Thursday, February 2, 2012

Slice of Americana Pie: Just Beyond the Las Vegas Strip

The Valley of Fire's signature red-orange sandstone color.  Photo courtesy of Yumiko Boreham.
Las Vegas is without question a very popular tourist spot.  Many people go there to indulge in a bit of gambling, shopping and endless partying, but what's there if you want to travel beyond the glitz and glamor of the main strip?  Perhaps it's because you have grown tired of the one trick pony which Las Vegas seems to be, or you may have some little ones in tow.  If you enjoy experiencing a little Americana and viewing petroglyphs, your destination is approximately 45 minutes northeast of Las Vegas.

The Valley of Fire State Park is located off the I-15N roughly 50 miles from Las Vegas.  The state park is home to a large gallery of petroglyphs of the Anasazi Native Americans, and has been used as the background set of many Hollywood films such as Total Recall, Domino, Star Trek - Generations, and The Professionals.  It is the oldest state park in Nevada, having been established in 1935.  Exit the I-15 at Crystal, and take the Nevada Route 169 south.  The road will be a 2 lane road for several miles and snakes it way towards the Valley of Fire. 
This 2 lane road leads to the main gate of the Valley of Fire.  Photo courtesy of Yumiko Boreham.
At the main gate, there is a $10 entrance fee per vehicle.  The hours of the park are generally from 0830-1630 daily.  There is no overnight lodging available at the Valley of Fire, but overnight camping is permitted.  The fee is $30, with RV campers paying an additional $10.

A short distance after the main gate, you will be able to gaze at the great expanse of the Valley of Fire, with its breathtaking scenery of warm red-orange tinted sandstone structures. 
The beautiful backdrop of the Valley of Fire.  Photo courtesy of Yumiko Boreham
The structures in the picture below are affectionately known as the beehives.  These structures are the result of wind and rain erosion over many years.  Do they house actual bees?  Thankfully, no! 
The "beehives" of the Valley of Fire.  Photo courtesy of Yumiko Boreham.
There are many other places to visit while at the Valley of Fire State Park, but one of the best spots to go is the Atlatl rock.  After climbing a staircase, you are able to have an close up look of ancient petroglyphs.  It's one thing to see petroglyphs in a book or online, but it's a completely different experience to view them firsthand. 
The staircase at Atlatl rock.  Photo courtesy of Yumiko Boreham.
Some of the petroglyphs on Atlatl rock.  Photo courtesy of Yumiko Boreham.
Another great spot to visit is the Petroglyph Canyon which leads to Mouse's Tank.  The canyon is a short hike totaling about a 1/2 mile round trip walking.  Here you will be able to see even more of the art and writing of the Native Americans. 
Up close view of some of the many petroglyphs.  Photo courtesy of Yumiko Boreham.

Petroglyph Canyon is a short 1/2 mile round trip hike.  Photo courtesy of Yumiko Boreham.
There is a visitor center where you can learn about the history of the state park, and how it was a popular destination point in the early days of American motoring.  You can see plenty of artifacts and some displays of the animals which inhabit the park. 

The Valley of Fire is a great way to escape from the fast paced life of the Las Vegas Strip.  The state park is very family friendly, and with so many areas to visit, multiple trips will not dilute the fun factor.  Just remember to pack plenty of fluids because daytime temperatures can reach up to 120 degrees during the summer months.  Sunscreen is also highly recommended as shade isn't very prevalent at many of the stops within the park, except at designated picnicking areas. 

Happy motoring and keep on driving!
The Valley of Fire.  Photo courtesy of Yumiko Boreham.

Driving in the Valley of Fire is very scenic.  Photo courtesy of Yumiko Boreham.
Beautiful backdrops surround you no matter where you are in the Valley of Fire. Photo courtesy of Yumiko Boreham.
For more information on the Valley of Fire:  Valley of Fire

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