Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada

Valley of Fire State Park is 55 miles northeast of Las Vegas off Interstate 15.

Unlike the day before, I took my time in the morning. I even ordered a room service. I wasn’t going to be having a real meal until dinner so I savored it.

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The bacon stare

Valley of Fire Hwy was peaceful. Make sure you have plenty of gas before getting on this highway though. As soon as we entered in to the park, I knew I wasn’t going to be disappointed even with my high expectation. I drove to the visitor center to use the restroom and to finalize the plan for the day.

When I walked out of the restroom, there was a crowd gathered east of the visitor center. A herd of bighorn sheep was slowly migrating! They were beautiful. I got Xena out of the car, put the leash on and grabbed the camera as fast as I could and walked over to that side. Of course, Xena wanted to stop and sniff and pee after being in the car for an hour. By the time we made to that side, the herd had moved on and they were too far for me to get a good photo for you guys.

One man got unnecessarily close to the animals. I understand he wants a great photo but what if someone did that to you and your family? The herd blended in so well with the background. They are in the center of the photo. Hopefully, you can see them.

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I decided to check out the trails on Mouse’s Tank Rd first then see. But first, we explored the interesting rock formations surrounding the visitor center and took some fun pictures.

From the visitor center, I took Mouse’s Tank Rd then began our adventure.

I did not expect the trails to be that much different from each other since they are on the same side of the park. I figured we would check out a couple of them then move on to another part of the park. Well, we spent all day on this one road and we had a blast!! All these hikes are easy to follow and short in distance (less than 2 miles).

First Hike:  Petroglyph Canyon Trail (a.k.a. Mouse’s Tank Trail)

  • Out and back
  • Terrain:  Sandy
  • Big picnic area with additional parking across from the trailhead
  • Difficulty:  Easy (kid-friendly)

We shared the trail with a senior hiking tour group. I guessed they were in their 70s and older. So awesome! They had a guide who explained the history of the place and pointed out petroglyphs along the trail.

Valley of Fire State Park contains ancient, petrified trees and petroglyphs dating back to 2,500 years. It really is a geologic wonderland! If you love geology and natural history like me, you would love Valley of Fire!

 

Next Hike:  Rainbow Vista & Fire Canyon Lookout

  • Out and back
  • Terrain:  Sandy/rocky
  • Difficulty:  Moderate
  • Rainbow Vista:  A panoramic view of multi-colored sandstone.

Although it’s a short hike and mostly flat, I rated this hike moderate just because of the last bit of steep climbing to the Rainbow Vista. Like the name, Rainbow Vista was very colorful. According to the sign, we were looking at 150 million years of time since the dinosaurs walked on earth. This untouched colorful wilderness was an amazing view to take in.

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Fire Canyon Lookout trail requires a bit of scrambling and rock climbing but it’s very doable. We climbed up to one of the rocks with a great view point and had a lunch break.

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Click here for video

 

Next Hike:  Fire Wave

  • Out and back
  • Terrain:  Dirt/sandy/rock
  • Difficulty:  Easy (kid-friendly)

Fire Wave is a must see when you visit. When you google “Valley of Fire images”, most of the pictures you see are from here. There is no steep incline or decline to mention. Just watch your steps as the rocks can be slippery with loose sand. Take your time and enjoy the stunning view.

Click here for video

 

Final Hike:  White Dome

  • Loop
  • Terrain:  Sandy/dirt/rocky
  • Difficulty:  Moderate
  • There is a small picnic area with benches near the parking lot.

This is the last stop on Mouse Tank Road and I think it was my favorite. The sandy trail began at the end of the cul de sac with a short ascent. The ascent of the hill was rewarded by an extensive view of what was ahead. Many people, who were not comfortable with hiking, enjoyed the views from here and turned around. We hiked down to the canyon.

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Looking back up

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Click here for video

 

Valley of Fire was what I expected and more!!! Not only bright red Aztec sandstone nestled in gray and tan limestone mountains is eye catching but it’s from the Jurassic period. How cool is that! I was sad that I only had one day to explore. These photos don’t do it justice so head over to our Facebook Page for more videos!

Good to Know:

  • Hike date:  2.20.17
  • Daily-use fee:  $10/vehicle for non-Nevada residents
  • There are two campgrounds and all campsites are first come, first served with fee
  • Pets are not allowed in the visitor center

Never Stop Exploring

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Red Rock Canyon in Nevada

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is 17 miles west of Las Vegas.

I made a PB&J sandwich for lunch from the room then packed our food for the day as I planned on spending all day at Red Rock Canyon. I picked up a soy latte from Starbucks at the hotel on my way out. I could have eaten my breakfast in the room I guess but I was too eager to start the day.

