Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

Valley of Fire conjures up images of fiery-red rocks contrasting with deep blue sky.  As we entered the Nevada State Park, we were met with exactly that. In some ways, the contrast of red rock to the mountains around was akin to the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Arch Rock, early in the afternoon, one can imagine how this could light up with the golden hour. [iPhone photo by Kathryn]

Into the heart of the park we drove with only a few hours to explore. The sandstone colors varied from pinks, to yellows, to reds and purples. The colors were sure to deepen as the golden hour approached. The hot topic of debate, between Jeff and I, was which trail to tackle:

  1. White dome
  2. Rainbow Vista 
  3. Fire Wave

The Fire Wave Trail

Fire wave was rated third. Since the trail description mentioned the area being almost as nice as the real Wave in North Coyotte Buttes (without a lottery for an access permit), we just had to see it. 

Colored striations reminiscent of “The Wave”, if only the light were better. [Photograph by Kathryn]

It was definitely not the wave, but worth a return visit in the future when the light is better.

Rainbow Vista Trail

The afternoon light was fading so onto the chosen sunset location, Rainbow Vista Point. The trail writeup noted there was as a myriad of colors around every bend. The colors around the first bend were beautiful – the purples popped out of this yellow and orange slick rock. 

Soft light enhances the colors. [D850, f8, 1/640sec, ISO 320, photograph by Kathryn]

After a mile of trudging through deep sand with no more colors I was none too pleased. Reaching the final viewpoint was even more disappointing. The view was flat with only red for color. How could this be called “Rainbow Vista”?  I felt duped. Not only did I do all that walking with a tripod and heavy backpack of gear, I had nothing to show for it. By the time I hiked out and found another location, I would miss the golden hour.

Rainbow Vista Point – only iPhone worthy as I was too discouraged to dig out the real camera. [photo by Kathryn]

Final Location

It was too late to seek out an alternative shooting location for sunset, so we set up across from the Rainbow Vista Trailhead. Not a bad view, perhaps, sunset was salvageable. 

Not a bad vista to enjoy as we waited for sunset. [photo by Kathryn]

Clouds in the desert give photographs character. As the clouds began to gather, I got more excited for an explosion of color at sunset.

They gathered all right, and blocked the sun.

Gone were the fiery colors. Soft light muted the valley.  Pretty, yes, spectacular, well, what do you think?

The sun peaked out for a moment and lit up this section of rocks. [photo by Kathryn]

A beautiful range of muted pastels greeted the eyes in all directions.  [D850, f11, 1/20sec, ISO 80, photo by Kathryn]

The road through the valley heading towards White Dome. [photo by Kathryn]

Later, I learned that “Rainbow Vista” was actually at the start of the trailhead, exactly where we ended up shooting.

Remember, it’s all about the light – soft or on fire.


Kathryn and Jeff at Rainbow Vista (the real one). [Photograph by Kathryn]