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We arrived at the Valley of Fire’s south rim late morning. An hour northeast of Las Vegas in the Mojave Desert, the terrain turned abruptly into deep red sandstone hills. This red rock beauty is Nevada's oldest state park.

The sun was already out in full force and the air got hotter by the minute. Summer heat easily tops 100 degrees, and can reach 120. Desert critters were nowhere to be seen, having long ago sought shelter in the cool shade. It was as quiet as could be, and we were enveloped by the valley’s dunes and fiery sandstone — not to mention the heat.

The symbolic Elephant Rock, a sign of welcome to the valley, was the first rock we saw. After lunch and plenty of water, our exploration began. The trail took us through fascinating rock formations and ancient Native American petroglyphs. Colors grew more intense as the afternoon wore on.

Open year-round, Valley of Fire State Park comes with several campgrounds equipped with restrooms, showers, tables and grills. The Visitor Center features exhibits on the ecosystem and history of the region. The entrance fee is $6.00 per vehicle per day, camping fee is $14.00 per night per vehicle and group use fee is $80.00 per day.

Park contact information: 702-397-2088.

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