Top Outdoor Adventures Around Valley of Fire
Millions of years ago, Valley of Fire State Park lay underwater, playing host to a whole bunch of Jurassic life. Over time, the sweeping inland seas around which dinosaurs roamed and in which plesiosaurs swam slowly receded, leaving behind massive stretches of sand.
The sand that didn’t blow away slowly solidified into what we call Aztec sandstone. Today, you can see it on display across deserts in the American West, carved into fantastic shapes by wind and time. But nowhere are its multicolored terra cotta hues and jaw-dropping contours more amazing than in Valley of Fire State Park.
Spanning almost 46,000 acres near Overton, Nevada, this incredible natural area is worth a visit. A quick Google search will turn up amazing images of striped rock outcroppings, roads winding through red sandstone, and beautiful waterfalls. It’s no wonder people plan their weddings here.
Want to make the trip yourself, as a couple, a family or a brave solo traveler? Here’s everything you need to know about the park, what to do nearby, and where to stay.
Valley of Fire State Park
There’s a lot to do in Valley of Fire, so make sure you plan a whole day for sightseeing. Start in the visitor center, where you can read all about the geology of the area and plan your day of hiking and adventuring. There, you can pick up maps as well as souvenirs, if you so choose. Note that the park pass isn’t free, so here you can also pay your fee ($10 for Nevadans, $15 for those with an out-of-state license plate).
Definitely make sure you check out Elephant Rock, which is located only about 20 minutes from Lake Mead near the park’s east entrance, right off Valley of Fire highway. This natural formation looks just like a pachyderm, with an incredible trunk formation that seems to defy gravity.
If you’re looking for a short hike – perfect for the elderly and those with young kiddos – take the .3-mile trail there and back. You’ll get a good look at the geology without having to expend energy in the desert heat. Want a bit more of an experience? Opt for the 1.2-mile loop that winds through the park.
Note that you cannot climb Elephant Rock, tempting as it is! However, you are allowed to climb up the rocks around its base for a better look. Other formations to see in Valley of Fire State Park include:
- Fire Wave
- Pink Canyon
- Mouse’s Tank
- White Domes Trail
- Seven Sisters
- Atlatl Rock
Definitely make a visit to this last one, where you can view stunning petroglyphs from the Atlatl people around 4,000 years ago.
With a 1,244-foot-long semicircular crest and a 726-foot drop, Hoover Dam just looks impressive. When you take into account the fact that it is made of 4,400,000 cubic yards of concrete – enough to pave a two-lane highway from Miami to Seattle – it’s straight-up imagination-defying. That gives it the ability to withstand a whopping 45,000 pounds per square foot of water pressure at its base. Almost makes you nervous …
Don’t be, though. Hoover Dam is one of America’s most important engineering projects, and if you’re in this neck of the woods, it’s definitely worth a stop. There are a few ways to go about it. If you want, you can simply drive to the visitor center, where you can learn about the massive construction project’s timeline and challenges.
Others may choose to hike along the Historic Railroad Hiking Trail or the Hoover Dam Lodge Trailhead, both of which offer views of the dam as well as Lake Mead. Enjoy the turquoise blue waters of the lake, miles-long horizons and a stop at this marvelous manmade monument all in one day. Don’t forget to grab some lunch at the Hoover Dam Café if you get hungry.
Warner Valley Dinosaur Tracks Site
Remember that Aztec sandstone we were talking about? Turns out it’s perfect for recording dinosaur tracks, which is exactly what it has done at Warner Valley. This dinosaur tracks site is located a few hours’ drive from Valley of Fire and about the same distance away from Lake Mead, if that’s your home base.
Here, scientists have recovered fossil tracks of pterosaurs, the earliest vertebrates known to have evolved the ability to fly. This amazing site is perfect for those with families, but anyone can – and should – appreciate the majesty of bygone creatures, don’t you think?
Yep, your lodging can be an outdoor adventure in and of itself. If you’re bringing a boat in and want to park at a slip, consider gorgeous marinas such as Temple Bar or Callville Bay. Both have a range of amenities, from bathrooms and restaurants to gift shops and small watercraft rentals, and both are located right along Lake Mead’s breathtaking shores. Here, you’ll have access to every watersport you could imagine and glimmering miles of coastlines and coves.
Staying in an RV? Choose from similarly amenity-packed options such as Echo Bay or Lake Mead RV Village at Boulder Beach. Not only can you set up camp with WiFi and hookups, propane and meeting rooms, but you’ll also have access to the outdoor wonderland that is Lake Mead.
Of course, the area also boasts a huge range of campgrounds, hotels and motels for the more traditional traveler!
Play Your Trip Today
Don’t forget that dreaming up great destinations isn’t enough to ensure a fabulous trip. You also need to plan well, or you might find yourself without an adventure to be had when the time comes.
Many parks are working to prevent human traffic from degrading the natural wonders, so they operate on a reservation system, or even use lotteries to determine who can get in. Make sure you check ahead of time to get the passes you need.
You’ll also want to reserve your campground or marina ahead of time too. Beautiful Lakes Mead and Mohave fill up fast, especially during traditional vacation times – like summer and winter holidays – so don’t wait to make those reservations. If you’re bringing in your own boat, check Arizona and Nevada boating laws to see what kinds of vessels are allowed, as well as permitting and licensing requirements.
So, are you ready to see Valley of Fire up close and personal? Are you ready for your tour of the American West? Are you ready to experience outdoor adventure like never before? Don’t wait any longer to plan and book your trip today!