Valley of Fire State Park

Last year for New Year’s I drove to Sedona, the Petrified Forest, and the Grand Canyon over the course of three days. It was the perfect way to start a new year: alone and reflecting on what in the previous year worked (and didn’t), not worrying about my real life nonsense back home but enjoying the expanses of nature right in front of me without distraction, and letting the freshness of these new experiences propel me forward (rather than reflect too much on the past, which I love to do). So this year I decided to do the same thing, only this time visiting the Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada and Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah to get one last use out of my National Parks pass that would expire on NYE.

I only recently learned that the Valley of Fire even exists despite being only an hour outside of Las Vegas, somewhere I have been at least a dozen times. It blows my mind as it’s infinitely more stunning and fun than the Hoover Dam, which everyone seems to detour to during the day in Vegas when there’s nothing to do, and only a few more minutes drive time. The Fire Wave, inarguably the park’s most awe-inspiring feature, only got a formal hiking path recently, which is probably why this park has stayed relatively under the radar to outsiders thus far (it’s still Nevada’s most popular state park but everyone I have mentioned it to-and nearly everyone in LA has been to Vegas at least once-had no idea it exists).

The Instagram page for the park warned of heavy crowds over the NYE weekend so I drove to Vegas on Friday after work, slept there, and woke up before dawn to be in the park at sunrise to beat the rush. I drove into the park in total darkness but found the .6 mile sandy trail to the Fire Wave thanks to this map:

It met all of my expectations and then some. Starting my walk in the dark and seeing the sun illuminate the stripes of white and orangey-red of the Fire Wave just as I reached it and then slowly reveal the pastel palette of rock beyond was just so stunning.

Afterward while walking back to my car I realized just how gorgeous this park is, as everything that was pitch black as I drove in was suddenly vistas of bright red rocks contrasted by pale green brush, swathes of yellow and orange ripples of rock, and rolling roads that took me to some new feast for my eyes with each new hill ascended. This place is a small marvel and anyone traveling to Vegas should add it to their agenda. I know I will be back to explore more in the future since my time was limited this go-around.

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