Chances are you’ve heard of Las Vegas, Nevada. Yes? We thought so. But have you heard of Valley of Fire State Park just outside of Las Vegas? No? We’re not surprised. Neither had we. But it is an awesome place that’s just an hour northeast of Vegas (it’s close to Lake Mead and just off of I-15) and is really worth a look. We only discovered it because we met some young European travelers who said we had to go there. We had the time on our way back from Zion, so we figured, why not? We are so glad we took the time and actually wished we had more time to spend there. The photographer in me especially wanted to be here at sunrise and sunset, but it is beautiful at any time of day!
Valley of Fire State Park is Nevada’s oldest state park, and while you’re driving there, you really can’t imagine there’s anything around worth making a state park about. Let’s just say it’s not the most spectacular scenery on the way in. Just as you’re getting to the park, though, you begin seeing the red sandstone formations, and the lightbulb goes on. It’s like a mini-Arches National Park has popped up in the middle of nowhere!
We were there in the afternoon on a mid-June day, and it was hot. Really, really hot. That was the bad news. The good news was, no one else was crazy enough to go there when it was so hot, so we pretty much had the place to ourselves! There’s a short drive through the park where you can see lots of beautiful formations.
We scrambled over the rocks and crawled through holes. And watched for snakes (which might have been paranoia or not, but we weren’t taking any chances). We took loads of pictures (I’m sure you’re shocked!). We looked at petrified wood and incredible petroglyphs that were created between 300 B.C.E. and 1150 C.E. by the ancient people who inhabited this land (the Basket Makers and the Anasazi Pueblos). It’s amazing that these things are still around hundreds, maybe even thousands, of years later.
We were also very lucky to see a pair of bighorn sheep wandering through the rocks. Their coloring was great camouflage in those rocks! They were really close to the road and let us watch them for quite a long time, just moving along slowly and eating. A basic rule of animal watching is, if you’re causing the animals to change their behavior, you’re too close. We adhere to that rule, and these sheep clearly didn’t feel threatened by our presence on the road. Seeing as how our mountain climbing skills are somewhat limited, comparatively, that was probably a safe bet on their part. They’re incredibly agile on those rocks.
Bighorn sheep have horns that grow continuously throughout their lives. By seven years of age the males usually have a full curl and their horns can weigh thirty pounds or more! The horns of the females do not extend to the full curl. Other hooved animals like deer, elk and moose have antlers which they shed each year, not horns.
The park has a visitor center as well as camping and picnic facilities. There are several short hiking trails and a few places where rock climbing is allowed. There is a nominal vehicle entrance fee when entering the park ($10 in 2013). If you’re in Las Vegas and have half a day or more to spend exploring the outdoors, you should definitely visit Valley of Fire!
What travel advice have you taken from other random travelers? Sometimes the most unexpected travel destinations are the best! Enjoy your week or your weekend!
This place looks beautiful. I’ve actually got a trip to Vegas on the itinerary for next summer. It’s a trip with family, and they are usually more interested in indoor activities, but maybe I can talk at least a few of them into venturing away from the noise and lights of the casinos. This is definitely a much better view!
It’s worth trying to talk some people into!
Great photos! Las Vegas a place I want to go – not for the gambling but to get out and see some of the parks in the surrounding area. I’ll put this park on our list.
Good job with the blog,
We also went to Zion from Vegas (same trip) – if you didn’t get a chance to read those entries and that’s a place you’re planning to hit from Vegas, you should definitely take a look at those posts. Zion was incredible! Thanks for stopping by the blog. Enjoy your week or your weekend!
Valley of Fire State Park is so amazing! We are at the park several times each and every week of the year.
Next time I go to Vegas, I am definitely headed there! Wow!
I’m pretty amazed that in all the times we’d been to Vegas we never even heard about this place. It’s a nice break from the glitz and glitter. Or if you happen to lose all your gambling money early on 😉 Thanks for stopping by this week!
The moon must be pretty light for Jeff to be able to hold it.
Light as a ball of cheese can be 🙂
Leaving for Las Vegas this Sat. and if the government shuts down all the National Parks, we are looking for alternatives. Thanks for this site. We will definitely check it out!
Well worth the stop! Enjoy Vegas, too!
We’re hoping the parks don’t get shut down, but this is a pretty spectacular place. Thanks for stopping by. Enjoy your trip and your week or your weekend!
Beautiful pictures, great area to visit…
Great pics! This is one of our favorite day trips! Thanks for sharing your experience!
Lucky you it’s a day trip!