Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Nevada's Valley of Fire State Park

Hiking the Fire Wave Trail in Valley of Fire State Park

The name is the first clue of what visitors will discover. Within the 42,000 acres of Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada is a huge expanse of accessible and postcard-worthy naturally sculpted red sandstone. The result of shifting sand dunes during the age of dinosaurs, followed by extensive erosion over 150 million years, Valley of Fire is one of the most beautiful yet least known parks we have visited.
Bee hive formations invite visitors to explore.
With sunlight shining on formations such as Beehives, Petrified Logs, White Domes, and Seven Sisters, the sandstone fairly gleams from one end to the other. Colored by iron oxide, silica, and manganese, it’s not the glitz of Las Vegas (about an hour’s drive away) but the glamorous landscape that only Mother Nature can create.

Driving in Valley of Fire State Park is an adventure itself.
Although Valley of Fire became the state’s first park in 1934, people have traversed this maze of cliffs, boulders, slot canyons, and arches for eons. Visitors driving the hilly 10.5 mile Valley of Fire Road today stop often to admire unusual formations created by wind and water.
For the adventurous there are hiking trails, one of which leads to Mouse’s Tank, a natural basin named for an outlaw who used the area as a hideout in the 1890’s. Rainbow Vista is an excellent photo stop along the winding park road which provides a panoramic view of multi-colored sandstone. One of the park’s many picnic areas is available at White Domes, where a 1.25 mile scenic trail leads to a slot canyon.
Arch Rock shows the power of wind and water to sculpt solid rock.
Historical features include Atlatl Rock where you can see outstanding petroglyphs, examples of ancient Indian rock art including depiction of the atlatl, a notched stick used to throw primitive spears. Nearby is Arch Rock, a formation sculpted by blasting winds and eroded by infrequent rains in this desert setting.
Petroglyphs at the top shed light on life for early settlers in the park.
Perhaps the most recognizable sight in the park is Fire Wave, undulating striped formations of red and white rocks. Even though we arrived there at high noon in mid-September, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity for a 1.5 mile hike to experience the unique wave formations at the end of the trail.

Undulating patterns of red and white sandstone shine in sunshine.
Despite the nearly 100-degree weather, we hiked over sandstone rocks and plateaus with distinct striations in varying patterns and colors. White and red (truly) rocks stretched out before us, enticing our feet to continue walking, to see what lay ahead. We really didn’t want to leave, even with the rocks absorbing heat from the sun and reflecting it back on us. I can only imagine how beautiful the Fire Wave would be at either sunrise or sunset.
Contrasting colors add beauty to nature's stunning landscapes.
Unlike anything we had ever seen, Valley of Fire is a vast, virtually untouched wilderness, aptly described as an “Adventure in Color.”, Rocks change hue and mood with shifting angles of the sun, so you might see a different portrait whenever you go. As a true desert landscape (average annual rainfall is four inches), plants, animals, artifacts, and rocks are precious and protected by law. 
Fire Wave is a moderately easy trek; don't miss it when you visit..
During your visit, make time to stop at the Visitor Center where you’ll learn more from multiple exhibits on the geology, ecology, and history of the park.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

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