It was lovely waking up in an actual bed in the “Sea Room” at our Airbnb in Pahrump, Nevada. We enjoyed chatting for a while with our hosts over coffee before getting packed up and back on the road. Our destination for the day was Valley of Fire State Park. I had discovered it by accident on the internet and it was supposed to have some great hiking trails. We did not intend to spend much time in Nevada but we figured we should check out a few places before moving on to Arizona.
It was a nice drive that took us through Vegas. Driving through is about as close as we want to get to Las Vegas! When we arrived at the Valley of Fire State Park, we stopped in at the Visitor Center first to get some information. It was full of interesting displays and even had some live snakes and a tarantula in glass cages. We got a map and headed out in search of a campground. We accidentally drove right past the campgrounds as they are quite close to the visitor center, but that was ok because it gave us a chance to get a look at the park. The landscape was stunning with bright red sandstone mixed with gray and tan limestone. Eventually realizing our mistake, we made a u-turn and found the two campsites which are right next to each other. Atlatl Campground is the larger of the two and has restrooms with showers. We checked that one out first and it was very nice. The sites were roomy and had water and picnic tables. There were a number of sites available so we felt safe taking the time to take a look at the other campground, and then decide on a spot. The second campground, Arch Rock, was also nice but a bit smaller with vault toilets only. We decided we preferred Atlal a bit more, especially once we noticed our phone signal was not as strong at Arch Rock, so we headed back and selected a site. After setting up camp, we had enough time to make dinner and take some photos of the campground before the sun began to set.
We woke up to a beautiful, bright morning at our campsite. The weather report was predicting a hot day, so we wanted to get an early start on the hikes we had planned. After coffee, and a quick breakfast, we packed up camp and got on our way. Our first hike of the day was the Mouse’s Tank Trail which is supposedly named after a bandit who once hid out there. It is a fairly easy 1-mile hike with one of the main attractions being the petroglyphs visible in the red sandstone. We were interested to see that some of the drawings were similar to the ones we had seen at Dinosaur National Monument in Utah.
For our second hike, we had chosen Rainbow Vista based on the description on our map. At the trailhead, we talked with some fellow hikers who had just completed the hike. They had been to the park before and recommended the Fire Wave Trail as a more scenic option. We generally get our best advice from people we meet, so we decided to take their suggestion. We jumped in the Jeep and headed to the Fire Wave trailhead without doing the Rainbow Vista hike. The Fire Wave Trail is about 1.25 miles and a little more strenuous than the Mouse’s Tank Trail but not difficult. You do have to pay attention because there are side trails that have been created by hikers going off the main path. The end of the trail offers spectacular views and explains the trail’s name. The red and white striped rock looks like gigantic waves. If you ever visit Valley of Fire State Park, I highly recommend this hike. We have never seen anything quite like it anywhere else.
We planned our last hike of the day to be Elephant Rock as it was conveniently located at the exit we planned to take on our way out. As we drove in that direction, we noticed a lot of cars pulled to the side of the road. Of course, we had to stop and see what was going on. Turns out there were mountain sheep climbing the canyon walls along the road. A large male seemed very interested in a female and was following her quite closely. She, on the other hand, was not giving him the time of day. Several others appeared as well and it was fascinating to watch them navigate the rough terrain so gracefully. We enjoyed observing them and getting lots of photos until they disappeared from sight.
After our unexpected but very welcome wildlife sighting, we continued on our way to Elephant Rock. You can take a mile long hike around the rock or take a quarter mile walk straight to it. We opted for the latter as it was getting hot and we had not yet selected a place to spend the night. When we first looked at the rock, I was pretty underwhelmed as I did not really see an elephant. Francis figured out the right angle to look at it and then I could see it, but it really did not jump right out at me. Still, it was a pleasant end to a lovely day exploring the park.
We exited Valley of Fire right near Lake Meade National Recreation Area so we decided that would be a good place to spend the night. It is 1.5 million acres so there are a number of campgrounds to choose from. We explored some different options hoping to get a spot as close to the lake as possible. We ended up at Boulder Beach Campground which was a large campground with lots of sites. The spots closest to the water were already taken, but we got a nice site in a section that was not crowded so we had plenty of space to ourselves. The campground even offered free wifi which is nice although you only get 30 minutes of access. Once we got camp set up, we had just enough time to grill some steak for dinner and enjoy the beautiful, warm evening.