Entering the Valley of Fire State Park, is literally like taking a trip to the planet Mars. Imagine driving through desert terrain, orange mountains on either side, seemingly sky high, and then you take a turn, and everything turns RED; red sand, red mountains, red rocks, pretty unreal.
The Valley of Fire is just about an hour outside of Vegas in the Mojave Desert, an easy day drip, and a must see. The park gets it’s name from the fiery- red sandstone formations formed from shifting sand dunes during the age of dinosaurs close to 150 million years ago. It’s present landscape has been extensively eroded giving it the beauty we see today. There is plenty of evidence of prehistoric visitors who have left behind ancient petroglyphs on cliff sides.
My husband and I had been planning our Desert Road trip (Itinerary here) for a few months, and of course, the morning we left to head out- we both woke up with mild fevers, sore throats, and body aches. ugh. Nothing some DayQuil couldn’t cure, or so I thought. So, some of our planned hikes had to be cut from our visit, but luckily the park is VERY easily accessible and drive-able, and we still managed to see most of our picks.
After entering the park, sand formations and attractions are immediately visible from the road. We made our way straight to the Visitors Center- always my first stop at any state or national park- I’m a nerd. After taking a super quick walk around the historical and geological exhibit, we grabbed a map, an extra bottle of water, and a souvenir park patch – again, I’m a nerd.
Next: We hiked Mouse’s Tank, about 1.5 hour round trip- not the longest hike there, but well worth it. We ventured off the trail and made our way up on the rocks (I recently read this was illegal, so my details may or may not be true…) to get some great views of the trail and our surroundings. On this trail there are several places to see the ancient petroglyphs- which fascinated me.
Next: We drove to several stops (see points of interest below), parked, walked around and made some short hikes, and of course took lots of pictures.
Finally: We drove to the farthest end of the park to find the parking lot for Elephant Rock. I really wanted to see this, but by this point in the day my energy level was so low and all the meds were wearing off. Somehow, we mustered up some strength, climbed the mountain-side and found it! Owen, Lady (our dog), and I sat at the overlook for about 30 minutes- just in awe- before heading back down. This overlook had the best views of Elephant Rock and the park!
Points of Interest
- Mouse’s Tank
- Seven Sisters
- Elephant Rock
- Rainbow Vista
- The Beehives
- Petrified Logs
- White Domes
- Fire Canyon- WOW
- The Wave: Sadly, we had to pass this up because of the long distance hike in the heat. Stupid fever.
Things to Know
- Entrance fee; $8 per car
- Get some gas before you get to the park. there is a station right before the main road to the park.
- Pets allowed
- Most trails are soft sand- not paved
- Wear a hat- there is no shade anywhere
- Make sure to bring lots of water and snacks
- All attractions are clearly marked with signs and most have parking
- We brought a mini tripod (this one) and got an iphone self timer app (this one) that can take multiple photos at intervals and timer up to one minute. Great for a different take of the boring landscape pic.
- There are day tours available, but totally unnecessary. The park is SO easy to navigate.