Stripes are something you don’t see too often in nature (unless you live near a bunch of zebras), and the stripes at Fire Wave really stand out. In this isolated area of Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada, the slickrock has interchanging streaks of beige and red-orange colored sandstone. Fire Wave has a bowl-shaped depression with a couple rising points covered with wavy lines. If you weren’t allowed to walk right across Fire Wave, you might think the stripes were painted. See the magic for yourself on Fire Wave Trail, which is 1.5 miles round trip with 175 feet of elevation change.
Fire Wave Trail is a newer trail in Valley of Fire State Park that does not appear on some park maps. Begin from Parking Lot #3, the final parking area on White Does Road before it ends by White Domes Trail. Cross the road from the parking area to the signed start Fire Wave Trail and head northeast down a sandy slope.
The trail aims toward a long steep ridge of red sandstone. As you approach a depression in front of the cliffs, the trail curves to the right. Here the sand gets more packed and the traveling is easier. Hike south along the side of this tall formation, keeping a slope up to White Domes Road on your right. The trail curves to the left around the end of the formation, which has a tall block of stone called Gibraltar Rock that leans out from the rest of the ridge, rising to just over 2,170 feet.
Drop through some small boulders and approach a slickrock formation running to the southeast. Subtle lines are visible in the rock that become much more prevalent when you reach Fire Wave. Follow markers and curve right alongside the striped slickrock, 0.35 miles from the start.
Descend along the side of the slickrock, eventually passing a small area of rounded knobs striped in vivid colors. This little formation offers an appetizer of the stripes to come. Look back up the trail toward the cliffs on the ridge you walked around.
After half a mile of hiking (total), the trail makes a sudden left and goes across a cut eroded into the slickrock. Go a short distance down this tiny ravine to a trail marker pointing to the right. Follow it and begin hiking up a slope on the slickrock itself.
Go over a crest and hike along markers leading downhill to Fire Wave. For just a moment, you might start to wonder where Fire Wave is, and then you’ll see it, a carved-out area at the southwest end of the rock formation you are on.
Walk down to the wave, reaching this incredible natural attraction, 0.75 miles from the start. Walk across the bowl covered in orange and white stripes. On the west side, you’ll find an area where the rock drops away like it has been scooped out – showing some of the area’s best stripes. On the far side of the striped depression, a crest rises in the shape of a wave. Go up one of the rock islands in Fire Wave and take in your surroundings. You’ll certainly want to linger in this place of rare beauty.
If you go down the south side of Fire Wave, you’ll hit the side of Kaolin Wash, which runs from west to east. Though not showing any waves, the rock formations on the other side of the wash are striped too. You can also look west toward the White Domes Area where the earth is colored in whites, pinks, and reds.
Fire Wave Trail closes between sunset and sunrise, so eventually you’ll have to hike back the way you came. Looking up the slope you took down to Fire Wave, you’ll see something puzzling in the slickrock. The stripes in the rock seem to overlap each other, adding another fascinating element of this far-out landscape.
Valley of Fire State Park charges an entrance fee but no permit is needed to hike Fire Wave Trail. Dogs are allowed on leashes. Stay on the well-marked trail to help preserve the surrounding landscapes. Should you need to immediately share a selfie from Fire Wave, the parking area at the start of the trail has good cell phone coverage.
To get to the trailhead: From Las Vegas, take Interstate 15 north for about 35 miles to exit 75 (signs for Valley of Fire State Park and Lake Mead National Recreation Area). At the end of the offramp, go southeast on Valley of Fire Highway. Reach the park’s west entrance after 14.5 miles. Drive another 3.5 miles and turn left, following a sign for the visitor center and Mouse’s Tank. Go a tenth of a mile and bear left to stay on White Domes Road, bypassing the visitor center. Drive another 3.7 miles to Parking Lot #3, which is on the left across from the start of the trail (2.9 miles past Rainbow Vista Trailhead).
Arriving from the east, from the intersection of Route 169 and 167 near Lake Mead, drive west on Valley of Fire Highway for two miles to the park’s east entrance. Drive another 3.3 miles to the intersection by the start of White Domes Road, turn right and take this road for 4.8 miles to Parking Lot #3.
Trailhead address: White Domes Road (Mouse’s Tank Road), Valley of Fire State Park, Overton, NV 89040
Trailhead coordinates: 36.4882, -114.52875 (36° 29′ 17.51″N 114° 31′ 43.50″W)
You may also view a regional map of surrounding Nevada trails and campgrounds.
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