“Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories” – Ray Bradbury
In the Merriam-Webster dictionary a gem is defined as: a jewel, (or) a precious or sometimes semiprecious stone cut and polished for ornament, (or) something prized especially for great beauty or perfection. Any of those definitions can be applied to the subject of today’s discussion – Valley of Fire State Park.
Where, you may ask, is this gem, this jewel, this stone cut and polished for ornament? And, what is this place, prized especially for great beauty or perfection? The Valley of Fire, aptly named, is located in Nevada and is an easy hour’s drive from “the strip” in Las Vegas. It is a true gem, its brilliant colors rising in sharp contrast to the usual drab landscape of this slice of Nevada.
The picture below is the typical view out of the window of your car as you drive away from Las Vegas:
As you can see, it is pretty much tan with a little bit of green thrown in.
Pretty drab, right? But as you drive up to the Valley of Fire, beauty begins to unfold before your eyes. Out of the dull and uninteresting, rock formations of reds and pinks and whites arise:
You’ve reached the Valley of Fire!
As I was researching and planning our family trip to Utah this year, I also needed to decide how my husband and I could best spend our extra few days ahead of the official group vacation. We were spending three nights in Vegas, and since we’re not big gamblers, we were looking for other things to do. My search of the internet, and the forums on TripAdvisor.com, led me to this little gem in the desert. And I am so glad!
I had planned on us leaving mid-afternoon from Vegas with a picnic supper and spending a few hours at VoF, enjoying the evening and the twilight hours, away from the worst heat of the day. However, we got a little carried away walking the strip, ogling the fancy hotels and indulging in a huge lunch buffet at the Bellagio. By the time we got back to our room we were wiped out and had to recuperate for a while, pushing back our leaving for the Valley of Fire. By the time we got there, we didn’t have time to do everything I wished, including driving around the park, sightseeing, and taking the two trails I hoped to hike. But, I must say, the hour or two before sunset are a great time to visit VoF. The setting sun cast beautiful hues of pinks over the red and white rocks, and the skies were a bewitching cascade of color. The pictures just don’t capture the splendor that the eye sees. Here are a few of the evening pictures:
By the way, I rented that convertible as a surprise for my husband, because he loves convertibles and we can’t afford to buy one at this stage of life. I was so excited and kept it a secret until we picked it up. We got an incredible price on it from the car rental company named Sixt. It’s a European company that’s new to the states and they offer prices on luxury/specialty cars that compare to standard cars from some of the other companies. Check them out when you want to rent a special car!
So, back to Valley of Fire . . . here’s another evening picture – it’s kind of dark, but the sky is so pretty:
Well, as I mentioned before, we got to the park a little too late to see everything that I had planned, and the park closes at sunset, so we had to leave. But, thankfully, my husband was a good sport and he agreed to come back the next day after we visited the Hoover Dam. When we drove away from VoF that first evening, it was a chilly 57 degrees! Surprising for the last half of May in Nevada, at least for me. But despite the chill, we rode back with the top down on our rental convertible (with the heat on), and enjoyed every daggone minute! And the roads from the VoF back to Las Vegas were pretty empty, which made it even better! It’s no fun to ride in a convertible when you’re surrounded by semi-trucks. Ha!
The following day we came back in the afternoon, after visiting the Hoover Dam and taking Lakeshore Road (which comes with a big price tag – $20 – the entrance fee for the Lake Mead National Recreation Area) back to the Valley of Fire State Park. It’s a prettier drive than the other alternative, although it doesn’t compare at all to the VoF itself.
When we reached the park this time, it was not 57 degrees! It was hot! Whatever cold front that had been visiting the day before was long gone. And although the park was still beautiful, the colors were not quite the same with the sun blaring down on our heads and the sweat dripping off of everywhere. But, like I said, still beautiful. But I am partial to visiting a little later in the day, when the colors are highlighted by the setting sun.
The main reason we came back the second day was so that we could hike to see Fire Wave, a visually stunning rock formation with flowing lines of red and white. We hiked out and back, a round trip of about 1.5 miles. And we felt every step in the heat! Here are some pictures from the hike:
See what I mean? Still beautiful, with contrasting colors of blue sky and red rock, but not quite as lovely as the night before. And hot. As we hiked closer to Fire Wave, we began to see the variegated red and white rock:
And, finally, we reached our destination, Fire Wave
You can see for yourself that Fire Wave is an unusual and magnificent rock formation. And despite the walk through the sand and the heat, it was worth the trek and the sweat to be able to see it ourselves and take a few photographs. My only regret is that we didn’t get to see and photograph it in the evening hours. But who knows, maybe this particular spot is prettier in the daytime?
So, after our second visit to Valley of Fire, with our camera full of pictures and our hearts full of memories, we were ready to get back in the convertible, put the top down, and head back to Vegas.
I hope you have enjoyed our jaunt through the desert to the little gem in Nevada and that you will get the chance to visit Valley of Fire yourself someday. Until next time, happy traveling!