An hour’s drive – 50 miles northeast – from Las Vegas, the otherworldly Valley of Fire State Park comprises 40,000 acres of Aztec sandstone rock formations rising from and contrasting against gray and tan limestone beds. The park is also notable for its innumerable petroglyphs, some dating back more than 2,000 years, and serving as evidence that humans have long lived in the region.
While the petroglyphs were admittedly a harder sell with our two children, the rocks were certainly not. Both our 4-year-old and 8-year-old were eager to scale and climb their way to the tops of the dramatic rock formations, solving the jigsaw puzzle that Mother Nature was posing before them. We explored both the 3/4-mile Mouse’s Tank trail and White Domes area and found them to be easy for little legs and also fun for grownups.
The highlight of our visit though was spotting a group of bighorn sheep just as we were entering the park. Is there any greater thrill for children (and even some adults) than seeing animals in the wild? We watched the sheep graze and nonchalantly hop atop and down from rocks. Along with the sheep, roadrunners, coyotes, kit fox, jackrabbits and the rare desert tortoise all call this desert terrain home.
For younger children especially, the park’s dramatic landscape is a great introduction to outdoorsy exploration, a perfect stepping stone to maybe making your way to the Grand Canyon eventually.
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