Fire Valley State Park, the largest and oldest state park in Nevada, founded in 1935, lies less than an hour away from Las Vegas. Martian landscapes of red and orange sandstone stand out against the background of a semi-arid landscape. Thanks to unique scenery and out-of-this-world atmosphere Valley of Fire State Park has been a filming location for many movies like Transformers, Casino, Total Recall, Star Trek: Generations, and Austin Powers.
In summer, it is scorching hot here, with temperatures reaching over 40°C. In winter, however, the temperatures can drop down to -25°C.
We visited Valley of Fire in August; hence we had first-hand experience of being burned to a crisp within the first 5 minutes once we stepped out of our air-conditioned bubble. Unfortunately, due to the heat, we had to give up the idea of doing hikes in the area – to my ultimate disappointment!
We saw most of the valley through the front window of our car, frequently stopping to take pictures and trying to see the dazzling views of the most famous trails. On some paths, I ventured a tiny little bit into the trail only to be called back by my overheated boyfriend 😛
Valley of Fire – attractions, and routes
Atlatl Rock sports a collection of petroglyphs (rock carvings) dating back to 2000 B.C, meaning they are over 4000 years old!
An atlatl is a throwing stick or a dart thrower used by the ancient Indians to give more force to their darts and spears. They are depicted in the petroglyphs (rock carvings) hence the name Atlatl Rock. The carvings could have been left by Anasazi Indians, representatives of the tribe responsible for carving rock cities in the slopes of the mountains – the famous Mesa Verde.
There are several places to see petroglyphs in the Valley of Fire; however, Atlatl Rock is the most famous, one of the easiest to access, and has the most significant concentrations of petroglyphs.
Like us, most people see the carvings only on top of stairs. However, I found out recently that there are more petroglyphs if you continue walking along the base of the rock past the stairs. There is a boulder whose front side is completely covered in petroglyphs. In addition, there are also some nice petroglyphs in the shallow canyon between Atlatl Rock and the next sandstone outcrop to the west.
We loved it, especially because through the last couple of years, we visited sites in Sweden and Norway where we could see a Scandinavian collection of petroglyphs and became huge fans. However, we were also a little sad, as it was heartwrenching to see some of the carvings devastated by tourists. They survived thousands of years of ferocious weather elements, only for some idiot to carve their name on top of them. I will never understand the people who cannot resist the urge to sign their names on historical treasures (⋟﹏⋞)
Arch Rock, a slight arch formed by erosion that sits on top of a rounded rock, can be seen on Scenic Loop Road in the western portion of the park. It is located a stone’s throw away from Atlatl Rock and is easily visible from the road.
As I mentioned before, due to the heat, we could not hike much, though I still made a list of some of the most scenic trails (according to my google search), which I will update with pictures if I venture into this area again in the future.
Petrified Logs features petrified wood, the fossil of a tree that turned into stone. The 0.5 km loop trail features several petrified logs and information regarding how they were formed.
Fire Wave Trail
This 2.4-km route is one of the most popular hiking trails in the park. The fame comes from the rock formation with several stripes and shades of orange, reminding visitors of a wave.
Elephant Rock Loop
2.1-km loop trail located at the east entrance to the park. Known from a rock that looks like an elephant.
White Domes Loop
White Domes Trail, located right at the end of White Domes Road, is known for being one of the most scenic locations in the state park. This 1.8-km loop trail should take around 30 minutes to complete. It traverses through a highly scenic and diverse area with slot canyons and giant rock domes. The trail also visits an old film set (The Professionals) and lets hikers slip through a narrow canyon.
Fire Canyon Road and Silica Dome
A viewpoint located in the center of the park overlooking several of the park’s stunning landscapes. Because of its elevation, you will be able to have 360-degree views of your surroundings.
The park is open from sunrise to sunset; hence plan accordingly. Otherwise, you will be like us, racing the setting sun while trying to resist the urge to stop every 5 minutes to take a picture of yet another spectacular spot.
There are two campgrounds in the park, and staying overnight there will allow you to stay in the park after sunset. All campsites are first-come, first-served without the possibility of reserving ahead of time.
Ticket to the park costs $10.00 per vehicle (Non-NV Vehicles: $15.00 per vehicle).
Make sure you have cash on you. When we arrived, the ticket booth was closed, and we had to put money into the envelope with all our details. Lucky for us, we still had one bigger bill on us, and we managed to find some other friendly tourists who exchanged it for smaller bills.
❗The “America The Beautiful” annual pass does not cover the entrance to Valley of Fire.