We were looking for a place to boondock near Las Vegas to start our ascent north. We found what looked to be a great spot: Valley of Fire West Dispersed Camping, a swath of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land known to have unofficial campsites (areas to pull off a dirt road and set up camp).
When we told the boondocking community we were with at the time about our plans, they informed us Valley of Fire was a beautiful state park worth investigating. If not for their report, we may have never discovered this hidden gem, and we would have missed a breathtaking excursion.
Surrounded by Red Rocks
Other than red rock formations, we didn’t know what to expect as we drove 5 miles from our dispersed campsite toward the western park entrance. As we rounded the last bend before the payment booth, red rocks came into view.
In exchange for a $15 nonresident fee, a park ranger handed us a receipt and a brochure. Off we went down the 7-mile Valley of Fire Road through the park, stopping at the first parking lot we came to: Beehives. Beehive-shaped rock formations mesmerized us. We climbed a little, snapped some photos, and found ourselves in awe. And this was only the beginning.
We continued on, the red rocks becoming more plentiful. We turned off the main road to check out the campgrounds and see what we were missing. We had considered staying in the park for up to a week once we learned about that option. The $35 nightly fee for out-of-staters was reasonable, but reviews we read talked about the challenges of getting a spot on a first-come, first-served basis.
Surrounded by picturesque flaming beauty, the campgrounds are nice. One felt a little more cramped than the other due to the towering rock formations surrounding it. Seeing the established campsites made us appreciate the vastness of our boondocking spot and confirmed we had made the right decision.
Back on the main road, we passed the Visitor Center and climbed out of a valley between red rocks on the aptly named Scenic Drive. We parked at a spot called Rainbow Vista and embarked on foot on a 1-mile, round-trip trail to a canyon overlook.
Rainbow Vista is a fitting name for this area, as it offers panoramic views of vibrant color contrasts: reds, tans, greens, blues, and yellows against a clear blue sky dotted with puffy white clouds. As we traipsed through the red sand and over rocks, we couldn’t help but marvel at God’s beautiful creation all around us.
After rehydrating, we continued on Scenic Drive as the red rocks transitioned to white domes and pinks and pastels. We got out again for a short jaunt at the Pink/Pastel Canyon before heading back down to Valley of Fire Road and the Visitor Center.
A History Lesson
Inside the Visitor Center, we found a museum complete with descriptions of the different types of rocks in the area, the history of the peoples who had lived in the region, a collection of arrowheads and other artifacts and, of course, a gift shop.
We learned the majority of the formations we saw were Aztec sandstone. The lighter colors were limestone. The concrete-looking rocks were conglomerate. We also discovered Valley of Fire was Nevada’s first state park. It opened in 1934, but the road through it dates back to 1912, when it was created to connect Salt Lake City and Los Angeles.
My favorite part of the museum was learning about the people who had lived in the area and how they had survived and thrived. I even saw a remnant pair of handwoven sandals made from plants. Bob enjoyed learning about the variety of rocks.
Treasure in the Wasteland
Back in Gulliver, we decided to continue on Valley of Fire Road and exit on the east side, near Lake Mead. The scenic drive took us past seven natural pillars, a formation named Seven Sisters. It also led us to Elephant Rock. We parked there and hiked a little over a mile to see the structure bearing the name.
Once we exited the park, I kept looking to my left, amazed at the lack of red rocks. A few formations hinted at the beauty behind them, confirming that Valley of Fire is indeed a hidden gem. It truly is worth seeing up close and personal, as pictures don’t do it justice.
You might also like Magnificent Rock Formations.
This is the travel blog of full-time RVers Bob and Lana Gates and our truck, Gulliver, and fifth wheel, Tagalong.