During our recent stay in Las Vegas, we were looking for some family friendly places to visit. While we had noticed Valley of Fire NV State Park in our atlases, we really didn’t have a great desire to visit it. The surrounding landscape didn’t seem overly scenic when we had driven by the exit to the park off the Interstate, and we had not seen any overly inviting advertising of the park.
Our oldest son had flown out to spend his 2 week Christmas break from Basic Training with us, and the day that he had to fly back, we really needed something to keep our minds off of missing him. Valley of Fire was about all we had left on our list of places that we would like to visit near Las Vegas. We had already been to Lake Mead, Red Rock Canyon, and Hoover Dam (which is NOT ideal to visit during Christmas vacation!). Needing to get out of the ‘house’, we packed a lunch and drove northeast of town, over an up and down, windy little road until we entered a shallow canyon through which the road led to the entrance of the park. Being a state park, the entrance fee is $10/vehicle; we were given a pass to adhere to the inside of our windshield, and a map of the park.
Valley of Fire ended up being the perfect distraction – within a mile of the entrance to the park, we were already oohing and aahing over the beautiful rock formations! (I will interject here, that we found Valley of Fire to be even more interesting than the beautiful Red Rock Canyon – if we could only visit one, we would choose Valley of Fire!)
Just a very little ways into the park (from the eastern entrance), is a loop that will take you past Arch Rock and Atlatl Rock. Be sure to take this loop! We found the most fun rocks to climb on, and they were perfect for pictures! An easy, tho not level, walk off the road, and you are surrounded by incredible rock formations! Just up the loop a little brought us to the first of 2 campgrounds in the park. Both campgrounds are in this loop off of the main road, and both are beautifully situated with sites hugging rock formations. Each site has a covered picnic table, a sectioned off level tent site, and level, smooth, graveled parking areas. The larger of the 2 campgrounds, located near Atlatl Rock, even has quite a few RV-only sites with electricity – these RV sites are HUGE and very nice – there are even a few very large pull-thrus! In most sites, you could easily get 2 Class As in side-by-side with no problems! Non-electric sites are $20/night, with electric ones an additional $10 (fee is per camping vehicle, not site) If you are taking your RV in the park to camp, I would suggest entering the Atlatl Rock loop by the further (western) entrance – this entrance is paved where the other is not. A dump station is located near the campgrounds.
While we were driving the short little loop, we chose to stop at Atlatl Rock for our lunch break. At the rock, which boasts a 3 story (?) stairway up to a petroglyph viewing platform, there is a nice shade area with a dozen covered picnic tables. We claimed a table, and had a fun time during lunch watching the numerous friendly ground squirrels scampering under and around the picnic tables looking for crumbs left by previous picnic-ers. They would even come up and sniff the little girls shoes as their feet dangled from the benches – these little squirrels are rampant all over the park, and we enjoyed them both here, and spying them darting in and out and over the rock formations.
After our lunch stop, we drove out to the petrified logs, and on to the visitor’s center. A quick stop at the small building netted us a peek at a tarantula, scorpions, and various lizards. After looking at the displays, we hit the road again for Mouse’s Tank and White Dome. This drive took us past Rainbow Vista, where we were surprised at the many beautiful colors that painted that part of the valley! We drove up the alternate dirt road to Fire Canyon, and then to White Dome, where the road ends. Next we backtracked to Mouse’s Tank, where we parked the van and took the half mile round trip walk to the natural basin in the rocks that collects rainwater and stores it for sometime months at a time.
Mouse’s Tank is the short hike that you will want to take if you are interested in seeing petroglyphs; we were surprised by the prolific numbers of them etched in the rocks lining the path leading to the basin. Mouse’s Tank is not a long hike,but it is through sand, so it does take more effort than a similar walk on a hard surface.
We then chose to continue onward through the park, leaving through the western entrance and heading back to Vegas via Northshore Drive (NV167), which would lead us through the Lake Mead National Recreation Area (with it’s NPS entrance fee) and back to the eastern edge of Las Vegas. This was a fairly long drive, and not particularly scenic (though there is a beautiful valley that you drive through and you do get glimpses of Lake Mead). Having driven in and out, next time I would enter the park from the west, tour it, and leave by the same route. You know how often a path looks totally different from the other direction? I think that this is one park that merits being seen from both ways! (if you would like to see more pics of VoF, you can head here to check out my personal blog post about our day.)
Valley of Fire is a must see if you find yourself visiting the Las Vegas area!