Valley of Fire White Dome & Gibraltar Rock

  • Updated: November 23, 2012
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

  White Dome (2,234')
  Gibraltar Rock (2,172')
When:  November 23rd, 2012
Where:  Valley of Fire, Nevada
Who:  Matthew Hengst, Anne Kircher
PicturesMatt's Flickr
GPS TrackTrack

Along I15 north of Las Vegas there's a sign I'd passed numerous times for Valley of Fire.  Generally it was late at night coming or going from some climb or another so I'd never taken the time to explore it.

After longer Thanksgiving trip plans fell through I ended up doing Thanksgiving dinner in town and then loaded into the car and headed for Vegas.  Not surprisingly traffic was fairly light.  One quick 11 pm stop at a Vegas Walmart for supplies and we were back on the road and pulled in to Valley of Fire sometime after midnight.

The first thing to keep in mind is this is a state park and so the annual federal recreation pass most of us carry doesn't work so it's a flat $10 a day for day use and $20 if you intend to camp.  Nevada residents do get a small break.

There are two campgrounds in the park that offer RV and tent camping.  We arrived to find the dreaded Campground Full signs but after driving through anyway we found a site open at Arch Rock Campground.  We didn't waste much time setting out a sleeping bag and crawling in to bed.

Incidentally the somewhat harder to spell Atlatl Rock Campground is the nicer of the two.  In addition to the usual fire pits and restrooms there are showers and some hike in tent only campsites that get you away from the constant drum of RV generators.

Where we'd ended up in Arch Rock we were dead in the middle of camp surrounded by said RVs.  Not ideal but fortunately people started leaving Friday morning and so we were able to grab a much nicer site off to the side tucked into the rocks.

After a leisurely morning we headed out dropping by the rather impressive visitors center before continuing on to start with White Dome and work our way back south.

White Dome is at the end of the main road spur that turns off to the north at the visitors center.  It seemed to be a popular spot to dayhike with some well marked well trodden trails but while we were there very few people were scrambling up to the top.

And I'd guess this is why.  It's the only real challenging bit and involves a bit of a chimney then pushing off and climbing up the rock to the right where a single foot jam & mantling move required.

From there it's a stroll to the top where you can take spectacular pictures and wave down at the horrified families walking the trail below.

We could hear conversations from people walking below but otherwise we had the place to ourselves.  We explored some of the other sides (I'm always looking for loops instead of out and backs) and then settled in for a bit and just enjoyed the view.

Finally deciding to get moving again we found a bit of a bottleneck in the chimney.

I ended up sticking around for a bit and helping a few groups get up and one slightly panicking person get down while Anne waited patiently below.

While we'd been up top the parking spaces had all been taken and now cars were stretched far back down the road with people everywhere.  Since we were already there we decided to take a quick walk around the loop trail that seemed to be getting the most traffic.

It was a quick hike and pleasant enough.  According to one sign several movies were filmed back there including Star Trek Generations.  Yes, the Star Trek movie that gave us the beloved dropped a bridge on him trope

We'd ended up doinking around for most of the day at this point but I really wanted to hit at least one more thing before we headed back for camp.  Limiting ourselves to named bumps (more likely to be on Peakbagger you understand) we debated doing either Silica Dome or Gibraltar Rock and settled on the latter since it was the furthest along the road to White Dome.

Gibraltar Rock is somewhat less than impressive and is located rather close to the road.  This made us assume it would be rather short and so we went in light.

I saw two promising options for getting up one being a rather prominent canyon and the other being at the end of the ridge.  We took the latter.

This worked for a time but we ended up having to drop back down once or twice which made for some fun scrambling.  At one point I was pretty sure we'd cliffed out and wouldn't be able to reach the high point.

Just about then I came across a slabby bit that required a short bit of slightly exposed climbing to get up.

We made it up to the somewhat unremarkable top and once again enjoyed a spectacular view before heading down.

This time we used the prominent gully and it went a lot smoother.  (So if you're reading this take the southern route on the GPS track.)

Inadvertently we parked at a dirt pullout along the road instead of the signed Scenic Vista #3.  I recalled hearing a short siren behind us just as we reached Gibraltar and it appears it might have been for us as we came back to a written warning that we were parked illegally.  Oops!

Chastened we drove back to the visitors center and with a little daylight remaining drove out to the far park entrance stopping briefly at the Cabins and Seven Sisters sites marked on the official park map.  Neither looked overly interesting outside of something for families with kids to run around.

Camping was pleasant, much more so at our new site that our original middle camp, but we did unfortunately have a few RVs that ran their generators right up to the 10 pm curfew.

We cooked dinner sat up around the campfire until about 11 pm and.  Tomorrow we were planning to head for a rather interesting looking high point called Valley of Fire Peak.

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