Based on a conversation with some fellow Vermonters who were camped near us at Hole in the Wall campground in the Mojave Preserve, we decided to make Valley of Fire State Park our next destination on our southwest tour. We have been past this park before but never at a time when we felt inclined to venture in and camp.
There are two campgrounds within the park that are first-come, first-serve. The Atlatl Campground has a few sites with electric and water hookups while the Arch Rock Campground is dry-camping only. Of course, in our usual style, we arrived late afternoon since it was a trek from the Mojave Preserve. The ranger at the entrance station did not know if there were any sites available in the campgrounds but wanted to charge us the $10 entrance fee anyway. We talked him out of it indicating that if the campgrounds were full then we would not be staying. His comment at first was “That’s what everyone says.” Not the right answer for this here customer service oriented person and park ranger! I can safely say I grimaced visibly! We insisted on not paying him since I knew that if we did find a campsite we could pay the entrance fee as part of our site price. He let us in 🙂
We reached the turn off for the campgrounds and there was a FULL sign posted out on the main road. We never believe FULL signs and ventured on into the camping area. The first campground to appear on our left was Atlatl CG. There was an additional sign there indicating it was full so we kept on driving to the Arch Rock CG a mile or so down the road. We did not see a FULL sign at the entrance so we pulled right on in and scoped out the situation. Right away, a camp host came riding up in his little buggy and, offering us a wide, toothless grin, said, “I think I may have just one site left, stay right there and I’ll go check it out.” He came back minutes later and directed us to follow him. We had indeed secured the very last site that was unoccupied. The site was on the outside of the loop and backed right up to a red sandstone cliff. It was perfect! We knew that if the campgrounds were full we had our choice of several BLM lands surrounding the park at which to boondock but it sure was nice to be able to be right in the park!
A very, very brief history…..information taken from the Valley of Fire SP website:
Valley of Fire was established as a state park in 1935. Prior to this, the land had a rich history of Native American occupation as evidenced by the numerous preserved petroglyphs carved into the sandstone rock by the Basketmakers some 2,500 years ago. More recently, the Paiute tribe lived here and, soon after, they were followed by white settlers including the Mormons.
A road was constructed through the area in the early 1900’s that connected Los Angeles to Salt Lake City and it was then that the geologic richness, historical significance and recreational potential of the “Valley of Fire” was recognized. The federal government owned much of the land and donated it to the state of Nevada for preservation and maintenance.
It was the Civilian Conservation Corps who built the initial buildings and campgrounds.
The geology of the area consists of Aztec sandstone outcroppings (the red stone) interspersed with limestone (the gray rock). Forces of nature over the years has produced the effect we see today. Earthquakes and volcanic action caused the older limestone rock that formed the floor of a giant ocean to be thrust up and exposed. The red sandstone was created during a period of drought when great sand dunes appeared. Over time, the dunes became compacted and, through iron oxide and various other minerals interacting with water, the rich colors of the resulting sandstone emerged. Wind and water continue to erode the delicate sandstone creating an ever-changing land of wonder!
In and around the campground
While we stayed in the campground, we often took walks in the evening around the loop. There are some really nice private sites along the one-way road leading out of the campground. Although most sites, including ours, were nicely spaced apart.
During our visit here, we traveled the White Domes Road through the main area of the park. We stopped at each trail head and overlook! Most of the hikes along this route were short and passed through some unique rock formations.
Mouse Tank Trail
Along the Mouse Tank Trail exists some of the best example of petroglyphs that I have ever seen. The Native American Anasazi lived and farmed in the area between 300 BC and 1150 AD. They carved into the black patina “desert varnish” on the red sandstone leaving behind symbols that give us a glimpse back in time. This rock art is remarkably preserved here!
A Rainbow Vista was a short loop trail that showed examples of the colorful sandstone rock formations. Half-way around the loop, there is a side trail that ends at an overlook for Fire Canyon. Please forgive all the photographs! Around every corner was an amazing view!!
Love the contrast of the Teddy Bear Cholla against the landscape!!
The side trail to the Fire Canyon overlook…..
We rode out to the Silica Dome – a white-colored dome rock formation. There were some incredible vistas along the way. Oddly enough, it was at the end of this road where I could actually get cell phone service! Otherwise, we were completely tuned out for the several days we were here.
The White Domes Road ends at area called White Domes where there are amazing rock formations and slot canyons. The trail is a 1+ mile loop and includes some ruins from a movie set. Given the beauty of the area and history, it’s no surprise that the film industry shot on location here!
Lights, Camera, Action!!
Going through one of the slot canyons….
And Jim, just being – well, Jim! 🙂
Hope you enjoyed the journey through Valley of Fire!!