A Surprise: In the Mojave Desert, an hour east of Las Vegas, is a small state park – Valley of Fire, named because of the many colors of the canyons. (Although in late spring and summer, the reference to the heat is appropriate). This park is different from what we’ve seen before.
To beat the 106 degree heat of June 6, we drove into the canyon early morning when it was a cool 89 degrees, took a few short hikes and were out of there by 11:00. It was too early at 7:30 AM for the Visitor Center to open, but not too early to be greeted by a herd of Big Horn sheep at the entrance.
There are only two roads in the park and the hikes are easy. With the sun bearing down, we aimed for Pastel Canyon, Fire Wave and White Domes, and of course the ubiquitous Elephant Rock.
Pastel (or Pink) Canyon
The prettiest spot…and not so much a hike as a 10 minute walk in a small canyon. The site (part of “Wash #5) is unmarked, but can be found on Googlemaps. There are only two parking places, one on each side of the road. Walk east and down into the exquisite little canyon.
Fire Wave Trail
A bit like the famous Wave in the Vermillion Cliffs – this spot is an ocean wave of rock with bold stripes – layers and layers of waves in the red rock and ribbons of red, white, pink and tan sandstone that swirl like a soft-serve ice cream cone. We were dazzled while we baked on the exposed rocks (no shade).
USE THE ARROWS TO VIEW THE FIRE WAVE SLIDE SHOW:
White Domes Trail – Our Favorite Hike!
I was ready to call it a day, yet one trail remained on our agenda and Steve pushed to check it out. Domes trail presents a new feature after every turn. Once you get past the initial steep, sandy entry, it is a treat to scramble over rock, follow the cairns and walk through a beautiful little slot canyon.
This Place was on FIRE!
Valley of Fire is best as a self-drive, although tours from Vegas are available. Optimal time to visit? October – April when the temps are reasonable; else, go early in the morning (and the park closes at 5:30 pm). There are more hikes than one day allows from petrified trees to petroglyphs, but the three described above are the “Must Do’s”. The Elephant Rock Trail (see below)….not so much.
*Where to find the iconic Mouse Tank Road/White Domes Road photo op: After passing Rainbow Vista parking area, the road curves right. Look for a small gravel pull-off on the right side of the road just behind a tall rock. Park, climb the rock, and click.