Valley of Fire State Park

By Matthew & Melissa Gartner \

Valley of Fire State Park

There is always something magical about exploring places you’ve never seen before. Anticipation and expectations play a huge role in the experience you’ll have. Two days before we were supposed to leave for a trip with friends, we had to make a sudden change to our plans. They were sick, and we needed a plan B. We already had reservations in Zion for the week so we wanted to find a spot we could explore along the way. Of course, we opened Google Maps and started looking along our route for our plan B spot. Following the 15 Fwy from So Cal to Zion, you can guess what we found – Valley of Fire State Park. I thought to myself, how have I never seen or even heard of this state park before? The pictures we were seeing online and social media were amazing. It did take much more digging before we knew we were headed to Valley of Fire State Park.

Driving-in was anticlimactic. It’s not some spectacular view you see from the freeway. We entered in through the Muddy Mountains. As we drew closer to our destination, slowly the landscape began to transform. The brown hills began to take new shapes, the colors shifted from brown to a reddish-orange and a new views began to show themselves around every turn. Soon, we found ourselves enveloped in a sea of red rock and beautiful rock formations. We couldn’t wait to get up the next day to explore! We setup camp for the night in Atlatl Campground (we were fortunate to find a spot), whipped up an easy dinner (prepped from home) and enjoyed the sunset with a homemade chocolate cookie in hand.

We woke up the following morning to a beautiful sight. The sun was shining, and we could hear the chirping of birds. The boys of course had already climbed up on a huge rock that was beside our camp, from up there they could see the whole campground, end to end. Not soon after we heard them yelling at us, “big horn sheep mom, we see big horn sheep!” Of course, we had to go find these majestic creatures, so off we went. They had come into another person’s camp seeking water from a water bowl that had been placed out. As soon as we laid eyes on them two of the males were in a face-off, they backed up and smash! Their horns collided sending echoes through the rock walls like thunder. We were all amazed at the sound; it was a wild sight to see. And then like it never happened, the Big Horn Sheep walked off into the surrounding rocks and disappeared into the landscape.

So far, our visit to Valley of Fire was starting out all right. We packed up lunch for the day and headed out to explore. We had no cell service, so we headed to the Visitor Center for some maps to plan out our day. This is something we always like to do when we are unfamiliar with an area, whether it is at a state park, national park, or wilderness area. The rangers are always insightful and willing to give recommendations of where to explore based on your criteria and needs. We headed out to the Fire Wave trail first because we knew this hike would only be more impacted later in the day. What we found there was more than we could ever imagine. We were amazed with the diverse colors and leading lines. Our boys had endless rocks to explore, they just couldn’t get enough.

At the end of the Fire Wave trail there is another trail that you can take that will lead you to Pink Canyon…. they weren’t kidding when they named this one. Look at all the pastel colors!

Next, we were off to the White Domes trail with its infamous slot canyon. This trail starts at the top of a canyon and then heads down into it. We thought there would already be tons of people in the canyon, but it turns out we just missed a large crowd, so we had the canyon to ourselves. Slot canyons are always so magical; the high walls, the textures, the tight spaces, all make for a unique experience every time.

Lastly, we made our way over to Mouse’s Tank trail. This one leads you on a hunt for petroglyphs carved thousands of years ago by the Basketmaker Culture followed by the Early Pueblo Culture. The Aztec Sandstone is a brilliant color which lends itself well to the park’s name, Valley of Fire.

As we ended the day the boys went off in usual fashion to explore nearby rocks. As the sun began its descent, we couldn’t be more thankful to have found this amazing state park – it totally exceeded our expectations. These gems are the reason we explore, to see things we’ve never seen and to learn more about this beautiful world we live in. We are so thankful for our TAXA Woolly Bear, Wonder. She has made traveling so much easier for us and we love that she can follow us anywhere we’re willing to go!

If have yet to check out Valley of Fire State Park, you should! There is so much more to explore.