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Things to Do in Las Vegas
Las Vegas is a great place to live, but sometimes it’s nice to get away for a day or two to see other areas and experience different things. Fortunately for Las Vegas residents, only an hour away by car is one of Nevada’s most impressive natural settings: Valley of Fire State Park.
The oldest and largest state park in Nevada, Valley of Fire gets its name from the impressive red sandstone formations found there – 300 rock arches alone – made even more amazing in the setting sun. Covering 35,000 acres of desert, Valley of Fire State Park is also home to petrified wood, prehistoric stone carvings, desert big horn sheep, rare desert tortoises and an old movie set.
Valley of Fire attracts nature-loving families, photographers, hikers, fans of history and anthropology, rock climbers and campers. The amazing scenery in the park – especially as sunset approaches – also makes Valley of Fire a magnet for family portrait photography, weddings and wedding photography.
What to See
· Visitor’s Center and Balanced Rock: Learning more about the unique geology of the Valley of Fire is just one good reason to stop in the park’s Visitor’s Center. There are also exhibits on the ancient people of the region, more recent history and the ecology of the park. The Valley of Fire State Park Visitor’s Center is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily. While you are in the vicinity, make sure you make the short walk over to the viewing area for nearby Balanced Rock.
· Arch Rock: This beautiful arch is probably the most recognizable of all the rock formations at Valley of Fire State Park. This arch (and the other 299 in the park) was created by the combined forces of wind and rain pecking away at the sandstone for thousands of years. Eventually the erosion will be complete and the arch will collapse, but probably not for a while yet. However, to protect the arch, no climbing is allowed on this fragile formation.
· Atlatl Rock: Unlike most of the sites in the park, this formation is named for what was found here, not for what it resembles. High up on the side of this formation (via a modern staircase) is a 1,500 year old petroglyph – a drawing carved in stone – that may be the best depiction of a prehistoric spear thrower, known as an atlatl. There are also many other carvings including some very recognizable big horn sheep! These aren’t the only petroglyphs in this area. Once you are back on the ground, look around for other groupings of petroglyphs including one large group not far from the base of the stairs at ground level. Just a reminder, state and federal law protects the petroglyphs and other historic artifacts in Valley of Fire State Park.
· Rainbow Vista: On the way to Mouse’s Tank, on the road of the same name, is the pull-off for Rainbow Vista. Unlike the more uniformly red tones of the rocks and boulders near the Visitor’s Center, here you’ll see many different hues represented as you look to the north, east and west.
· Petrified Logs: These were newly fallen trees 225 million years ago, but the combination of time and the elements removed the organic material and replaced it with minerals, leaving a log-looking piece of stone. The fenced-off petrified logs are easy to find in two different locations along the main park road.
· Other Sites: Also, don’t miss seeing the Mouse’s Tank, Fire Canyon, the White Domes, Seven Sisters, Elephant Rock and associated vistas, hiking trails and picnic areas.
· Animals: Since the Valley of Fire is a true desert environment, its residents are generally nocturnal. Overnight campers will probably have a much better chance at spotting wildlife than day visitors. However, it’s not impossible to see animals during the day, especially Big Horn Sheep, which don’t mind the sun. Some of the other “locals” are coyotes, kit foxes, ground squirrels, skunks and jack rabbits.
· Reptiles: It’s probably not surprising in this environment that lizards and snakes are common as well. One park resident that everyone wants to see, but most don’t, is the rare desert tortoise, which is protected under Nevada law. Actually getting a chance to see one would be very fortunate, but remember not to interfere with them (or any wildlife) in anyway.
· Birds: Spotting birds may be easier than seeing land creatures, especially the many migrating birds that stop off in the Valley of Fire in the spring and fall. Native bird species include ravens, finches and sparrows and the inspiration for a cartoon: the Roadrunner.
· Protected by Law – Do not disturb or remove any rock, plant, animal or artifact found in the Valley of Fire State Park. All are protected by state law. Any artifacts, signs of early man, or more recent historical objects are protected by state and federal law.
· Vehicles – Motorized vehicles are prohibited on trails. Parking is only allowed in designated parking spaces or on the shoulder of the roads. Vehicles are allowed only on approved park roads.
· Picnics and Camping – Fires are not permitted except in designated grills and fireplaces provided by Valley of Fire State Park. Camping is only allowed in approved camp sites.
· Rock Climbing – For information on rock climbing and the specific areas in the park where that sport is allowed; speak to the staff at the Visitor’s Center.
For non-campers, Valley of Fire State Park is open from dawn to dusk daily. After dark, park activities are limited to campground areas.
The park asks that you remember to conserve water and properly dispose of trash.
Pets must be kept on a (maximum) six foot leash at all times. Pets are not allowed in the Visitor’s Center.
Valley of Fire State Park is approximately 50 miles northeast of Las Vegas via Interstate 15. Take Exit 75 (East) toward Lake Mead and the Valley of Fire. Follow for 17 miles until you reach the park’s West Entrance. Nevada residents receive a $2 discount on the entrance fee of $10 per car. Annual permits are available for $75.
The next time you’re thinking about travel destinations outside of Las Vegas, consider the Valley of Fire. It’s an easy car trip, and for your enjoyment, Valley of Fire State Park is open every day of the year, dawn to dusk.