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  • Craig Cooper Photography

Exploring the Fire Wave of the Mojave Desert

If I'm being honest, Las Vegas never was exactly near the top of my bucket list of destinations I was itching to experience. So when the opportunity arose to visit “Sin City”, I immediately began researching areas to explore in the great outdoors. After stumbling upon an article involving Valley of Fire State Park, I suddenly became curious to discover a part of the world I had previously been wary of exploring.

Red sandstone formation located within Valley of Fire State Park

Valley of Fire State Park is located in the Mojave Desert, approximately 1 hour northeast of Las Vegas and has become a popular tourist destination for visitors with a desire to escape the city, like myself. The park is infamous for its red Aztec sandstone formations and includes many activities for the outdoor enthusiast, or for anyone wanting to take some time to visit Nevada's oldest state park.

It should be noted that when planning a trip to the park, it is important to take into consideration weather conditions and explore all safety precautions. We visited the park during the summer peak, and the Mojave Desert heat was much more intense than we expected. Summer temperatures consistently exceed 100°F (38°C). It is highly recommended to stay hydrated and venture into the park as early as possible, especially if hiking is on your itinerary.

Our sizzling summer day began with the short drive from Las Vegas to the park. As a native East Texan and current Floridian, the desert landscape is completely fascinating to me and the views along the drive were truly captivating. We arrived at the park shortly before noon, completely anxious to explore as much of the park as possible. Shortly after entering the park, we took a detour to a lookout point in order to take photographs, and noticed a large herd of Bighorn Sheep along the deserted road.

Beautiful sandstone cliffs ahead!

Bighorn Sheep resting in the shade

Bighorn Sheep line the road in the park

Captivating views at every glance

Baking in the 117°F Mojave Desert heat!

One of the most popular attractions in Valley of Fire State Park is the Fire Wave trail. We decided to take on this hike since we arrived midday and the sun was already blazing. Although the trail is a fairly short and painless trek, the views are quite astounding.

The trailhead is located at parking lot #3 on Mouse's Tank Road, and the beginning of the trail is marked with the Fire Wave trail sign located directly across the street.

As we began our hike towards the Fire Wave, we trekked through the hot Mojave Desert sand with stunning views of red sandstone cliffs ahead of us, as we made sure to follow the trail markers along the entire route. As the sandy trail continued, it eventually took a right turn and suddenly started to run parallel to the massive cliffs. As we approached the end of the cliffs, the trail took a turn to the left and transitioned from course sand to rocky, red sandstone. We continued to follow the trail markers and rock cairns (small stacks of rocks), and after approximately 0.75 miles into the hike the vibrant stripes and colors of the Fire Wave began to emerge.

We spent approximately an hour exploring the Fire Wave, admiring the surrounding landscapes, and photographing the alluring formations surrounding us. There was not a cloud in the sky on this particular day, and the vast blue sky provided a sharp contrast to the Mars-like landscape encompassing us.

After enjoying some time at the Fire Wave, we started to make our way back to the trailhead along the same trail we embarked on earlier, taking a few stops to rehydrate along the way.

The Fire Wave proved to be a highlight of our day in the Valley of Fire. These rare white, pink, red and beige stripes are definitely a sight worth seeing when visiting this unique part of the world.

Distance: 1.5 miles there and back

Difficulty: Easy

Elevation Gain: approximately 230 feet

The Fire Wave trail sign located at the trailhead

The unique sandstone trail

Surrounding landscape views from the trail

Looking back towards the cliffs

Approaching the Fire Wave

The views are breathtaking

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