This was the place I’d been drooling over, the place I’d envied in so many other people’s blog posts, the place I’d bookmarked on my “list” and looked forward to visiting for years. Ever since we landed in the Lake Mead area I’d been eyeing it like a hungry bear and scanning for a good window of weather to go. When I created my “top 5″ list in the last post I deliberately left this spot out not because it isn’t worthy, but because it is so unbelievably worthy it deserves it’s very own blog post.
If art were stone this would be a masterpiece worth millions. Instead we pay a measly $10 to see Nature’s sublime creation. Welcome to Valley of Fire State Park, NV folks and believe me when I say it’s just as glorious as it sounds!
The multicolored red rock wonder that is Valley of Fire was birthed a mere 150-200 million years ago from shifting sand dunes during the Mesozoic Era. Subsequent upward thrusts and erosion created the limestone, shale, and conglomerate sculptures that we admire today. The fiery basin is now Nevada’s oldest and largest park covering 42,000 acres and it’s red beauty erupts like a Phoenix from the bare, golden rock of the area. Just driving through the park is absolutely breath-taking (blog reader Sherie pointed out that the drive is listed in National Geographic’s Drives of a Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Most Spectacular Trips), but if you time it right it gets even better….
You see it’s all about the Golden Hour, that glorious time of day when the sun dips low and casts warm colors across the earth. It’s a photographers dream, especially in a place like this where the complimentary colors of orange (rock) and blue (sky) blaze at their brightest creating a striking contrast that is oh-so-pleasing to the eye. You can come to Valley of Fire any time of day and you’ll enjoy it (no doubt), but if you want to see this place come ALIVE get here in the hours right after sunrise or right before sunset. At those magical moments red rocks catch on fire, orange rocks burst aglow, pinks simmer seductively and the multicolor of warm hues produce a visual explosion.
HOLY RED ROCK GUACAMOLE baby!
I suggest at least a day, or four to visit every stop and fully absorb this Natural Wonder. We went three times (just couldn’t resist) taking in a different part of the park each time. Our first visit was just a quick drive-through with a stop at some of the roadside attractions. Our next two visits we took in the amazing drive past the visitor center to White Domes and did several of the excellent area hikes (all of which are dog-friendly!). For those of you who’ve never been I suggest the very picturesque 1-mile roundtrip at White Domes, as well as the easy 7/10 mile hike into Mouse’s Tank to see the petroglyphs.
And then there is the crème de la crème. This last hike was actually one I didn’t know about and became the reason for our third visit to the park. Thanks to blog reader Kathleen I heard about “The Fire Wave”, an ice-cream layered swerving beaut of a rock in the northern part of the park. I googled the thing and was immediately bitten
Argh!!! This is amazing! How did I miss this??? Paul, we have got to go back…
This multicolored sandstone sculpture is a bit of a park secret and is not listed on any of the brochures, but if you stop at Parking Lot #3 around 4.3 miles up the road to White Dome you’ll see a teeny little sign for the trail on the opposite side of the road. Follow this across the desert and around the big red mountain for around a mile or so and you’ll come to “The Wave”. If you want the best photo light plan to get there in the hour before sunset and watch the play of color erupt on the layers. It was so windy the day we went I could barely keep the camera still, but I am OH SO happy we made it!
A pretty amazing visit to a pretty amazing spot and one I would come back to in a heartbeat. Put this one on your “list” my friends and may the fire grip your soul as it did mine!
Note/ The park is around 1 hour north of Las Vegas and costs $10 (per day) to enter, even if you’re just driving through. All hikes are dog-friendly (on leash -> we posed Polly for the few shots above). For those wanting an even more in-depth experience the park has stellar RV camping ($20/night for dry camping or $30/night for full hookups).
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