This Valley’s on Fire! – Overton, NV

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The drive along the north shore road from Lake Mead National Recreation Area was a colorful and rocky landscape that lead us to one of Nevada’s hidden gems, Valley of Fire State Park.  I must warn my readers that this post and several succeeding ones will be laden with geologic rocks in various forms, shapes and colors.

Steve was happy that the road was well paved, unlike the many crappy roads in Tucson, AZ.  Since it was so nice, he was able to enjoy the scenery more than usual as we negotiated the curvy and hilly roads snaking through the dramatic landscape.

Las Vegas Bay

Are we there yet?


Looks like we’re getting close…


OK, we’re there!

Valley of Fire S.P. is located just 50 miles northeast of the bright lights of Las Vegas.  It’s named for the red sandstone formations that have been carved by shifting sand dunes that were formed and solidified during the age of dinosaurs.  It’s really an island of red rocks in the desert, and because the sun was hitting it at just the right angle when we arrived it looked like the rocks were ablaze.  Amazing!

Valley of Fire State Park

We arrived early in the morning, as the campground sites are on a first-come first-served basis.  At 40′ plus a car we had a choice of three spots, and fortunately site #24 had just been vacated.  Although many of the electric/water sites were very out of level, we were able to get close in this one (Steve’s review here).

The forecast for the following day called for wind and possibly rain, so once we were hooked up we immediately drove the scenic drive.  I had seen pictures of this park, but we were not prepared for the out-of-this-world landscape here!

White Dome Road, Valley of Fire SP

At the start of the scenic drive the road gradually climbed through these deep red monoliths consisting of Aztec sandstone.

We first pulled over at the Petroglyph Canyon Trail, where evidence of human use of the area was etched on the canyon walls.  Nobody knows the meaning of these symbols, but the art reflects the thoughts of these people 4,000 years ago.  The trail was short, but walking through deep sand along a rocky drainage area made the going a bit difficult.


What the heck are they trying to say?

Not only did the petroglyphs keep us constantly looking up at the canyon walls, but also the many eroded rocks in fascinating forms grabbed our attention..

Petroglyph Canyon trail

A juggling act amongst the rocks

Mouse Tank

At the Mouse’s Tank: a pocket of stagnant water supposedly helped an Indian named Mouse survive while stuck here in the 1890’s

At the summit the road opened up to reveal an amazing display of rocks in many colors, aptly named Rainbow Vista.  We parked and climbed up a huge outcropping to enjoy a 360-degree panorama of 150 million year old colored rocks, canyons, domes, ridges and valleys.  The panel described the view as a wild and virtually untouched wilderness carved from sand deposited during the time when dinosaurs walked the earth.

Rainbow Vista

Its spectacular, its amazing, its surreal!

Rainbow Vista

White Domes Scenic Byway

Looking down the scenic road we drove in on

Next we swung by Fire Canyon Road and viewed the dramatic change from white to red in the sandstone which was caused by small quantities of iron that produced rust-like stains.

Rainbow Vista

The hikers looked like ants as they trekked toward Fire Canyon

Fire canyon

Fire Canyon Road

I name this formation “two hearts beating as one”

Back on the road, we drove slowly so we could ogle the many layers of multicolored rocks. There were pull-outs and parking lots that allowed more close-up exploration, but for now we just drove leisurely as we “oohed” and “aahed” on our way to White Dome Rock.

“Wow!” was all we could say at every turn.  The short White Dome Rock Trail showcased a little bit of everything here, and a walk in the cream-colored sand led us past a slot canyon where we gawked at massive formations with contrasting colors amidst the Mohave Desert landscape.

White Domes Trail

Clusters of rounded, cream-colored sandstone mounds

Slot Canyon, White Domes Trail

White Domes Rock

We saw a sign that listed movies that had been filmed in the area over the years.  We plan to keep our eyes open for them to see how the locations were used.


After a short hike we backtracked and stopped at parking lot #3 to access the famed “Firewave”.  It’s reminiscent of the Coyote Buttes in the Vermillion Cliffs, which are called “The Wave”.  Since we haven’t been able to get a reservation at The Wave so far, we’re content to see a sampling of it here.  This place is incredible and I’m running out of adjectives to describe it!

Firewave, Valley of Fire SP

That rock is called Gibraltar

Firewall, Valley of Fire State Park

Steve striking a pose at the Firewave


The scenic drive and short trails can be done in a day.  For those of you visiting Las Vegas, take a day off from gambling if you have a car and make a day trip out here.  It’s a seriously wild place, with the fascinating details yet to come!

Valley of Fire sunset

This is why the park is named Valley of Fire!

I took so many photos that I couldn’t decide which ones to post, but you really need to come here and see this fascinating place for yourself.

Sunset at Valley of Fire



Next up:  Life is in the detail