I’ve been lots of places and have done lots of hiking. 40+ countries, 50 states, 40+ national parks around the world. So it isn’t every day that I can say that I’ve done a hike that I consider one of the best I’ve ever done. It hasn’t happened in a while, as I’m sometimes drawn to going back to the same places (hello, Moab, Utah!) to do the same trails that are already on the list. That changed on the trip that I just returned from.
Before I reveal where I took all these incredible shots, let me offer my disclaimer for this post. You probably won’t find the usual choices on my list. You also won’t have to slog two hundred miles to complete one of the entries in my favor. My choices are not two thousand mile trails like “the Appalachian Trail” or “the Continental Divide Trail.” I find articles that site gargantuan trails ridiculous, and written by people who know nothing about hiking, who have clearly never completed the trails in question. I also get tired of the same long hikes on every list, like “the Milford Track” in New Zealand. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that all the hikes I’ve mentioned are incredible. I’ve experienced parts of some of them. But they’re general suggestions, not specific. The hikes on my list are specific and can be done in a day, some in a couple of hours. The one pictured here took two hours, and packed more of a punch than many that I’ve spent days and days discovering.
Where is this trail? Valley of Fire State Park, sixty miles north of Las Vegas, which looks like a national park. We’re talking Nevada, USA, and close to a major city and tourist attraction. I had been here two other times, and thought it was time to go back. In spite of some pretty crazy weather during my week in Sin City, I got a perfect day for hiking, just no sun or blue sky, which would have made for even better pictures!
I had already done the Fire Wave Trail on my last visit. Here’s a picture of me from 2015:
And here’s me this year:
The scenery hasn’t changed much. But the hiker sure has!
This is an easy trail to find, as it is right off the Parking #3 lot. It’s also simple to follow, as it is a one trail deal down to the Fire Wave. The change in scenery along the way is incredible! First, massive walls of red Aztec sandstone beckon from ahead, with soft green mounds of limestone in the foreground. Christmas colors for hikers! Where can you say that you’ve seen red and green rocks, and in the same place?
Once past the rocks, the whole landscape changes to red and white striped sandstone underfoot with pastel sandstone views of aptly named Pink Canyon in the near distance. After a short and mildly steep descent, the Fire Wave comes into view, with a smaller mound next to it. Turn in a three-sixty and just marvel at your surroundings!
Most people choose to do an out and back on this trail. But if you want to do the Seven Wonders Loop, which I’ve come to understand was just opened to the public in 2021, you can proceed to the bottom of the wavy rocks to this sign, and continue on:
Things get a little less obvious once you hit this trail, and they get worse as you go along. But don’t let that stop you! I latched on to a family and another solitary lady (from Germany!) to figure out how to do this loop. We figured it out as a team. Also be warned that a few of the slot canyons, which are normally part of the trail, had to be hiked around because of flooding. The incredible photo opportunities made the extra hiking well worth it! I call views like this “National Geographic material.”
Once you have gone around the water keep in mind that you will have to cross the park road to finish the loop. You will also have to climb back to the parking lot. If you’re really worried you can always take the road, which is plenty scenic, but the stunning terrain you’ll miss will make you want to take the chance of getting a little off track now and then. Don’t expect cairns like on many established trails in the American West (because there are often no trees to put blazes on!) but metal markers can be found along the way. Keep following the general path of the road and you will make it back to the lot without too much trouble. And you’ll see this jaw-dropping stuff along the way:
Seven Wonders? I vote to change the trail name to “A Thousand Wonders Trail!”
An extra added plus: the park was loaded with mountain goats that day!
For more on my favorite hikes, click here!