Location: Valley of Fire State Park, Entry Fee
GPS Coordinates: 36.441129, -114.516550
Distance: 5 miles
Parking: Park at Mouse Tank Trailhead
Trail Type: Sand, Gravel, Bouldering, Dogs Allowed on Leash
When we are on vacation, we like to sneak away and go hiking as often as possible. This last weekend we spent some time in Vegas for, you guessed it, BMX... The trade off was an extra day in the desert exploring the sandstone canyons in Valley of Fire State Park. This hike is rated intermediate to advanced as it requires some scrambling/bouldering in a few spots that can get technical depending on your preference to climb down giant rocks and ravines. We chose to start at Mouse Tank trailhead, and worked our way to Silica Dome. Unfortunately we ran out of time to fully finish the hike to Silica Dome, which would bring this route to a total of 6.8 miles according to the posting at the Hiking Project, where we learned of the hike.
This hike begins at the Mouse Trap trailhead, also known as Petroglyph Trail, located in the Valley of Fire State Park in Moapa Valley, NV. The footing is largely sand, though there are some areas of gravel, and the afore mentioned boulders.
Along the initial part of the hike there are quote a few petroglyphs that you can easily see from the trail. There is a translation display at the beginning of the hike that you can use to interpret your finds!
Once you pass the area that is full of petroglphys, the landscape opens up to beautiful sandstone filled vistas.
After a short hike you'll encounter Mouse Tank, a sandstone formation that fills with water during rainfalls and stays for months. Further in the hike you'll be able to see the water seeping out the back side of the rock.
From here you'll start working your way deeper into the canyon following the wash to help guide you. We started out early and pretty soon ran into our first big horn sheep! Even though we live in the PNW and have gone to areas where these guys are known to congregate, I've never seen one in person. We were pretty excited.
Much further along the hike we encountered our second sheep, who was less than impressed at our presence. We managed to somehow get in between him and his route across the road. Even though we were quite a distance away, he ran over to chase us off from his preferred route. Nothing like getting a showy charge from a big horn sheep to make sure you're paying attention!
We stopped a bit short of our final destination as we were running low on time for the return trip, so didn't make it to the base of Silica Dome but found a nice spot to rest and take in the views. If you complete the 6.8 mile hike you'll be able to walk almost all the way around the dome.
The return trip was filled with the same gorgeous views of ancient rock formations, carved by millions of years of erosion. The landscape in the Southwest is so different from home, every turn is a fascinating discovery. Retrace your steps to return to the mouse tank trailhead to complete the hike.