Thunder Mountain Trail, Red Canyon, UT


Runtrails' Web Journal
Previous       2016 Journal Topics       Home       Next



"World-renowned for its 40,000 acres of bright red sandstone Aztec outcrops nestled
in gray and tan limestone, Valley of Fire State Park contains ancient petrified
trees and petroglyphs dating back nearly 2,000 years . . . Open year round,
the park has numerous campsites equipped with shaded tables, grills, 
and water, as well as many intriguing trails to tempt hikers."
~ Nevada State Parks homepage for Valley of Fire

I saw a lot of gorgeous scenery in about six hours at Valley of Fire today and was so impressed, I want to go back and show it to Jim. He opted out of today's trip, unaware of all the treasures that await in this park on a sunny spring day.

The Arch Rock Campground is nestled among towering red rock formations.

I took a whopping 556 pictures while in the park today and edited out only about 50 of them!

I know I can't show most of them here but this entry will still be several pages long so I can show a fair representation of the rock formations, trails, ancient rock art, flowers, visitor center, stone cabins, and campgrounds I saw while hiking on several trails and driving all the roads in the park.


The Valley of Fire derives its name from all the red sandstone formations found here that were large shifting sand dunes back in the age of dinosaurs.

Where exposed, we see a variety of interesting red rock formations in the current landscape that have been eroded by weather conditions (wind, water, freezing/thawing), chemical reactions, and gravity for over 150 million years -- smooth rock, jagged rock, domes, weird shapes, stripes, layers, arches, holes, and more:

White Domes Road

White Domes Trail

Scenic Loop Road near the Arches Campground

Petroglyph AKA Mouse's Tank Trail

Fire Wave Trail:  Beam me up, Scotty!

Many of the features show the layers and cross-bedded patterns of the original dunes. The best examples I saw were along White Domes Road:


Additional colors come from limestone, shale, and conglomerates; some are light, some dark. White Domes Road and White Domes Trail feature some gorgeous pastel rock colors:



Some of the rocks have darker "desert varnish" on them:

The next three illustrations from an interpretive sign at one of the overlooks along White Domes Road explain how some of the rock features were formed:



OK, that's today's geology lesson! I enjoy the terrain more when I know how it formed over the eons.


It was hot again -- upper 80s, which is well above normal for this date -- so I got an early start this morning from our RV park at Nellis AFB. It helps that the base is in North Las Vegas, because it was a shorter drive than leaving from the downtown area where many visitors stay. It's a 50+-mile drive north and east from the Vegas Strip.

I left our campground at 7:10 AM and it took about 45 minutes to get to the west gate of the park. I drove the shortest way north from Nellis to reach I-15 at exit 58. I got off the freeway at exit 75 and drove east on Valley of Fire Road AKA State Route 169. 

This is a narrow two-lane paved road that undulates through washes, then climbs into mountains, for 12 miles before it reaches the park's west gate. I didn't see much red rock until I got into the park.


Above and below:  There is a long, scenic -- but not red --
downhill drive through a canyon to the west entrance station.

No one was manning the gate yet so I filled out a self check-in envelope at the kiosk. The cost for non-residents is $10 per vehicle ($2 less for NV residents). I got my money's worth and more.

Then I continued east for six or seven miles to White Domes Road. From all that I had read and heard about this park the Fire Wave formation was my #1 priority to see, and I wanted to get there early to take photos with few or no other people around.

The park map is too large to copy here. This is a link to the map on the official state park website.

One of the "beehive" formations on the west side of the park

Red rocks and yellow creosote bush near the visitor center

Although the park website and maps don't identify the trailhead for Fire Wave -- and the visitor center wasn't open yet when I arrived -- I was able to find out where to park from a local fella. It's the third parking area on the left side as you're heading north on White Domes Road, about half a mile before the well-marked White Domes trailhead at the end of the road.


There is a lot more spectacular scenery along White Domes Road than just the namesake white domes!

White domes and more

Just past the visitor center White Domes Road ascends through tall rock formations. Most of the rest of the road is more open, with expansive views in every direction.

Above and below:  Ascent past the visitor center

This hilly, paved road runs north-south and has more fabulous scenery and trails along its 5.5-mile length than the longer Valley of Fire Road that stretches east to west across the southern part of the park.

After the visitor center and an ascent of a long hill (two pictures above), the road undulates past several parking areas for trails and viewpoints before it dead ends at the White Domes trailhead. I hiked the Fire Wave, White Domes, and Petroglyph/Mouse's Tank trails during the morning while it was still relatively cool.

I took the photos in this section both outbound and on the return, most while driving and some while pulled over at the Fire Canyon and Rainbow Vista overlooks:  


Above and below:  undulating road through the colorful rock scenery; drive slowly to enjoy it!


Above and below:  pretty pastel views from Rainbow Vista


Above and below:  pretty purples and pinks


Purple swirls among the cream and salmon colors

Blue sky compliments the orange-ish colors and some of the cloud patterns are interesting.

Fire Canyon has more of the dark red rocks.

Continued on the next page:  We've only just begun! Let's go hike to the Fire Wave formations . . .

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody the ultra Lab, and Casey-pup

Previous       Next

2016 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil