Jersey Goes West Pt. 2: Valley of Fire State Park

Valley of Fire State Park lies about an hour outside Las Vegas off Interstate 15 at Exit 75.  There was a $10 entry fee to the park.  I highly recommend having a full day to explore the park.  I visited last December for a few hours and only had time to see a few sites.  I knew I wanted to go back to explore more and my husband has had this park on his list of must-sees for a while.

Valley of Fire gets its name from the large red sandstone rock formations that are found in the park.  These rock formations were formed by huge shifting sand dunes during the age of dinosaurs, 150 million years ago.  The valley was home to the Basket Maker people and later, the Anasazi Pueblo farmers.  Prehistoric petroglyphs are visible in many sections of the park.

We left Vegas shortly after 8 am and arrived at VOF a little before 10 since we had to stop at a grocery store to load up on water, ice, a cooler and some snacks.  There is only one gas station/convenience store close to the west entrance of the park.  Bring food if you want to eat while there.  The visitor centers sells some drinks and packaged snacks but is very limited.

The day was already getting quite hot and was already close to 90 degrees when we arrived.  The first area we visited was the Scenic Loop Road.  It is a short (2 mile), mostly paved loop that passes two main sites of interest, Arch Rock and Atlatl Rock.

Scenic Loop Road - VOF
Scenic Loop Road – VOF

Arch Rock is the first site you pass on Scenic Loop Road.  We got out to do a short walk in the area.

Arch Rock - VOF
Arch Rock – VOF

While we were hiking in this area, I heard some rustling in the bushes near the rock outcroppings.  I couldn’t see what was back there and I all could think of was “I hope there isn’t a mountain lion back there.”  I then heard a loud thwacking sound and the rustling stopped.  All of a sudden out of the bushes popped out a few Bighorn Sheep.  They were way too quick for my camera.  I only saw their butt ends as they disappeared around the corner of the rocks.

VOF Scenic Loop_6559
Hiking near Arch Rock – VOF
Dan has caught the camera bug!
Dan has caught the camera bug!

Next stop was Atlatl Rock.  This one site enables you to get a close look at the prehistoric petroglyphs.  The park service has constructed stairs so you can climb up the rock to view the artwork.

Atlatl Rock Marker
Atlatl Rock Marker
Atlatl Rock
Atlatl Rock
Atlatl Petroglyphs
Panoramic View from Atlatl Rock
Panoramic View from Atlatl Rock

There is a picnic area at Atlatl Rock.  These cute little antelope ground squirrels were quite bold and begging people for food.  Unfortunately, too many people were obliging.

Antelope Ground Squirrel cools itself.
Antelope Ground Squirrel cools itself.
Antelope Ground Squirrel
Antelope Ground Squirrel

After a quick visit to the visitor’s center, we drove up White Domes Road to hike the Petroglyph Canyon Trail.

Mouses Tank_6590

This 3/4 mile round-trip trail leads to Mouse’s Tank.  Mouse’s Tank is a natural basin within the rocks that collects rainwater.  The water can last in the basin for months and had quite a bit of water when we took a peek.  Mouse’s Tank gets its name from an 1890’s outlaw who was believed to survive in the desert by using the water in the tank.

The Petroglyph Trail to Mouse's Tank
The Petroglyph Trail to Mouse’s Tank

The tank is located in the triangle shaped area towards the bottom of the picture.

Mouse's Tank
Mouse’s Tank

This out and back hike is an easy mostly flat hike  to the tank.  Keep your eye out for numerous petroglyphs along the trail.  It was a bit tough this day as the temp by this time had reached 100 degrees.  We took water with us and were fine, but be mindful and know what your body can do especially in hot weather!

More from Valley of Fire coming up! I will also be posting additional pictures on my Flickr page which can be accessed on the side bar of this blog.

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