When we entered the Conservation Area, I let Xena out of the car for a quick photo. At first she was happy but that changed quickly when we heard shotguns. There must have been a shooting range very close by. Xena could not get back in the car fast enough.

Red Rock Canyon is managed by the Bureau of Land Management as part of its National Landscape Conservation System and it accepts the America the Beautiful annual pass. Although all the trails were open, the ranger warned me about the soft condition of the trails due to the recent rain storm. The park had to close midday the day before due to the heavy rain and strong wind.

I planned only one day for the Red Rock so I picked a couple trails to get a taste of the park. It was overcast and the temperature was in the upper 50s. As long as the wind doesn’t pick up more, it was a great condition for hikes.

Hike #1:  Moenkopi Loop

  • Total distance:  2.1 miles
  • Elevation gain:  149 ft (starting elevation:  3,698 ft)

Park at the visitor center. This easy 2-mile round trip hike is kid-friendly, educational and a great way to see the entire park. If you like natural history and geology like me, you will enjoy this little hike. The trailhead is at the west of the visitor center at the end of the 911 Memorial.

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When the trail splits, we went straight and did the loop clockwise. But you can go to either direction since it’s a loop. There will be signs to guide you and the trail is wide open. What a view, right?

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Is it lunch time yet?

Hike #2:  White Rock

  • Total distance:  6.7 miles
  • Elevation gain:  963 ft (starting elevation:  4,529 ft)

I planned on checking out the Calico Tank Trail on our way to White Rock trail but the parking area was packed and overflowing to the Scenic Loop Drive. There is no better Jamie repellent than the crowd. 😉 So I kept on driving and reached the White Rock lower parking lot off the Scenic Drive. You know how sometimes unexpected detours happen and make the hike better than if your plan wasn’t interrupted? That didn’t happened on that day. I parked further than I needed to and missed a critical turn so we ended up walking on the Scenic Loop Drive 2nd half of the hike. I saw parked cars at the lower parking lot and assumed that the upper parking lot near the trailhead was full so I parked at the lower parking. Wrong. This parking area was for people who just wanted to stop and take photos and move on to the next viewpoint spot. It does have a great view.

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We began our hike on White Rock Mountain Rd. I planned on doing the White Rock out and back but I saw the sign for White Rock Loop 6 miles at the trailhead. Instantly, I decided to do the loop. Who doesn’t like a loop, right? I followed the sign for Keystone Thrust and White Rock Loop. If you want to do this clockwise, look for a trailhead to the west of the information board.

The trail was busy in the beginning with tourists but after we passed the split to the Keystone Thrust, we were alone and it felt remote. The trail began on an incline. There was no steep incline or decline to mention though. I loved the rugged sandstone of Red Rock Canyon.

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We would go for like 30 minutes and see no one. I don’t need to see people for hours or even days but as soon as I don’t have the cell phone reception, I feel uneasy. Yes, I am one of those people who get anxious when my cell phone battery level drops below 65%. When I started to wonder if we were still on the trail, someone would come from the other direction.

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The terrain became more rocky and there were many big cacti along the trail.

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After this hike, I had to remove 4 half inch long cactus thorns from the top of her paws with a tweezer. 🤕 First I tried it with my fingers and it kept cutting off. The tweezer pulled those stinkers out with no problem.

At the La Madre Spring trail junction, we turn left. In hindsight, I should’ve turned us around and returned to the trailhead (out and back) at this point because the best part of this hike was over for us. La Madre Spring trail had more traffic and Xena did not like the gravel road. It was hard for her to walk. I felt bad for her.

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We left the La Madre Spring Wilderness and got on Rocky Gap Road. Walking on the pavement and looking out for oncoming traffic isn’t hiking! Long story short, I missed a trail that we were supposed to pick up after the Willow Spring Picnic area. I looked around but didn’t see it. I should have created a route on mapmyhike.com and loaded to my phone. I thought there would be signs. So we ended up walking back to the car via roads, Rocky Gap Road then Scenic Loop Drive. At least Scenic Loop Drive is one way road and I only had to watch out for the oncoming traffic. I saw some people walking on Rocky Gap Road but no one was as lost as we were to walk on Scenic Loop Drive. LOL. Sigh..

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I was going to stay at the park until the sunset but that didn’t happen. When we got back to the car around 3:30 pm, we were cold, thirsty and tired. After sharing a coconut water and some snacks, Xena wanted to go in the car. While I was loading the car, she was already dozing off.

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I thought to plan better for the next day. I was really excited about visiting Valley of Fire State Park and didn’t want to cut that trip short.

Red Rock Canyon is beautiful! Next time, I will definitely plan a longer trip to explore the parts of the park we didn’t get to see on this trip. Already can’t wait! For videos from this day, go to our Facebook page!

Good to Know:

Never stop exploring! Xo

Vegas, Baby!

