We bypassed Sin City for the Valley of Fire

We finally made it to the Valley of Fire! It has been on our itinerary for many years as someplace that we wanted to visit while in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, we never had a car while in Las Vegas and we just didn’t make it a priority. Well, this time, we had our FJ and a tent so we could actually spend a few days exploring the area and it was definitely worth the stop.

We arrived late in the evening which makes waking up in the morning a great surprise since we never know how the scenery will look in the day light. The Valley of Fire lives up to its name. It’s all aglow with sandstone formations of varying shades of red. Over breakfast we were entertained by a family of sparrows whose home happened to be in our picnic area.

Insects for breakfast anyone?!

We camped at Atlatl Rock campground while there. It’s a very nice campground with flush toilets and showers. Showers are always a real plus and flush toilets…don’t get me started! Many of the bathroom facilities at our state and national park campgrounds are the bare minimum.

Our first hike of the day was along “Mouse Tank” trail named after a South Paiute Indian named “little mouse”. He hid in this area after being accused of killing two prospectors which I’m sure is just one side of the story. There is a natural basin, or “mouse tank”, at the trail’s end where rain water can be found giving the trail its name.  There were a number of petroglyphs along the trail made by the Basket Maker people and the Anasazi Pueblo Farmers.

These were very simple petroglyph designs.
The big horned sheep depicted here were the only traces of big horned sheep that we have seen all throughout our desert travels. 


We saw two other couples on the trail and one of the men couldn’t keep his hands off the petroglyphs. It was driving me nuts that this guy had no respect for the artifacts and was either completely unaware or didn’t care that his actions were degrading these artifacts. We think our small actions have no impact but look at the aggregate effect we’ve had on this land and it’s devastating.

Now onto something much more entertaining, the chuckwalla. Before this trip, I thought that chuckwallas were cute furry little creatures. I couldn’t be more wrong.

Chuckwalla basking in the sun.

These lizards were all throughout the Valley of Fire and were happy to pose for me whenever I came across them even when they were busy eating their lunch.


The whole valley seemed to be in bloom. Darryl was patient with me as I lagged behind taking photograph after photograph of the beautiful flowers. I couldn’t get over the beauty of these displays of color in the parched desert. The desert may look uninviting and without life but if you take the time to really explore it, you’ll be rewarded for the effort.

I loved how this plant’s stems mirrored the lines in the sandstone.

This was my favorite flower. It’s a paper-bag bush. These pods are tissue paper thin and contain the plant’s seeds. The bags are carried away by the winds to scatter the seeds.

Paper-bag bush or Bladder Sage
Minimalist survival

I chatted with this woman from Las Vegas about her bike. Darryl and I have our motorcycle licenses but we put off the motorcycle purchases until after the trip. I love these larger bikes so every time I have a chance to chat with a woman who is on a bike I take the opportunity to find out what she thinks of her choice. This woman has only had her bike for 8 months and feels that she’s outgrown it. She wants a larger bike for the stability on the road, especially on windy days.

Although born and raised in Las Vegas, this is her first time in Valley of Fire and she’s loving it!
Out on a Sunday ride through Valley of Fire.

The sandstone looked like pulled taffy along Rainbow Vista Trail. We didn’t have to walk far to see these beautiful features. This particular trail was only a mile long. The other trails were just as short or shorter making this a very accessible park for people of all ages and abilities. Although it’s a small park, we never felt like it was crowded. On this particular trail we saw only 3 other people.



The colors across the landscape were gorgeous!
A self portrait

We moved to another campsite within Atlatl Campground where we watched this beauty during breakfast the following morning.


These cabins were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in 1936 just after the park was first established. They were built as shelter for hikers and campers that visited the park. Now they are preserved as a reminder of the CCC’s contribution to our park systems.

Made of native sandstone by the CCC.
Made of native sandstone by the CCC.

Our second day at the park was spent mostly driving around admiring the beauty. This was taken at Rainbow Vista look-out point.

Rainbow vista
Rainbow vista

I thought that it was very important that we get out and walk the short trail to see the petrified logs. I have no idea why petrified wood is such a fascination for me but it is and it has been since I was a child. The trail was only 0.3 of a mile and this was my reward.

Petrified log partially uncovered.
Petrified log partially uncovered.

I think that I was expecting more and Darryl got a good laugh at the my underwhelming response. I spent a good five minutes trying to find the best angle to photograph this artifact which was surrounded by a chain link fence. I finally gave in to the realization that there was no good angle. So then I set my sights on the other chain link fences off in the distance since I was absolutely confident that they must contain something grander! They didn’t.

We drove by “Lone Rock” which was a very large block of sandstone. I think that the marketing people were really stretching their creative juices on this one. “Elephant Rock” was a bit more interesting.

Elephant Rock

Sometimes you should just let nature speak for itself. This was our lovely sunset view near the petrified logs.

Sunset near the petrified logs.
Sunset near the petrified logs.


One thought on “We bypassed Sin City for the Valley of Fire”

  1. Looks like a place worth a visit. Weird I’ve never heard of it even though we’ve been to Zion and other parks in Southern Utah as well as Grand Canyon a couple of times.


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