Wonder & Awe In The Valley Of Fire, NV

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 sunsetAt 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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We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do

  1. says

    Wow!!! This has been on our list for some time, too — can’t believe we haven’t made it there with all of the times we’ve traversed Nevada. Your photos and description are gorgeous. We’re inspired to visit as we wend our way back west, although it may be too hot in May. By the way, we’ve decided to camphost again on Lopez Island for July/August — would love to meet up with you while you’re hosting on Orcas!

    • libertatemamo says

      May could well get a little hot out here. Even earlier this month we had a few days approaching 90….I can only imagine what May is like.

      HOW COOL that you’re hosting on Lopez Island. Let’s definitely plan to meet-up. We want to visit all the Islands while we’re there. If I manage to forget please ping me again in August when we get there.

      Nina

  2. says

    We have passed by this park many time on the the way to parks we “thought” were better. Now I know different, and will stop the next time we are i the area. Thanks for posting these fabulous pictures..

    • libertatemamo says

      Honestly I probably wouldn’t have known about it either if I hadn’t seen it in other people’s blog posts a few years back. Ever since I read about it I wanted to go.

      Nina

    • libertatemamo says

      So true Papa. Looks like the wind finally died down tonight. We’re probably heading out tomorrow and will try and drop by to say goodbye.

      Nina

  3. Smitty says

    I have good friends that have the look out over the Snake River in Grand Tetons, and Valley of Fire – as their two favorite spots in the lower 48!

    We were detoured from hitting this last year, but may swing by for a few days at the end of the month – if we get to take our Alaska trip this year.

    Thanks for sharing the costs for the dry camping, did not know that was an option.

    Really enjoyed the B&W shots!

    You two keep them coming, always enjoy your posts,
    Smitty

    • Smitty says

      Meant to add that I was looking at running up 93 and hitting Great Basin NP on our way to the Canadian border. I15 is faster, but we’ve ‘done I15′ so many times now – it would be nice to break it up with a different route. GBNP should be ‘cool’ in later April early May, and not crowded.

      Smitty

      • libertatemamo says

        We might actually have to re-route because of weather, but that’ll be the topic of my next blog post. Always so many fine places to see and so much to do :)

        Nina

    • libertatemamo says

      It will probably still be quite nice here (weather-wise) at the end of the month so could be a sweet time to drop by. Enjoy Alaska…we backpacked there many years ago, but have yet to do it in the RV.

      Nina

  4. ed sowney says

    Hey, Paul and Nina. Thanks so much for your wonderful musings and photos. We’re in the early planning stages of our own life journey “road trip” and, at this stage, are living somewhat vicariously through you. Your posts with helpful information based on your experiences are welcomed. Thanks and keep it up.

  5. says

    We went last November doing all the hikes in the park…except the fire wave. Will put it on my list for next time we visit son in Vegas. I was awed by the rainbow of colors in those rocks…simply amazing.
    Donna

    • libertatemamo says

      We would have missed the Fire Wave too it weren’t for my blog readers. Definitely come back and do it!

      Nina

  6. rand says

    Feedly only shows one photo. I usually want to see the photos so click your site from Feedly. Some sites are not photo friendly — click the photo and it comes up smaller.
    So great seeing the world with a click.
    Thx for your view.

    • libertatemamo says

      Strange…I see all the photos in my Feedly, but they’re tile-size rather than full-size (which is a consequence of the gallery formatting I use). It’s always tough to balance looks on the blog and mobile platforms.

      Nina

  7. says

    When we visited Vegas several years ago, we explored the surrounding countryside (which we enjoyed much more than the strip!) Loved your posts on Lake Mead and Hoover Dam, but Valley of Fire was absolutely our favorite spot! Loved it.
    We began full time RVing the end of Feb and are currently in FL. Will be TX in May and then onto the Rocky Mtn National Park, Mt Rushmore, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, then NV for Oct/Nov.
    We love your blog!
    Kathy and JOhn

  8. says

    Couldn’t have described it any better. It truly is an amazing place. After seeing this park posted on two different blogs, we knew we had to see it. Our first day trip was with our daughter. She has never seen anything like this before. After that, we knew we had to go back for a visit. So we took the MH and stayed in the campground for several days. Red rocks to climb right at our door!! Doesn’t get any better. The Big Horn Sheep came down by the road as Jessica and I were leaving at dusk. The perfect ending to a perfect day:) So glad you finally got there to visit.

    • libertatemamo says

      How cool that you got to experience this place with your daughter. And smart that you stayed on-site…red rocks right at your doorstep and I KNOW how much you love red rocks :)

      Nina

  9. Rowanova says

    Absolutely gorgeous! Thanks a million for this one! I thoroughly appreciated seeing a park this special. I’ll have to remember this one for my own travels.
    How’s the weather in the Valley of Fire during the winter months?

    • libertatemamo says

      I expect the winter weather is nice. This is desert after all. The mountains get snow around here, but the valley seems to stay temperate.

      Nina

  10. says

    The light wasn’t good for photos when we found the Fire Wave, and after having been to the “real” Wave near Page, Az it was a bit of a letdown. We did love Valley of Fire, though. But you guys really need to get to The Wave in AZ/UT.

    • libertatemamo says

      Yeah, I know we gotta hit the “big one” in Utah. Almost made it a few years ago, but had to pass by. It’s still on our “list”

      Nina

  11. says

    We had a house in Overton for awhile back in the early 90s. Don’t remember having to pay a fee to drive through. It’s a pretty magical place alright.

    • libertatemamo says

      Sadly it’s pay each time you drive through now. They have a gated entrance at the west end and a self-pay kiosk at the east end.

