Those Wondrous Rocks – Valley of Fire, NV

Our scenic drive into Valley of Fire (click here if you missed it) and the breathtaking trail explorations left us wanting more.  Fortunately we had a week to explore this park, and did we ever rock out!

The park didn’t have extensive trails, but the ones we followed took us past many intriguing rock formations and colors that wowed us again and again.  The story of how the earth moved to cause the folding, thrusting and shoving of ancient seas millions of years ago resulted in what we saw as a geologists’s dream.

Pinnacle Trail

This was our first trek, and it led us to a cluster of sandstone towers.  The high gray mountain ridge here is made up of the oldest exposed rocks in the park, estimated to be 550 millions years old.  The red rocks in front of it are younger, “only” 66 million years old.

Pinnacles Trail
An open desert hike this time

After going around the southern edge of a ridge of dark gray-green rock and doing a bit of scrambling, the pinnacles came into view:

Pinnacle Rocks

On this trail we were fascinated by eroding large and small sedimentary rocks cemented together by minerals:

Steve touches a piece of wood that was cemented among sedimentary rocks

After climbing the pinnacles we were rewarded with beautiful scenery in every direction:

Pinnacles Trail, Valley of Fire

The shrubs near the top of the pinnacles displayed a bluish-green tinge that made Steve take notice:

Pinnacle Trail
A bluish tint on the sage brush

Approaching our campground, we stopped by groups of ancient sand dunes that have hardened over millions of years.  This is part of the cluster seen on my header image:

Valley of Fire State Park

Prospect Trail

Another trail we followed took us behind those huge sandstone formations that make up most of the state park.  We began our hike from the campground and crossed open desert before hiking into the enormous sandstones.  The cacti were beginning to bud, and we could only guess how vibrant this area would be in a few weeks.

The sandstones here are ginormous, weathered by wind and time and forming odd shapes and forms.  These formations were originally sand, mud, silt or lime that became stone over 300 million years ago.

Prospect Trail, Valley of Fire
I looked like a blue ant standing among the sandstones
Prospect Trail
Playing and climbing amongst incredible weathered rocks
Brittle brush
Blooming Brittle Brush against the rocks
Prospect Trail
Is that a pig though the rock window?

Valley of Fire State Park

The trail ended at White Dome Rock, and the oppressive dry heat was getting to us so we headed back.

Prospect Trail
Looking up at a high canyon wall

Natural Arch Trail/Elephant Trail

We had planned to see the natural arch on this trail, but after walking a while in deep sand in the wash we decided to try another trail.

Mesozoic Muds
These red deposits are called mesozoic muds, which will turn purple, pink or lavender when exposed to air
Natural Arch Trail
Deep sand isn’t our favorite kind of hike, let’s try something else!

It’s a good thing we detoured to the Elephant Trail just up the road.  The Big Horn Sheep were out for their breakfast in big numbers:

Desert Big Horn Sheep
A herd having breakfast…
Big horn sheep
…while a family does lookout duty from the top of a rock

Back at the campground, Betsy was parked right in front of a large sandstone rock that Steve wanted to conquer:

Atlatl Campground

Atlatl Campground
Betsy’s hidden behind that big rock

We spent a day exploring in and around our campground, and checked out whimsical formations that were close by:

Sandstone Arch
A Sandstone Arch, an example of what happens when water and wind find weak places in the rock that erode faster than surrounding stone
Beehive Formation cross bedded rock
A beehive – persistent winds over millions of years created this masterpiece
Yawning Indian
A yawning indian – can you see it?

I’ll stop now or you’ll be yawning like that indian.  But the beauty is in the details, as you’ll see in my next post!









  1. This is such a beautiful playground:) Glad you got to see some Bighorns:) The day Jessica and I drove over from Vegas for an all day hiking fest, she got to see a couple right by the road at dusk as we were leaving. It was nice of them to come down for her:)

  2. I would think the desert is in full bloom very soon. Love the rock formations.

  3. Breathtaking, awesome pictures, thank you this exploration you are doing, me and my kids are learning so much from you. Say Hi to Steve.

  4. The cactus with the little red berries on it? Those berries are edible! We hiked with a horticulturist friend in Tucson in December, and he showed us which desert vegetation we could eat. The fruit tastes like a sour strawberry. Not something you could make a meal out of, obviously, but kind of fun to taste along the way. Wrote about that hike at if anyone wants further details.

  5. Fantastic pictures Mona Lisa the colors are magnificent, rocks and flowers. Great that you have the two of you in the photographs to show just how big they are. I was amazed when I saw the little blue you in the first one. Really changed my perspective. What fun to see the big horn sheep. I do see the yawning Indian. Love Betsy’s spot in the shadow of that huge rock.

  6. Capturing the colors, contours and contrast of Valley of Fire landscapes can be extremely difficult. Your photos are beautiful, great job!

  7. Ah bighorns…somehow we have NEVER been where they are. I’m so jealous!

    Beautiful rocks and flowers…can’t wait for the details!

  8. What a gorgeous landscape! So cool that you spent a week there so that you could explore in-depth and give us all the tips for hiking trails. 🙂 Were those three lambs with one mama sheep? So cute! Your campsite looks spectacular, too. We are going there for sure!

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