnish”. There is taxidermy of the animals found in the area, from reptiles to sheep and foxes, as well as an interesting timeline and display of all the ancient people who settled there. The gift shop, clean bathrooms, and water fountain make it user-friendly for all ages and interesting and educational for children and adults.

Hiking among the red rocks at Valley of Fire State Park(photo by Cheryl Kirking)

Fees: The park fee is $10 per vehicle per day for Nevada residents and $15 for out-of-state vehicles. An Annual permit for entrance to all Nevada State Parks is $100 and may be assigned to two different vehicles, but may only be used by one vehicle at a time. Senior citizen Nevada State Park passes are available for anyone who resides in Nevada and is 65 or older– just $30/ year. A bargain!  Disabled Veteran Permits for those who reside in Nevada and show proof of permanent service disability are $30/ year. There is a self-serve kiosk to pay if there is no one there upon your arrival. vofsp@parks.nv.gov

My Favorite Stops: Immediately upon entering the park you can see Elephant Rock near the eastern entrance, just an 1/8 mile walk. You get a big “wow factor” throughout the park, right from the vehicle! If you only have an hour, I suggest you at least pull off at these three pull-out stops:

1)White Domes Road and 2)Fire Canyon Road; take in the scenic vistas at Rainbow Vista and Fire Canyon Vista. 3)Atlatl Rock Picnic Area-go up the stairway to see the Native American petroglyphs from the ground, or climb the stairs to see up close. You can drive up to the Atlatl Rock with the petroglyphs that were carved over 2,000 years ago. When we took my 87-year-old mother, we parked right at the base and she could see how close and high they were, and she marveled, “how in the world did they climb up that sheer rock?” One wonders, as surely they must have employed some kind of ladder or way to spend the many hours it would require to carve into the hard black “desert varnish.”  We then took cell phone pictures up close and returned to show her what we saw, so she had a full appreciation of the awesome petroglyphs.

My Favorite trails: Many of the trails have restroom facilities and picnic tables. All have great photographic opportunities. Some trails have some areas of fairly deep sand, so keep that in mind when choosing footwear. Although the trails are quite moderate, the sand in your shoes can wear you out. I prefer leather boots for this reason, as the fine, red sand get into mesh sneakers.  Or, plan on emptying your shoes when you get back to your car! Some folks wear hiking sandals—-to each their own.

1)Mouse’s Tank Trail (3/4 mile) for up-close views of petroglyphs at the Atlatl Rock Picnic Area and Petroglyphs, mentioned above. There are more petroglyphs on the trail: To discourage vandalism, most of the petroglyphs are NOT marked on this trail but look high and in areas with the “black desert varnish” into which the ancient people carved. We’ve spotted bighorn sheep on several occasions on this trial, usually up in the high rocks to your right as you head out on the trail (on your left as you head back.)

2)Fire Wave Trail (1.5 miles) allows hikers to walk on beautiful multicolored rock formations, where you’ll easily identify the white silica, the red sandstone, and the black desert varnish 

3)White Domes Trail(1.25 miles) See an old movie set and hike through a 200’ slot canyon. The white domes are very visible from the road, too.

Should I bring my dog? Dogs are allowed at Valley of Fire State Park, HOWEVER, they MUST be kept on a leash when outside your vehicle. Be a good dog parent; we have seen dogs running loose on the trail–please don’t be “that” dog owner! The rules don’t care that “it’s just a little dog” or “my dog is so gentle,” and thoughtless dog owners may ruin it for the rest of us— there has been talking that they may change the rules, which would be a shame. As a dog owner, I must say, if it’s hot, PLEASE don’t make poor fido trudge along the paths. It may be best for you and fido to just view from your vehicle with short stops at the many roadside pullouts.  For more information on pet restrictions, please call (702) 397-2088.

Special Events and Reservations: Call the park for more information. You will very likely see couples taking wedding photos, or even holding a small ceremony, somewhere in the park. The park limits the number of special events, and I know there are photographers and caterers accustomed to working with interested parties.  http://parks.nv.gov/parks/valley-of-fire

How to get to Valley of Fire State Park: From Mesquite:  The park is near Overton, Nevada. Take I-15 going southwest towards Las Vegas. Get off at exit 93, and at the end of the ramp go left onto Highway 169 into the town of Moapa. Head through Moapa, into and through Overton. In about 6 or 7 m miles past Overton turn right onto Valley of Fire Highway. About a mile or so in you’ll pay at the booth, or there is a self-serve kiosk of the entrance hut that is not staffed. Here you can take the popular photo for your social media!  Points of interest begin immediately, with Elephant Rock directly ahead—a fun place for kids to scuttle, or to take a short, easy hike (and for kids to scuttle!). You’ll see the Seven Sisters a mile or so on the left, with sometimes-shaded picnic tables, and a popular wedding spot. Drive a bit more and on your right watch for the low to the ground signs for the Visitor’s Center which will be off the road on your right, nicely blended into the surrounding landscape.

Coming from Vegas, take I-15 Northeast (toward Mesquite and St. George.) Get off at exit 75 (bear right and head east) toward Valley of Fire/Lake Mead. After about 10 miles you’ll merge into Valley of Fire Highway. Follow the signs to the Visitor’s Center on your left, once you’re in the park.

My wife and I take our visitors to Valley of Fire, and all have been impressed, surprised, and wished they had more time! We never tired of it and will return many times more. Let us know YOUR favorite spots at Valley of Fire State Park below! And let me know what trails you’d like me to cover in future “Destinations with Dave.”

Support our parks, please leave them just as you found them, and Happy Trails!

The always-popular photo was taken just as you enter the park, near the self-pay kiosk. (photo D. Kilker)
Keep your eye out for Bighorn Sheep along the trails, and, often, right off the road from your vehicle. (photo D. Kilker)
Keep your eye out for many obvious and hidden arches along the way! (photo D. Kilker)
The park closes at dusk, but the colors brought out by the setting sun are beautiful. (photo D. Kilker)
Valley of Fire State Park is a wonderful driving tour for all ages and abilities. We spent about two hours with my 87-year-old mother, who loved it! Plan a trip with someone you love!
Petroglyphs from pre-Puebloan ancestors frequently include depictions of big-horn sheep, feet, and “atlatls,” which were used to propel spears. It is fun to try to imagine what the symbols mean. (photo D.Kilker)

Link to more park information: http://parks.nv.gov/parks/valley-of-fire

One thought on “Destinations with Dave: Valley of Fire

  1. Dave,

    I finally read this article! Good stuff. I hope to see it soon. Like maybe this winter? Have fun on your trip this summer. We head back to Norway on Tuesday!

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