A WEEK IN RED ROCK COUNTRY #2 – Valley of fire

October 11, 2016  •  1 Comment

A WEEK IN RED ROCK COUNTRY #2 – Valley of fire

Where’s lunch?

13 2016-02-09 Map #02c Valley of Fire13 2016-02-09 Map #02c Valley of Fire


As you read in segment 1 of this travel log, we spent the morning of day 2 at the Mojave National Preserve, including Kelso Dunes and Kelso Station – where no lunch was to be found.  Continuing on to the Northeast, we made it back to I-15 and the first place to find food was at the Nevada border in a town called Primm.  This is essentially a couple of good size casinos tending to the LA crowd who just can’t wait another 40 minutes to get to Las Vegas to lose their money.  Avoiding the typical collection of fast food joints, we wound up at Max’s Greek Café which is just a half tick above fast food.

After lunch we continued up I-15, through Las Vegas – without stopping, except due to traffic on the freeway – and on to Valley of Fire State Park


Valley of fire State Park, NV

Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada is about an hour northeast of Las Vegas.  When one thinks of the red rock areas of the American southwest, places like the Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion, Monument Valley, Arches, Slot Canyons near page, Painted Desert and Canyonlands come to mind.  But, the entire area consisting of southern Nevada, Utah and some of Colorado along with northern Arizona and New Mexico is all red rock area.  In this vast swath of the country there are countless places where exotic red rock formations have been exposed – each area drastically different than all the others.  One of these is Valley of Fire State Park.

This park is not overly large, being only 42,000 acres.  As it turns out it is the oldest state park in Nevada – created in 1935 - and was designated as a National Natural Landmark in 1968.  It derives its name from red sandstone formations, the Aztec Sandstone, which formed from great shifting sand dunes during the age of dinosaurs. These features, which are the centerpiece of the park often appear to be on fire when reflecting the sun's rays.

Complex uplifting and faulting of the region, followed by extensive erosion, have created the present landscape. The rough floor and jagged walls of the park contain brilliant formations of eroded sandstone and sand dunes more than 150 million years old. Other important rock formations include limestone’s, shale’s, and conglomerates.

As is the case with most or this part of the country, this area was used by the  “Ancient Pueblo Peoples”.  Many call these people the Anasazi but that name is going out of favor.  When the area was first being explored and documented the Navajo Indians were the predominant tribe in the area, so naturally the explorers and archeologists asked them about the abandoned cliff dwellings and other remnants of the prior civilizations.  The term the Navajo used to describe these people was “Anasazi”.  But, as luck would have it, the remnants of those people were not well liked by the Navajo and unknown to the researchers the term “Anasazi” was a derogatory term for them used by the Navajo, not what they had called themselves.  Due to this, over the past decade or so signs and literature have been changed to call these people “Ancient Pueblo People” rather than “Anasazi”. 

Anyway these people were around the area from about 300 BC to around 1150 AD (think Roman Empire era).  They never really lived in this area (very little water here and no evidence of any sort of dwelling) and there is some debate if they did any hunting or gathering in the area as there is not much game or edible plant life either.  But, they are pretty sure they came here for religious ceremonies. As you wander around you’ll see petro glyphs from time to time where these ceremonies probably took place.

While there is some petrified wood left over from an ancient forest, the park is most notable for its rock formations that form all sorts of fantastical shapes.  This park has a paved east-west road aptly named “Valley of Fire Highway” that runs from I-15 eastward into the through the park across its southern section.  There is another paved road that tee’s off of this road by the visitor center in the park and heads north into park where it dead ends.  In addition there is a partly paved, partly dirt loop road near the western side of the park you can drive.  In other words, you can see much of the park from your car.  But, to see the famous features such as Atlati Rock (Petro glyphs), the Beehives, Balanced Rock, Mouses Tank (water tapped in rock formation), Elephant Rock, The Piano and The Starship Enterprise one must take a little hike.  Most of these features are in the 30 minute to 1 hour walk range without much elevation change – a few ups and downs but no mountain climbing.  There are a few longer hikes for those wanting a longer walk but you can see quite a lot of the park with a car and on these shorter walks. 

On this trip, we arrived at the park about an hour before sunset and unless you’re camping (which we were not) the park closes at sunset.  So we only had about 2 hours till pitch dark.  You really need to spend a full day here – but not in the summer.  Like much of the Mojave desert the winters are mild with temperatures ranging from freezing to 75 degrees. However in the summer daily highs usually exceed 100 degrees F and may reach 120 degrees. The average annual rainfall is four inches, coming in the form of light winter showers and summer thunderstorms. Spring and fall are the preferred seasons for visiting the Valley of Fire.

(some of the images included in this travel log were taken on a prior trip in October of 2012).

From end of Fire Canyon Rd

Valley of fire State Park, NV #2Valley of fire State Park, NV #2


From Short trail to east from Parking Lot 2

Valley of fire State Park, NV #3Valley of fire State Park, NV #3


Cave near parking lot #2

Cave & Column at Valley of Fire SP, NV #1Cave & Column at Valley of Fire SP, NV #1


Cave near parking lot #2

Cave & Column at Valley of Fire SP, NV #2Cave & Column at Valley of Fire SP, NV #2


Elephant Rock (2012 image)

Elephant RockElephant Rock


Grotto near Elephant Rock (2012 image)



Mouse’s Tank (2012 image)

03 7d002-#873203 7d002-#8732


Mouse’s Tank Trail (2012 image)

04 40d002-#860204 40d002-#8602


Petro glyphs along Mouse’s Tank Trail (2012 image)



Along Mouse’s Tank Trail (2012 image)

Mouse's Tank TrailMouse's Tank Trail


Starship Enterprise along Mouse’s Tank Trail (2012 image)

Starship EnterpriseStarship Enterprise


Mud ripples along “The Wave Trail” (2012 image)

Mud RipplesMud Ripples


Formation along “The Wave Trail” (2012 image)

Red & WhiteRed & White


Rock strata near  “The Wave” (2012 image)

10 7d002-#877310 7d002-#8773


Rock strata near  “The Wave” (2012 image)

The Wave areaThe Wave area


The Wave  (one of many such “Waves” found in various locations throughout the SW – 2012 image)

The Wave areaThe Wave area



I hope you enjoyed reading this travel log.  The next installment will include Zion National Park.   

This Blog can be found online here:  http://www.danhartfordphoto.com/blog/2016/9/a-week-in-red-rock-country-2

Images from this trip can be found on my website at





Thanks for reading -- Dan



Too funny, it looks like the Next Generation Star Trek ship yes.
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