If you've read any of my other blog posts about Valley of Fire State Park, or perhaps watched one of our Valley of Fire YouTube Videos, a common theme is that this state park seems to have a lot of unofficial areas, many of them without clear trails, that you can explore. A good example of this would be my experience off the beaten path near Fire Canyon Road.
One disclaimer I always make is that in most spots (there are certainly exceptions), I never see signs prohibiting one from trekking out into the desert. So hopefully I'm not promoting bad behavior, but it seems to be okay to wander freely in most places.
One of the best places I discovered to do this was in an area of desert right behind Parking Lot #1. If you look at the park map, Parking Lot #1 is technically shown, but not clearly named. To find it on the map, first locate White Domes Road. Extending off of White Domes Road, locate the unnamed black line that ends at Fire Canyon/Silica Dome (that is Fire Canyon Road). From there, follow White Domes Road north until you find the first parking lot on the left (marked by a "P" on the map). That's Parking Lot #1.
When you are driving down White Domes Road, you will see a sign that looks like this:
It's pretty easy to see in my opinion. It's a fairly sizable gravel parking lot. During my stay, the parking lot was always barren. At most, I only saw one, maybe two other cars parked at a given time.
I never really figured out the main purpose of this lot. It's not really near any of the main sights in the park. Maybe it's overflow parking for the busiest times. I imagine there may also be official hiking opportunities around there too, and since I saw all of the touristy stops on the map during my stay, the next time I visit, I will inquire about that. But for now, Parking Lot #1 remains somewhat of a mystery.
When you park, on the same side of the road, you'll see very smooth and round sandstone rock formations straight ahead. The desert terrain here is much like other places in the park... very sandy, with lots of brush interspersed throughout the terrain. I noticed many footprints of those who ventured into the desert before me. So I decided to check it out for myself. If you want to do it like I did, just start walking out into the desert. You don't need a plan. Simply wander.
As mentioned earlier, the parking lot rarely had other visitors parked there. When they did park, most just got out of their cars, took a couple photos from the parking lot, and moved on. So the seclusion factor here was impeccable. In fact, the photo below shows the only other humans I encountered in the desert beyond the parking lot.
So what the heck is there to do and see back there? Well, to me, it's a world of hidden treasures. As you wander about, you'll certainly come across a wide variety of colorful sandstone. I saw yellow, red, purple, orange... just about any color you can imagine back there. It certainly rivaled other sections in the park in terms of variance of color.
In addition to the wide variety of color, there was also an amazing selection of interesting shapes back there too. Some of the most interesting formations I've seen that sparked my imagination.
One of my favorites is the cover image of this post. To me, I see a tall stack of pancakes, with syrup and butter drizzling down the side of the stack.
Other things made me think of other worlds. I admit at times I like to pretend I am exploring an alien planet in a galaxy far far away. It's easy to let the mind wander in a place like this, for young and old alike.
I don't want to spoil everything for you, because visiting a place like this is all about discovering your own treasures, but another particular favorite I stumbled across out there was a small, striped sandstone arch.
You'll see a lot of small arches like this all over the park, but this is the only one that I came across during my visit that had stripes!
The main thing I'm trying to do by writing this post is to inspire you to want to explore and find neat spots like this in the park. There are so many photographic moments to be had in the amazing microcosms of the sandstone wilderness out beyond Parking Lot #1.
We made a YouTube video of our experience if you want to see how I did it, as well as see a few more sights that I discovered. I even give you some tips on how to find things like the little striped arch seen above in the video.
I never knew I would enjoy sandstone as much as I apparently do until I hung out in this area. I went back there on three separate occasions during my visit in fact, more than any other place in the park. More than the popular well-known sites in fact. Something about this landscape sucked me in and really connected. It's hard to articulate exactly why, and it might be different for you, but it has secured a special place in my heart.
The only complaint I have is that I stumbled across a bit of rock graffiti while wandering around.
It was very disappointing to see something like this in the park. Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of messages of love, just not when it damages a beautiful landscape permanently like that. Look, most of us fall in love, and have great life experiences from time to time, but joy can be expressed in many different ways. In short, don't be an ass and do something like that. It's also illegal, and if you see someone defacing the landscape like this, report them.
All right, I'm off my soapbox for now. For some reason though, that really rubbed me the wrong way.
All in all, if you visit this park and you have enough time to do it in between visiting the more well-known sites in the park, do yourself a favor and explore the region beyond Parking Lot #1. You'll be sure to find a wealth of little treasures and make memories as I did.