The trail leads to Mouse's Tank. In the 1890's a renegade Paiute Indian hid in this area after being accused of killing two prospectors. Mouse hid here for months until local authorities were convinced he was dead. Later it was discovered how Mouse had survived, and more than likely escaped. A natural depression is tucked away deep in the rock that collects natural rainwater. Due to the lack of direct sunlight and the size, the water supply can last for months, even during the long hot dry summer. Mouse used this natural tank to stay well hydrated during his stay, and it is still there today. After hiking back to your car you can continue down the spur road to Rainbow Vista. From here you can look out across the desert colored with a vibrant array of colors.
If you're feeling adventuresome, you can take the gravel road at Rainbow Vista to the Fire Canyon Overlook. Dropping over 600 feet below the dark red gorge seems out of place next to nearby Silica Dome. The light tan silica of the massive dome is in sharp contrast to the surrounding landscape, and the line between the two is as exact as a ruler. If you continue down the road another 2-1/2 miles you will come to the White Domes, two smaller silica domes that are melting into the red sandstone. They have a very different appearance to their larger brother to the south, with the tan giving way to lavender, than pink, and final the red of the surrounding stone. If you are feeling up to taking a desert hiking challenge, consider trekking the closed portion of the road out to Duck Rock.
If you continue eastward on State Highway 169 and out of the park you will pass the Seven Sisters, monoliths rising up off of the desert floor. Before exiting the park you will come to appropriately named Elephant Rock. The rock formation resembles a long trunk hanging down on the ground with short tusks sticking out from his gnarled body.
The Valley of Fire State Park is a backcountry paradise. Because the area is mostly covered with durable red rock, cross country exploration is possible almost anywhere in the park. Of course you will need a healthy respect for the desert and plenty of water if you plan to set off across the rocks. The heat isn't the only danger; six different species of poisonous rattlesnakes call the park home as well as the dangerous Gila monster. The rare desert tortoise also calls the Valley of Fire home and should be avoided if you see one.
A single campground services the park. There are a total of 51 improved sites, and three walk in sites nestled in the rocks. The campgrounds are open, but are very well maintained. No hookups are offered, but there is a dump station and all campsites have tables, fire rings and grills. Hot showers are provided for free.
Despite the harsh terrain, Valley of Fire State Park is a wonderful place to visit. Through a complex network of roads and trails, many of the key features of the park can be easily seen. Whether you are looking for an escape from the civilization of Las Vegas, or want to take the scenic route on your way to Zion National Park or the Grand Canyon, the echoes of the past can still be seen in the silent canyons of the Nevada desert.
Just The Facts
Name: Valley of Fire State Park
Location: Eastern Nevada, Las Vegas
Nearest Major Air Service: Las Vegas, Nevada
Fees & Permits: $5 access fee per vehicle.
Why Visit: Arid, desert paradise. Unusual rock formations, canyons, gorges and petrified wood makes a visit to the park equal to see three different national parks.
When To Visit: Year round, best from October to May
Essential Gear: Depends on activity, sunscreen, hat, lip balm, plenty of drinking water, sunglasses, camera, binoculars (other equipment strongly recommended)
You Should Know: Summertime temperatures can exceed 120 degrees. During the night, temperatures can drop as much as fifty degrees. Park is home to six different species of rattlesnakes and Gila monsters, all of which are poisonous. Watch where you put your hands when scrambling across rocks during the day, and be sure to keep your tent zipped up tightly at night.
More Information: Valley of Fire State Park, PO BOX 515, Overton, Nevada 89040, (702) 397-2088