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A guide to Valley of Fire State Park

Photo by Lia Reichmann | Sports Editor

A few weeks prior to spring break me and one of my parents decided to visit the Grand Canyon. Unfortunately, we are not the best planners and realized in order to get camping reservations you needed to book it four months in advance. This left us to search for a different park to go hiking in and to find it quickly. After doing an internet search I stumbled upon a website that recommended Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada. I had never heard of this park and just based on the name, knew I wanted to check it out. Valley of Fire is located in the Mojave Desert with the closest town being Overton, Nevada 16 miles away. Valley of Fire is also less than an hour away from Las Vegas, so if the gambling itch hits, you’re not far from Sin City. The park is over 40,000 acres and made up of massive red Aztec sandstone formations that look other-worldly. There are also 2,000 year old petroglyphs and petrified logs that have amazing clarity given their age. Here is my guide if you find yourself curious about this state park.

 

  1. Best hikes to do: 

Throughout our week-and-a-half trip we were able to do some of the most popular hikes available at Valley of Fire. Out of the ones we did I would recommend doing the Top of the World Arch, the Seven Wonders loop and Pinnacles loop. The Top of the World hike was easily one of my favorite hikes I’ve ever done. The trail is definitely on the hard side, so I would not recommend doing it if you are a new hiker. However, none of these hikes are crazy long, the longest one being around 4.5 miles, so they are very manageable. The Seven Wonders loop was the prettiest hike between the three I recommend doing. The loop takes you through different sections that each are really amazing and unique geologically speaking. Fire Wave is one section and is accessible through a parking lot nearby. Like its name suggests the ground looks like fire with different colored stripes of red on a large rock formation. If you go to the other side of the parking lot you hike down into an eroded slot canyon that reminds me of the candy world from the movie “The Adventures of SharkBoy and LavaGirl.” Pinnacles Loop was a really good first hike as you get used to what kind of hiking you can expect in the park. Most of it is through a wash and takes you around a mountain range. It was a good warm-up hike and is close to Atlatl Rock where you can check out some petroglyphs. 

2. Tips for Camping: 

Most of the park consists of RV campers and we were one of the few people who were tent-camping. I would strongly recommend tent/car camping as we were outside the whole day and got to enjoy nature. We only went into our tent to sleep and enjoyed the nice weather, while we saw RV Campers spend most of their time inside and not exploring the park. If you decide to camp, whether in a tent or RV, you have to come early. There are not a ton of camping spots available in Valley of Fire with only two campsites; Atlatl Rock and Arch Rock. Both campsites come with a picnic bench, barbeque grill and spot to stake a tent. Atlatl Rock has showers and bigger spots, so they are popular with RV’ers. Arch Rock only has a bathroom. On our first day at the park we went to the campgrounds around noon to get a spot, however they were all full. The park ranger told us we would have to come between 7-11 a.m. to maybe get a spot. The next day we showed up a little after 7 a.m. and got one of the few spots available. Another thing to note is that the area can be quite windy, so make sure you have the right gear to keep your tent from flying away. 

3. Hiking conditions:

Be prepared for lots of wash hiking. As I mentioned earlier, every hike within Valley of Fire will have some sort of wash hiking. Honestly trudging through the sand was not very fun, but was something you just got used to. You’ll eventually learn how to hike through the sand as you don’t want to find yourself slogging through the deepest sand. Make sure you watch the depth of the footprints in front of you and make a path through the shallowest parts as that sand has less give and is more packed. The harder the sand, the easier it is to walk through. 

4. Explore the area:

Explore the rocks around you. There are a lot of opportunities in Valley of Fire to do some rock scrambling if that is your thing. For me, I really enjoy going off-trail and exploring an area that others haven’t been in. Elephant Rock, although it was a mediocre hike, the scrambling available in the area was really fun. The rock formation that makes up Elephant Rock is way cooler than the rock itself. We basically looked for the tallest peak in the formation and said “that’s where we’re going.” The view you can get is really great and kind of surprising. The sky was particularly clear that day so we were able to see miles away, including the Lake Mead recreational area and the easternmost part of the park.

5. Do your research on Valley of Fire:

I really enjoyed my trip because the weather was so gorgeous. It never went lower than 45 degrees at night, which is great if you’re sleeping in a tent, and the highs were around the 70’s. As it gets closer to the summer season, the park will get very hot. Be prepared for this. as hiking in a desert in the middle of the summer does not sound like a fun time if you are unprepared. Also, make sure you get a good understanding of the different hikes available. A lot of the hikes we did didn’t have many markers or clear trails. If you are doing more challenging hikes don’t expect any rock cairns to greet you and look for footsteps to make sure you’re going the right way. For the Top of the World Arch there were no markers or guides and we basically hiked into the unknown. I would strongly recommend you download maps of the different hikes you want to do, and would recommend the AllTrails app. When we hiked to the Top of the World Arch we had to solely use the AllTrails downloaded map. With a dwindling battery and little foot traffic that is not a trail you want to find yourself on at night when the temperature drops.

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