Valley of Fire State Park Nevada

I’ve had the good fortune of seeing some beautiful landscapes throughout the United States. Within the deserts of Nevada, I found beauty that ranks among the best. It was a place that was foreign to me. Hot, dry, unforgiving; the desert didn’t seem like it was big on compromise. Despite such life flourishes in unsuspecting ways. Valley of Fire is enchanting. It beckons you to leave the road and seek its many secrets.

red aztec sandstone valley of fire
Red Aztec sandstone. Photo by Alan Rupnick.

How Valley of Fire got its name

The Valley of Fire is made up of red Aztec sandstone, woven among tan and gray limestone mountains. This sandstone dates back to the Jurassic Period. They are the remnants of sand left behind by the wind as inland seas receded and the land rose.

In the 1920’s a AAA official was traveling through the park at sunset. The story has it this person commented about how the whole valley looked like it was on fire and the name of the park was born. Valley of Fire was Nevada’s first state park and opened on Easter Sunday in 1934 . Today Valley of Fire has grown to a size of more than 40,000 acres of multi-colored stone.

elephant rock valley of fire
Elephant rock is one of many formations in the Valley of Fire. Photo by Alan Rupnick

There are many interesting rock formations you can view in the park. Some of them even have names like Elephant Rock, Arch Rock, the Beehives and the White Domes. Most of them are just a short walk on a well groomed trail. Others you can see from your car. I encourage you to get outside and be a part of your surroundings because there are so many things waiting to be discovered.

Wildlife, plants and indigenous people

There is a fair amount of wildlife that calls the Valley of Fire home. I was lucky enough to see Bighorn Sheep twice during my visit. Once they were very close which allowed me some unique photo opportunities. There are many types of lizards and snakes as well as coyote, kit fox, skunk, antelope squirrels and jack rabbits. Native birds include the raven, house finch, sage sparrow and roadrunner. If you are extremely lucky, you just might catch a glimpse of a desert tortoise. They are quite rare and almost never seen. They are harmless and likeable creatures. If you do see one please just let it be to live out it’s life in it’s environment. Not only is it the kind thing to do, they are protected by law.

2 bighorn sheep valley of fire
Two bighorn sheep. Photo by Alan Rupnick.

Some of the plants you can expect to find in the Valley of Fire include brittle bush, burro bush and creosote bush. Cactus such as cholla and beaver tail are also very abundant throughout the park. Spectacular spring-time blooms include indigo bush, desert mallow and desert marigold.

Early man moved into what is now Nevada as long ago as 11,000 years. Petroglyphs were carved into the stone by the Basketmaker culture roughly 2,500 years ago. It was fun to imagine the way the world might have been during their time on earth and what experiences motivated the art. The Basketmakers were followed by the Early Pueblo culture. In 1865 it was Paiutes who were living in this area as the Mormons began to settle here.

limestone mountains valley of fire
Limestone mountains. Photo by Alan Rupnick.

Film history

Valley of Fire has been host to several movie and television productions. Among them are Viva Las Vagas (1963), The Professionals (1966) and the outdoor scenes in Total Recall (1990). Other sci-fi films and TV shows that had scenes that were filmed here include Star Trek Generations, Airwolf, Cherry 2000 and Transformers (2007).

Basic preparations for an enjoyable visit

There are a few items that I recommend you have with you during your visit to the park. Especially if you plan to venture outside of the roadways and day areas.

  • Sunglasses – You will want 100% UV blocking sunglasses. The sun is intense out there and shade is not readily available. They will also protect your eyes from blowing sand and dust.
  • UV Lip Protection – Dry air and intense sun make for cracked, chapped lips. Especially if this environment is new to you. For me this was a must have.
  • Wide Brimmed Hat – Any type of hat that has a wide brim capable of protecting your neck, face and head from sun exposure is a plus. Make sure your hat breaths well. You want to keep the sun off without trapping heat.
  • A Camel Back – Or some other similar device that will allow you to carry a good amount of water as well as your other gear. Bottled water is bulky and inefficient. Hydration is important in this environment. Stay hydrated!
  • Sturdy Boots – The ground is very uneven and made up of sand, gravel and stone. A quality pair of hiking boots can help reduce the chance of injury as well as providing adequate traction and stability.