|| nevada | south
Valley of Fire
Take a detour off the freeway to explore a gorgeous natural area with sandstone arches, balanced rocks, petrified logs, and rock art. Millions of years ago, great sand dunes compressed into multi-colored sandstone formations shaped by wind, rain, sun. Ancient forests slowly petrified into rock. Native American Puebloan people lived in the area for more than a thousand years, and left behind petroglyphs carved into the red cliffs.
|Valley of Fire State Park –
This is a place to let the kids get out, run around, touch and scramble on rocks. The formations come in all sorts of fantastic shapes with names like Duck Rock, Piano Rock, Beehives, Elephant Rock, but let kids imagine faces or creatures in the rocks, and give them their own names.
To get to Valley of Fire State Park, exit Interstate 15 (exit 75) at the turnoff for Route 169, the Valley of Fire Highway. From the exit, it's about 20 miles to the west park entrance. You can also get to the park via the east entrance from 169, going south from Overton. The west entrance is closest to Atlatl Rock, Arch Rock and the Beehives.
|Atlatl Rock – There's something about petroglyphs which kids can easily relate to, and Atlatl Rock has a great collection – squiggly stick figures, a hand print, leaping sheep, and an atlatl, the notched stick used to throw spears for hunting. The meaning of the petroglyphs isn't clear, but they are thought to be thousands of years old. A stairway goes up the cliff so you can see the petroglyphs close up.
|Arch Rock – Arch Rock, visible from the road, isn't that big, but it's delicate and graceful, a "window" to the sky and desert beyond.
|Beehives – As you drive through Valley of Fire Highway, off to the west you'll see the Beehives, conical formations like a rather like a melting beehive. Keep your eyes peeled for more beehive formations in this area.
|Visitor Center – Stop into the visitor center for exhibits about the fascinating geology of the state park, ancient peoples who lived here, and wildlife that survives in this challenging environment. Just outside the visitor center are two red rock round niches for the kids to play in.
|Mouse's Tank – Petroglyph Canyon Trail – Walk the 1/2 mile trail up a lovely red sandstone canyon. Along the way are groups of petroglyphs, incised on the desert varnished rocks. Tip: Bring your binoculars (the petroglyphs are up on the cliffs) and drinking water. The trail is sandy, so wear closed-toed shoes.
|Elephant Rock – Near the park east entrance, don't miss Elephant Rock (looks more like an anteater to us), right close to the road. To see it up close, park in the parking lot close by (don't park on the highway) and take the short hike.
|Picnic areas – There are covered picnic tables at Atlatl Rock, Seven Sisters, Cabins, and Mouse's Tank trailhead.
Lost City Museum (Overton) –Ten thousand years ago, peoples hunted for big game such as the mammoth and giant ground sloth. Around 300 BC, the Basketmaker people wove beautiful baskets and used spear throwers (atlatls) to hunt for deer and Bighorn sheep. Later Puebloans grew corn and squash, had above ground houses, below ground pit houses for storage, and made pottery. The Puebloans mysteriously abandoned the area by 1150 AD.
The Lost City museum has exhibits relating to all the different Puebloan peoples. Outdoors, kids can look into reconstructed adobe dwellings, and inside the museum check out high quality arrow points used for hunting, pottery painted in exquisite black and white geometric designs, and samples of petroglyphs.