‘Y’know, it’s pretty unusual that you guys decided to come on this trip. It’s normally just locals that visit.’
Completely obsessive and totally overkill pre-trip tourist research?
As part of our trip to Las Vegas, we’d planned a couple of day trips. Most
people tourists go to Red Rock Canyon, but the internet had informed me that Valley of Fire was better. So Valley of Fire it was.
(This is the first post in the series documenting our trip to Nevada and Arizona in December 2015. I had intended to write about Vegas first, but since I’m still uploading photos for it, I thought I’d start in the middle with this half-day visit).
The Valley of Fire is a state park renowned for its red rocks – hence the name – and is visitable all year round. In fact, it’s worth visiting at different times of the year, especially if you’re intending to take photos, because certain parts are totally covered in shadow or are literally unseeable because the sun is so bright (winter and summer respectively). On the way there we visited the Lost City museum, which is well worth a visit – it’s super cheap and has a huge amount of information and lots to see.
In December, we got to see a lot of the park, and the added bonus was that despite the great weather, it was super quiet everywhere except the tourist information building. The visitor centre has models, tons of information on the history of the park and the various people who lived/travelled through it across the ages, and even live reptiles in glass cases.
We booked a tour purely because we didn’t have a car on our trip, and the guide was fantastic and really nice. We were the only ones on our tour, which meant we had the freedom to do exactly what we wanted. That was amazing, because I think I would have driven everyone completely nuts with the number of photos I took. (Joe didn’t get bored; he even took some of these photos himself, and our guide was happy to hang out as long as we wanted).
It’s not necessary to have a guide if you’re happy to just wander or do some research yourself, but since we didn’t have a lot of time it was good to have someone show us the best spots and tell us the most interesting information about the geology and petroglyphs and wildlife and resting huts for travellers (actually pretty modern, but built to suit the landscape).
Native American petroglyphs designed to tell others about the area:
There are many places to walk and hike around the park, and there are different trails and nice spots to sit and eat. You can just drive straight through, but to get the most out of it you need to be able to do a bit of walking (and climbing – Joe did more of that than I did!). I ended up wearing heavy duty trainers and layers of clothing, and I was glad I did because the temperature varied a lot due to the wind. You’ll want to take water whatever time of year you go, and probably food too.
One of the best things about the park is that there are lots of rocks named after what they look like. There are tons of them, and we had fun picking them out or naming bits of rock ourselves (because why not). One of the first rocks you see from the entrance is the towering Elephant Rock.
Between the colours and the shapes, it’s hard to believe they all formed naturally.
This one will eventually collapse in on itself one day:
There are very friendly desert squirrels everywhere (not chipmunks as our guide told us all fifty thousand times I called them chipmunks, because…they pretty much are chipmunks), various birds, and other animals and insects. This was a good time of year to see them out and about; apparently the ground gets so hot in places in the summer that even ants won’t walk on it.
The park is a popular shooting location for adverts, films and TV shows, especially those space and apocalypse landscapes. With bit of quick editing, you can see why they filmed parts of Star Trek in the park.
One must-see is the Rainbow Vista, which is where all the red rock suddenly turns into layers of browns, oranges, yellows and pinks:
All in all, it was a fantastic day trip (in fact we both agreed it was the best one we did – more on that in a future post) and a great break from the city lights and hustle and bustle of Las Vegas.
If you get a chance to visit, don’t pass it up!
To see all the photos I took at the Lost City Museum and the Valley of Fire, take a look at the complete Flickr album.
Where’s the best place you’ve been recently?