On our way to and from Las Vegas via I-15 we made the not-too-out-of-the-way detour to the Valley of Fire. So worth it. From the north you can get off at Exit 93 onto Rt. 169/Moapa Valley Rd. and drive south through the little towns of Moapa Valley and Overton. (There are no signs at Exit 93 for Valley of Fire.) There are some gas stations and a few small restaurants in those towns for replenishing. From the south (Las Vegas) you can get off at Exit 75 at the Valley of Fire Hwy. It's not hard to find the park by either route.
Once in the park you begin to see the lumpy bumpy formations that are not untypical of southern Utah.
These formations have many more holes in them than we've seen elsewhere, which is pretty unique. These holes are called tafoni and are thought to be caused by minerals coming to the surface of the rock through water seepage, and then breaking off or out, leaving behind holes. They come in all sizes, from caves to honeycombs. The best picture I got of them is from the Atlatl rock. More about that shortly.
The Visitor's Center is at about the center of the park, and it would be easy to think you've gotten the idea of the park, and head out. Don't make that mistake! Turn north on Mouse's Tank Rd. and take the scenic drive to the end and back. You will not be disappointed, even if you don't have time to get out of the car at all. But if you do get out and hike you will be rewarded tenfold.
This is a very dry area, vegetated with only a few low bushes, yucca, cactus and wildflowers.
It's really all about the rocks.
One stop along Mouse's Tank Rd is the Atlatl rock where you can view a nice collection of petroglyphs by climbing a long flight of stairs. (You may also get to see the tiniest desert rodents ever at the picnic area. The white-tailed antelope ground squirrel families are very friendly and fun to watch.)
At Nina's (of Wheeling It) enthusiastic suggestion, we sought out the Fire Wave. (See their write up for easy to follow directions.) The hike is about 2 miles round trip at the most, and the trail is pretty easy to hike and follow. Watch for the cairns that mark the way over the slick rock. Even the cairns here are interesting to look at.
Aside: I got a new pair of hiking shoes that I am just crazy about. They're Chacos. You've probably seen Chaco sandals - they're all the rage, at least out West. But they also make these shoes. They're sturdy and fit like they were made for my feet. They've made hiking so much easier. Lucky me.
OK. This photo gives you a sense of the dimensions of this place. That's Rick on the right, hiking the Fire Wave trail.
As you get closer to the wave, the rocks start to do their wavy melty thing
and you may think you're there,
but keep going until you get to this...
...or this, if you approach it from a different direction. Here's where it all begins to look like an ice-cream sundae to me. Maybe chocolate marshmallow here?
After climbing around and getting photos from every direction, we met a gentleman who told us to follow the wash down a bit further to get to the "pink canyon."
Well yes, it was indeed pretty pink, and gold...
...and orange raspberry sherbet swirlish. But this extension got us off the original trail and we ended up on the road for the hike back. I feel obliged to say that the park would like you not to do that as the road is very narrow and there is almost no shoulder. Sorry! But the pink canyon was worth the detour and the risks of the road.
A truly wondrous place. I hope you put it on your list and don't miss it if you must be in Vegas.
We have only one more week here near Zion and I have so many more hikes to take!