Take someone sweet, pack only what you need, and set your compass to the desert. These long summer days and crystal clear nights offer more room for exploration, more time for kissing, and more options than ever to sleep under the stars. Go to where your voice echoes in rock canyons made like candy, to the places where it’s easy to forget anyone besides the two of you exists.
In our newest installment of The Weekenders with Richer Poorer, we have set our sights on the Valley of Fire with Jess Morrow and her man Nick Lacy. Located in the Mojave just 58 miles (a good hour) northeast of Las Vegas, the Valley of Fire is Nevada’s oldest and largest state park filled with petrified trees, 3,000 year old petroglyphs, and red rock formations dating back 150 million years that will absolutely blow your mind.
Photographed by Ali Mitton, they drove the Old Route 66, hoped on the 15, and then headed into the 35,000 acre park. Despite the park being very accessible and insanely gorgeous, it is one of the lesser visited parks in the country, attracting only 300,000 guests per year – which is not much for a national park. On the bright side, this means vast expanses to yourself and less tourists in your photos snapping pics on their iPad. So, pack your favorite simple tee’s, wear your boyfriend’s flannel, lace up your sneakers, and get lost among the brilliant sandstone formations that look as if they’re lit on fire in those late afternoons.
Inside of the Park
The Valley of Fire highway takes you through the park from the West to the East entrance (or vice versa) – this is your main drag. Everything is pretty accessible from the main road, so even if you only have an afternoon it’s well worth the cruise. It’s only 16 miles from one side to the other.
You must see Arch Rock, a singular arch created from wind erosion which is absolutely mesmerizing at sunrise. While there aren’t a whole lot of arches, being a less trafficked park, your chances of coping some solo photos here are astronomically greater.
Take Mouse’s Tank Road, which veers off to the north from the main road after you enter the west entrance. It will lead you to the White Dome trail, which is supposed to be the most rewarding hike with a pretty rad slot canyon and epic rock layerings. Come prepared, though. It can get crazy hot here, so you will need a ridiculous amount of water.
A great spot for home base if you’re going to post up for a few days is the Atlatl Camp Ground. While you won’t be solo, you will have access to everything you need and it’s an easy epicenter to the park. This is also where you’ll find the stairs to the petroglyphs. Don’t be lazy, climb the stairs despite the heat.
Another must see? Fire Wave, a spot that is a simple hike down the Mouse Tank and looks like a creamy swirl of red and white rocks stirred into a taffy candy. To be honest, it put other red rock hikes to shame.
Leaving The Park
If you need to beat the heat, southeast of the park is Lake Mead, an American camping tradition. With several marinas and camp-able shores, you can swim there in the high heat of the day or post up under the stars.
If you’re in the area, only an hour south is the Hoover Dam. I mean why not? I know it sounds cheesy but if you’ve never stood in front of this insane industrial feat, then you must. There is something hypnotizing about it and the sheer volume of water is incomprehensible.
Right on down the road from Hoover Dam is the Gold Strike Hot Spring Trail Head. If you’re feeling adventurous and it’s not blazing hot during your visit, then strap on those Tevas and get to it. Supposedly, there is some difficulty to the hike that involves strategically placed ropes and boulders so it’s not the best if you’ve got dogs with you.
Along the way, be sure to get your proper American road trip moments in by eating at several roadside diners in search of the best biscuits and gravy.
If it’s too hot to camp (it’s easily 100 degrees on the daily during the summer months), then shack up in a motel, draw the blinds, and get busy with your sweetie.
Be sure to pack a lot of water, like way more than you would imagine reasonable, and then more of it. Also, don’t forget snacks, because snacks are life. And, most certainly cue up an epic desert road trip playlist. I’ve made one here to get you started.