      Nina

  12. says

    This place is just about beyond words. We love it as much as you two do. The Wave must be seen to be believed. Fantastic!

    Great photos of the area Nina! One of the most beautiful places on earth.

  13. says

    Oh yeah! Spectacular. Its amazing that we have been to LV so many times to visit family and no one ever mentioned this place.
    With your new route this year, my go to list will get longer.

  14. says

    Loved the post and photos! You did a wonderful job capturing the unique beauty of this spot. Glad you went back again for the Fire Wave! We are currently back east tending to family business, but will be heading back west soon. Going to N Cal, and up the coast to Alaska. Can you list when and where you are volunteering this summer? Would love to stop in and thank you in person for all the help you have been to us before and after we started fulltiming.

    • libertatemamo says

      Thanks again for the Fire Wave tip! Wouldn’t have made it there without your comment on my last post.

      This summer we’ll be in Cape Disappointment, WA in June, then traveling July to our 2nd job at Orcas Islands, WA in Aug. then we head down to Cape Blanco, OR for Sept/Oct.

      Nina

  15. says

    We’ve been going there forever and still find new tiillating “off-brochure” places that titillate the senses. The campground has a nice setting, carved into a pocket of red sandstone boulders and hills, and there are showers!
    Box Canyon Mark,from a currently snowy Ouray, Colorado…actually, it’s a blizzard.

  16. says

    Wow, just wow! Gorgeous photos. Especially love the ones of the wave. This is one of those places that we’ve missed out on both times we were near by. Every time I see another blog post about it, I kick myself for not making it there. You’ve reminded me, yet again, that this park is a must see!

    • libertatemamo says

      You guys would definitely love it here. Onsite camping (amongst the rocks) is gorgeous or you can boondock just outside the park with good signal.

      Nina

  17. says

    One of our favorite places as well, Nina. We hope to camp there sometime, but not during Spring Break for sure! My google profile photo is from that hike you are speaking of…Magic!

  18. says

    Every image I’ve seen of this place just makes me drool and I can’t believe I’ve never been. It’s only 4 hours from the North Rim. So I’m putting it on the spring list of Musts. Your photos are an inspiration.

    • libertatemamo says

      This would definitely make a nice side-trip for you from North Rim. Well worth the time to come and see it.

      Nina

    • libertatemamo says

      That Fire Wave I’d totally hidden from all the park brochures. I would’ve missed it too if Kathleen hadn’t pointed it out to me on the blog.

      Nina

  19. John Whitney says

    I love following your blog, and save almost all of your locations and attractions in Evernote, for my future enjoyment. We are full-timers for over 2 years, but until just a little while ago, wedded to the job. Now free!!

  20. Laura says

    Darn — we just passed through Vegas last week and did not know about this park! Will add to list for next winter. Beautiful photos and good to know dogs can accompany us on the trails

  21. Pam says

    Amazing! We were traveling from Utah to Las Vegas, but read this and changed plans. So glad we did! Beauty all around and we got lucky and got here in time (first come, first serve) for RV park with hook ups. Feels like we are staying in the middle of a canyon. Would have missed this secret if hadn’t been reading your post!
    Thanks!!

  22. Vivian van Dijk says

    We stayed there in the park for several days last year in March, on our way back up north to Washington. I had read about it some years prior and decided we just had to make an effort to get there. We did and we’re very glad we did. In March when we were there the weather was comfortable; cool in the evenings but nicely warm during the day.

  23. dawn vezina says

    We saw this park for the first time last spring on our way home to Canada it is amazing. Actually I think we have ended up at the same boondocking site as you guys, I believe we are just above you on the cliff. We are in the Roseair with the 25 foot trailer and the little black convertible. If that is you below us we have a fire most nights and you are welcome to join us..we are loving your blog

    • libertatemamo says

      Wow…well, don’t you know. Yes, I think that’s us below you. We’re having happy hour at our spot tonight with Papa (down the way) so you’re welcome to drop by and say hello.

      Nina

      • dawn vezina says

        Just got your reply now, little late I guess. It got rather windy yesterday afternoon anyways. This is a great spot, we found it by accident. We went to look at the spot by Overton and found this on our way back as we had pulled into Boulder Beach for a few days to fill and dump after spending a month outside of Lake Havasu at Craggy Wash.

        • libertatemamo says

          Well I’m glad you made it. Sorry we didn’t get to meet. We just pulled out (finally) today.

          Nina

  24. says

    One of my favorite spots on earth! We try to get there every time we are in the LV area – whether camping or just on weekend get away.

  25. says

    Thanks for the tip about the Fire Wave in the Valley of Fire. We found it! I think the whole place should be called the Ice Cream Canyon. Just like when you swirl together vanilla/chocolate/strawberry ice cream with chocolate syrup, before it turns to mush. Loved the whole thing.

    • libertatemamo says

      Whoo hooo! Very happy you found it. It is such a special place. Also love your description of ice cream swirls…very appropriate.

      Nina

  26. Randy says

    Any ideas when this place gets to be prime season for dry camping in the fall? How is access for a 21 foot travel trailer? Are the sites backup or pull through sites?

  27. says

    I found out today that you can also get to the Fire Wave via “Wash #5.” You can park along the concrete shoulder in the “dip” of the wash. It is 1,000 paces into the wash, according to my trusty pedometer. Look to the left for the back-side of the wave, as it can be seen from the wash. And then after you see it, return to the wash and continue on hiking, because it is GOR-GEOUS!!! From beautiful pastel rippled sandstone, to blood red rocks, it just keeps going…and going…and going!

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