I love road trips! One of the reasons is because I am not limited to a suitcase to pack. 😉 I can take anything I want as long as I can fit it in to my car. Here is the packing list for my recent 3 night/4 day trip:

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  • Front:  Cooler packed with seltzer water, protein shakes, coconut water and fruits
  • Back:  Xena’s space. She was temporarily moved for this photo; hence that disapproving face
  • Cargo:  A fold-able chair, Alcott explorer blanket, Xena’s sleeping bag, bottles of water, first aid kits, our suitcases and of course our hiking gear

There are 281 miles (452.23 km) between my house and Las Vegas, Nevada. Originally, I planned to make a stop at Mojave Desert on the way to stretch our legs and hike a sand dune but I ended up scrapping the plan at the last minute due to a rain storm. The storm brought a strong wind with it and it even created a 20-feet sinkhole in the L.A. area on Friday night so I was nervous about the road condition next day. It was the worst we had in like 10 years or something that crazy. Seriously, now?!!

Luckily, the rain stopped and the wind was gone too next morning. After our usual morning routine, I finished packing my car and off we went. It was cloudy but the road condition was great. After 130 miles, I stopped at Barstow for a break. It’s a great place to stop with a dog. There is a plenty of place to walk and stretch our legs and a bunch of fast food joints and regular restaurants too. I pulled in to the El Pollo Loco parking lot where I saw a huge lot next to it. It’s for trailers and big trucks but there was only one truck in the lot and it was far away from us. I grabbed a tennis ball and we walked over to the open space and played fetch until Xena wanted a break. There were tables outside of El Pollo Loco but it was too cold for me so we ate our lunch in the car.

It started to drizzle when we were near the Mojave Desert. As we got closer to the Nevada state line, it rained steadily. We must have caught up with the storm. I drove extra carefully leaving plenty of space between my car and the car in front of me. The soothing sound of raindrops against the car and my extra cautious driving put Xena to asleep. She never sleeps in the car. Ever! This was a record. I was happy to see Xena finally relaxing in the car after all these years.

We arrived at The Westin at 5 pm. Perfect timing, check in and rest a bit before dinner. Initially it appeared to be no line at the registration desks. Then, once my eyes settled in to the new environment, I noticed a crazy long line formed away from the registration desk to my left. That can’t be right. There were at least 30 people in the line! Yep, that was the line. Are you kidding me?! We got in the line and waited for our turn. It was about 5:30 when we got up to the desk. The room wasn’t ready and the wait was about an hour. Ugh. They would text me when the room was available. All of sudden, I felt tired from driving. I need a drink.

I walked over to the restaurant to order a drink so I can have it on one of the benches on the casino floor while waiting. Dogs are not allowed in the restaurants, fitness area, bars and casino at the hotel which is a usual dog-friendly hotel policy. I ordered a glass of wine. Then the waitress pulled me aside and whispered to me to go to the casino and order a drink from the cocktail waitress instead. If you are not familiar with casinos, you don’t pay for drinks on the casino floor, you just need to give the cocktail waitress a tip. I said, oh, but I have her pointing to Xena. She insisted in a quiet voice, it’s ok honey, I will call a cocktail waitress for you. So I walked over to the casino which wasn’t crowded and settled down in front of a machine. A few minutes later, the waitress came over and called a gentleman over who seemed to be the floorperson and explained to him that I was waiting for my room. I could pick up a hint of unspoken message to him “look after them” from her tone. She was motherly and kind. As she promised, a cocktail waitress showed up soon after to take my drink order. The floorperson checked in on us a few times and even hung out with us and chatted for a while. I found out that he is a huge dog lover.

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Xena drew in dog lovers. Many people stopped by to talk to me and pet Xena. Xena did great even with occasional happy outbursts from the bar and lots of attention from passing by strangers. She even got pictures taken by a couple who said Xena looks like their puppy at home. My shy girl enjoyed hanging out and meeting people. Once an empty area, we drew in dog-loving gamers and all the machines nearby us were occupied while we were there.

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Can I borrow some money?

The wait was actually a little longer than an hour but the kindness we received from the hotel staff made it all better and was very much appreciated. This totally could have been a boring tiring frustrating hour of wait but instead, we had a great time.

I wasn’t really hungry so I finished the leftover from lunch. After dinner, with happy full belly, Xena picked the bed with her toys. Shortly after, she drifted off to a puppy dream land. 🙂

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I wasn’t ready to go to bed yet as I needed to prepare for the next day. Our first day of adventures. It may not be the usual Las Vegas scene you are used to but this is how We do Las Vegas. Stay tuned. 😉

Good to Know:

  • There is a $35 pet cleaning fee per stay at The Westin Las Vegas

 

Xoxo~