In The Desert
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Valley of Fire, Nevada
Red Rock Canyon
First stop in the desert is Red Rock Canyon; then it's on to the Valley of Fire.
If you're in Las Vegas and you're wondering what to do for a day trip -- I've got just the thing for you. First head West out of town on Rt. 160 and watch for the signs for Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. It's just a short distance from I - 15 and it's got some reallty nice scenery.
The first thing you'll notice is the color differences in the rock strata here. And as you can see in this photo there are numerous hiking trails for those that like to hike or climb on the rock.
Here's another example of the pretty color variables that you'll find in the Canyon. Also a lot of yuccas and other plant life is here as well. When we were there no less than 12 people were climbing up and over these megaliths, and probably more that we didn't see. I'd bet that they were all staying in Las Vegas.
Here's an example of the roads in the Canyon. Narrow in some places, but graded nicely. A 2 wheel drive should have no trouble navigating the Canyon, if you don't mind a little dust. I'm sure Red Rock Canyon has a large number of visitors every year and is a popular place here in the desert.
A few nice parking areas to allow visitors to get out and hike some of the trails are available here. Some of the trails are marked, some are not. But this is a really neat place to see and is only a short drive from anywhere in Las Vegas.
After you leave here -- see below! One of the few day trips where you can see both parks in one day.
Valley of Fire
After going back to the Interstate you can head North toward Utah for a short 1 1/2 hour drive to get to the Valley of Fire. Here is the entrance road winding down off the mountains to the Entrance of the Park. This looks like any other mountain geology in Nevada -- nothing spectacular -- wait till you get into the Park!
Everything changes quickly here, some of the roads are paved and some are gravel. The gravel roads are well maintained. And the scenery is worth seeing. The red rock almost hurts your eyes it's so red and the caves are every where.
Just to give you an idea of the size of things; I'm 6 ft 1 inches tall. Exploring here is a blast. The way the wind has eroded the rock here in the desert is amazing. Water must have also been at work here in the desert. If your looking for day trips out of Las Vegas then you should make sure you get to the Valley of Fire, even if you don't make it to Red Rock Canyon.
If you like to get out and investigate the holes in the rocky hills here then plan on spending some time. The Park is pretty big and the caves are endless! Some are so unique -- well you'll just have to go see for yourself.
Here's one I've included here just to show how unique some of them are. This one looked like a house with windows and large opening in the front corner. Completely hollow inside. And a water proof roof is included!
Now while we're standing on a ledge looking at all the caves I noticed that a baby Chuckwalla had taken refuge from the sun in my shadow! It was almost 100 degrees that day and I guess he just wanted to cool off.
Then right next to us we spotted the Mother Chuckwalla taking refuge under a rock. She squeezed so far into this crack in the rock that you couldn't see her at all. Actually we saw 5 Chuckwallas in the desert while there.
This is Atlatl Rock. The Park service has built a set of steel stairs up to the face of the rock that is loaded with Petroglyphs. Some of them are so high it makes you wonder how native people could have gotten up there to scribe them in the cliff face.
Here's a really nice sized rock arch. The colors of this are oustanding. You can hike right up to the arch and in fact it's only about 200 ft. off the edge of the road. This is next to Atlatl Rock.
This is another area of the Park called Fire Canyon. The different layers or bands of red and white run for over a mile here. This is up behind the visitor center on a mostly paved road.
We took this photo in the parking area at the end of the road behind the visitors center. The white peaks here are outstanding enough, but then you'll see where the red runs up the hill into the white. This is one of our nicest day trips and is certainly worth seeing. Next time you're in Vegas ask about it and then take a road trip in the desert!
This is an inter-active Maps.google Map. You can zoom in / out and change the format to Street Map or Terrain; drag the map to scroll.
It's not surprising that the Valley of Fire is one of our most popular daytrips. It is a very popular destination because it's so close to Las Vegas which is a big draw for tourists. It's also one of the prettiest areas in the desert with the unique rock formations in the red Navajo Sandstone. Being close to Lake Mead helps also. Spend some time here. Each time we go we find something different and unique. Have fun.
Valley of Fire - Below
For a quick overview and a larger view, please take advantage of the slidehow/video below. It will give you a much more detailed look at what you can expect to see in the Valley of Fire State Park. Jack Johnston: "There are many passable roads to sites and camps that allow the young, old, and handicapped to enjoy the park". View it fullscreen!