Get out of Las Vegas and visit The Valley of Fire, Nevada’s oldest, largest and first state park. The park is a geological beauty and easily accessible at just a 50-minute drive from the Strip. There you’ll find 3,000-year-old Indian petroglyphs, petrified areas, the remains of cabins from the 30’s and unique natural formations created by the winds passing through the lands.
I was excited. Not only did I get to enjoy a sleep in past 6 am – the first in over a week – but I was also getting out of the city and doing it in style in a Pink Jeep. The plan for the day, our guide and driver John announced to the group, was to head into the Mojave Desert and experience the Valley of Fire.
Let me be honest, while I’d heard of the Valley of Fire, Red Rock Canyon and Death Valley I didn’t know much about them other than they were geologically beautiful (Pinterest assured me of this!) But over the next two days I was going to get a crash course in geology as I headed to two parks, the Valley of Fire the first.
Driving into the desert in the comfortable Pink Jeep Tour Trekker, a specially customised luxury Chrysler with reclining leather seats, we followed the highways, the Pink Jeep purring along. It was so comfortable and quiet that I began to nod off in the air-conditioned van.
I woke up as we pulled into a service station for quick pit stop in case we wanted additional snacks or drinks as well as a bathroom break after being warned about the rather basic facilities in the park.
As we waited for the rest of the group John explained to me a little bit about the route for the day. An ‘elephant’ shaped rock, the site where Star Trek was filmed and a relaxing lunch away from the crowds in a spot that he believed many visitors miss out on.
There was orange as far as my eyes could see, with browning or sparsely coloured bushes dotted across the expanse. Driving through the lands I could understand why people chose to film here – Total Recall, Star Trek Generations, and Domino, to name a few – it looked like another planet.
The light was harsh being so close to lunch but no matter which way you looked there was another photo to take.
I kind of wished my geology-loving friends, including Seattle, were with me to explain what I was seeing from a deeper scientific perspective – though John, our guide and driver, did a great job teaching me and the rest of the group Geology 101.
As we stood near ‘The Beehives’ in a valley with so many giants around you, it’s humbling to acknowledge that you are so small in terms of the scale of the earth.
Stopping at ‘Rainbow Vista’ and ‘Fire Canyon’ the land before me was striped with browns, reds, whites and yellows. As I “awww”-ed at the beauty the lands, John explained that the sands we could see were laid thousands of years ago, probably around the time the dinosaurs roamed the earth.
As a group – three Australians, two Canadians, and a French couple – we trudged through the burning hot sand to climb the sand dunes and to see the valley open up before us on the other side.
Before lunch, we had a quick stop to make at the information centre. Inside was displays and videos about the history and geology of the park, some taxidermy – and slightly creepy – animals, including bighorn sheep and a bobcat; and displays of just a few of the lizards and insects found in the area.
The live lizard was pretty cool, though I was not going anywhere near the tarantula exhibit!
No matter where you stood, even in the shade, it was hot. As we’d driven around the Valley of Fire the temperature had steadily climbed over 100°F – that’s 38°C – and by the time we stopped for lunch, surrounded by ancient Indian petroglyphs the temperature had reached 100°F or 43°C.
Even taking swigs of the iced water John had kept in the ice-cold esky, and made sure we were drinking, I felt like the lizard I had seen at our first stop, as the want to stretch out in a the shade for a nap was greater than that of eating my lunch pack that Pink Jeep Tours provided.
I was somewhat fascinated by the petroglyphs, written by the Atlatl, many still left undeciphered. Due to the dry weather many of the petroglyphs don’t need to be covered up and can be left in their natural state, though some are covered by a thin layer of plastic if within arms reach just in case people want to graffiti them.
Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s and once used by overnight campers or travellers, the sandstone cabins are a highlight of the trip. Each cabin was surprisingly roomy and features a fire pit, but you want to climb up to the cabins for the view across the Valley.
Before we left we made a detour by Elephant Rock (pic below). My “from a distance, in a car” picture doesn’t really do the rock justice but to get to its location there is a short hike up the rocks, but the group was pretty tired so we decided to instead do a few slow drive-by’s to get pictures before heading back into the bustle and bright lights of Las Vegas.
Now it’s over to you
Do you like to take day trips while travelling?
What is the most impressive geological formation you’ve encountered?
- 6-hour tour in a luxury Pink Jeep Tour Trekker with an experienced guide
- Complimentary water
- All fees into the park included
- Lunch provided (sandwich, drink, potato chips) (NOTE: when booking confirm what sandwich/dietary requirements or you’ll end up with a turkey sandwich!)
- Small groups (my tour had 7 people, including me!)
- Complimentary hotel pick-up and drop-off
I recommend you bring the following items with you to ensure you have a comfortable tour;
- Water (though water is provided it’s nice to have your own)
- Closed toe shoes, preferably sneakers or similar (particularly relevant in summer because the sand on the dunes gets HOT!)
- Poncho/Rain jacket/Waterproof/Jacket – just in case there is rain/you are cold
- Your camera!
Planning your own trip to Las Vegas?