Rock formations and fantastic hiking.
Valley of Fire is a beautiful and unique desert playground and photographer’s paradise. The name derives from all of the red sandstone in the area where if you look at the rocks in the right light the colors resemble fire. All that red really stands out from the surrounding rock and geological features.
To get a feel of the park, we first stopped at the visitor’s center. Inside there were many displays about rock formations, the history of the area and a few cages with snakes and a chuckwalla. Just outside the visitor’s center was a short trail hike to Balancing Rock.
This cool rock formation seems to defy gravity and is just barely hanging on. I wonder how much longer it will stand there before it falls due to erosion. We loved getting a glimpse of the valley from the trail.
Hiking in Valley of Fire
Valley of Fire has many trails, but since we still have a few small children, our hikes had to be the easier ones. These hikes are easy enough for small children, but pack a big punch on beauty!
White Dome Hike
We took this beautiful scenic trail hike that was just over a mile long. We loved looking at all the different rock formations and there was even a small slot canyon which Gavin told me after was his favorite. Teddy also loved the slot canyon since it provided a bit of shade and was nice and cool. Oliver’s favorite part of the hike was hiding behind the rocks and scaring Elliot. That’s what big brothers are for, right? The girls loved looking at the rock formations. Lydia enjoyed all the different colors and Evelyn liked finding rocks that looked like animals.
Fire Wave Hike
This one was one of my favorites places in Valley of Fire. Here you can see multiple layers of rock that have settled into what look like the waves of the sea. It is quite impressive and beautiful. Matt especially loved seeing all of the colors since he had recently received a pair of Enchroma color blind glasses. He can now get more of an idea of what our world is like – though this place is almost out of this world.
This hike is a short walk to a natural basin that collects water. We experienced an unusually rainy day while we were there, so when we went on a hike to Mouse’s Tank (which was named for an outlaw who hid in the area in the 1800s) there were even more puddles throughout the entire trail. Our kids had a blast climbing the rocks, looking at petroglyphs and jumping in puddles. As we returned to our truck, Teddy slipped and fell completely under the water right in front of our eyes. Gavin jumped to the rescue and pulled him out. We were glad we were close to the truck since he was soaking wet.
I’m not sure it could really be counted as a hike, but there are a couple places you can park and take a short walk to see petrified logs. Our kids loved running around the open space and seeing the cool rocks.
Near the campground are a couple of rock formations that have been eroded by wind and water and now they look like traditional beehives if you are using a bit of imagination.
Arch Rock and Piano Rock
These are a couple of cool rock formations to check out. It is cool to see the effects of wind and water over time. Our kids liked to find other formations in the rocks and gave them their own names.
Petroglyphs Throughout The Park
There are a few places where you can see petroglyphs which the kids learned are ancient Indian art on rocks.
An easy stop to see some is Atlatl Rock which isn’t far from the campground. There is a small parking lot and stairs they installed for you to climb and get a close-up look of the petroglyphs. It can be busy at times, but since we were staying at the campground nearby we would drive by it frequently and stopped to climb the stairs when nobody else was around.
There are other places to see petroglyphs and we found that if you keep your eyes open along the Mouse’s Tank trail you will see lots of them. It makes an already great hike even better.
We Didn’t Expect This
One seemingly very out of place thing we saw was several sports cars. We saw Ferraris and Lamborghinis (like this one) cruising around the dirt trails and parked in the parking lots. Apparently there are places to rent these exotics in nearby Las Vegas and people will fly in, rent these, and tour a dusty State Park.
One night we returned to our campsite and found six mountain goats or rams climbing on the rocks right behind our campsite. We watched in awe as we had never been so close before. They climbed with such agility. It was quite impressive how quickly they scaled the rocks.
One of our favorite things about our campsite was that our kids had many places to run around. We had large rock formations all around us that they loved climbing on. They found a small cave that they turned into their hideout. They loved having autonomy and seeing how high they could climb.
Campsites at Atlatl Rock Campground inside the state park are first come first serve so make sure you arrive at a good time to get a site. If the campground fills up, there are so many places to boondock just outside the state park. We visited Valley of Fire at the end of January and beginning of February which gave us the perfect weather, except for one super windy and rainy day.
Cell reception (at least for Verizon) is basically non-existent at the campground and though you can pay money to Nevada State Parks for their Wi-Fi, it’s not great and you have to be right near the bathrooms. For cell reception we found the best place to be if you drive up the White Domes Road and stop at the parking lot for the Fire Wave hike.
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