Valley of Fire 2014 DPS Trip 1: Valley of Fire Peak

  • Updated: December 20, 2014
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

December 20th, 2014
Valley of Fire Peak (2,972')
[Pictures] [Map]

Valley of Fire is a Nevada State Park along the 15 north of Las Vegas.  After finally exploring the area during the 2012 Turktacular I'd always wanted to bring a group back here since so few people from the Sierra Club peakbagger crowd seem to know about it.

Neal and I were looking for a fun party trip to close out 2014 and it seemed like the perfect opportunity.  We led the trip through the Sierra Club Desert Peak Section despite this being off the list of peaks they climb and by the time the trip rolled around we had 15 people signed up.

All the campsites in the park are first come first serve.  Rather than risk not getting a site we found they have group sites that you can actually reserve for $25 a night.  Having stayed at both the group sites are far nicer since they're back by themselves and you're not listening to RV generators all night.

Unfortunately the rangers apparently forgot we were coming and the first vehicle arrived to find the gate to the group sites locked.  Fortunately they were early enough they were able to track down a ranger and get the gate unlocked.  I guess the computer system that holds the reservations wasn't available and we actually had to just promise we'd actually reserved those nights.

The last of us filtered in around 3 am with my own vehicle arrived about 1:30 am.  Yaay LA to Vegas traffic.

We had a long fun day ahead of us and got moving early despite the lack of sleep.  As I mentioned the group sites are all off by themselves and the above shot is from our site looking back towards the main road.

Today the goal was Valley of Fire Peak and unlike the 2012 trip where I descended the same way I came up we were going to try a loop which I'd found reports of others doing.  I was anticipating the morning going fairly smoothly since I'd been there before and knew a few interesting spots to hit along the way.  That's why you'll notice we didn't take the most direct route.

We started from the parking lot across from Mouse's Tank.  Most of the traffic was across the road and we got a few odd looks as we offloaded and got moving up the gully you see  in the background.

The terrain is rough with a lot of scrambling opportunities along with a fair number of cliffs and punishing vegetation.  There are tracks all over and occasional ducks but it basically seems like people go all over the place back there.

I believe that's Red Vista Point sticking up in the background
Red Vista Point marked on the topo is just a fun rock to scramble up which gives some nice views.

Silica Dome popping up in the background.  We planned to climb it the following day

We had a pretty capable group and so took advantage of all the fun 3rd class scrambling we could fine.  The rock is generally solid with a lot of features so it's hard not to have fun.

After Red Vista Point I was aiming for a small water tank you can see below.

From there we climbed up and over a pile of rocks with large alcoves (hence the waypoint name) and aimed for this spot.

It doesn't look overly promising at first from above but I'd a lot of scouting during the previous trip and didn't find anything else.  At the bottom there's this cool narrow slot.

It's narrow enough at places you have to take off packs and squeeze.

This brought us to the base of Valley of Fire Peak

Again I knew which ramps to use thanks to exploring a fair amount last time.  I still screwed up near the top trying to climb to the peak directly only to find it across a large crack you can't cross.  Hence why the track goes *almost* to the peak and then backtracks and swings to the south.

There's some small exposure in a few spots but the route is solid and fun.

Jen loses her head in excitement
The summit is huge and I've read they actually helicopter people up there for wedding and such.  There's even full on park benches.

Now came the hard part.  I'd tried to find a way down to the south when I was here in 2012 only to have to give up due to the time of day.

This time we had more people and could scatter to find ways around the varius impassible bits.  And those came up a lot.

The climbing got a little harder here with a whole lot of climbing over something to find a cliff.  We reached the same point I'd gotten to before and spread out.

The key to our descent.  Reached from the gully on the left
Eventually we found a way around with the most difficult part pictured above.  You have to drop off a rock into a deep brush choked gully to get over to it but once you do the route is more straightforward.

We called the part above the Tunnel of Love.  It was a tight squeeze and when we emerged at the top we briefly thought we'd cliffed again.

There are big drops off to the left.

We eventually found our way through.

Steve trying not to lose too much blood and tissue to a cats claw bush

Once down we just had to try and minimize the cats claw bushwhacking and aim for the road.

While the mileage and gain doesn't look like much it's a pretty long day due to all the scrambling and rough terrain.

A good chunk of us ran over to the campgrounds to shower before heading back to camp.  The Atlatl Rock Campground is the larger of the two first come first serve campgrounds and there are a number of showers with temporary parking out front.

Feeling a bit cleaner we all met back at the group site.  Fortunately I'd asked everyone to bring plenty of firewood so we had a nice fire to enjoy.

We had an easier second day planned where we'd be doing White Dome, Gibraltar Rock, and end on Silica Dome before driving home.  More can be found here.

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