Everything you need to know about getting to the elusive Fire Wave near Las Vegas, Nevada. A destination for hikers, photographers and desert-lovers.
The famous Fire Wave of Nevada has intrigued and tormented me for quite some time. Its image appears on the covers of Nevada Tourism brochures and dozens of photography websites. While pictures of the Fire Wave are everywhere, there is almost no information about how to get to it. I had tried before but was unsuccessful. This time, with some helpful directions from the rangers at Valley of Fire State Park, I was able to make it.
The Fire Wave has only recently been made more accessible by the rangers. In the past they have given only vague directions to its location which has been purposeful; they would rather not see people getting lost in the desert trying to look for one particular rock. However they provide more clear directions to the wave these days to keep the human impact minimum. There exists a faint route marked only by two signs.
Once again I'm able to break new ground on outdoor internet guides! This should hopefully help you to visit the famous and elusive Fire Wave of Nevada.
disclosing information about the wave's location, I would like to mention that this is a site that has been kept in hiding for a long time. It used to be quite the adventure to find it but in an effort to reduce impact, there is one trail for hikers. I'm a little conflicted about revealing its location because I would hope that it would remain a clean and unrestricted hike. I trust that you will be respectful of this location's uniqueness and make sure to leave no trace.
|Nevada's Fire Wave|
Fire Wave Hike
|The Fire Wave at Sunset|
The Fire Wave is located in Valley of Fire State Park
, Nevada which is 50 miles from Las Vegas. It is a popular and easily accessible park with a 10 dollar charge. There is a visitor center which can help familiarize you with the park's sights and roads.
The hike to the Fire Wave is neither far nor difficult. Its about a mile roundtrip hike with a light amount of elevation gain/loss. There is a small route which is usually marked by footprints but can become ambiguous as you approach the Wave. It is smaller and somewhat indiscernible until you are literally on top of it so you might be doing a little bit of searching before you find it. Fortunately there are a few landmarks that make the place slightly easier to find.
Fire Wave Hiking Map, Valley of Fire, Nevada
is a little map to help you out. The road is the Mouse's Tank Road which heads North from the Visitors Center. It is roughly 4.3 miles from the Visitors Center to a turnout where you can access the wave. This is the third turnout on the road and there is a simple sign which just says "wave".
The total hike is about 1 mile round trip and takes about a half an hour. You know you have gone too far if you hit the wash south of the Fire Wave. Here are a couple of pictures which should make it more clear.
|Hike South along the road until you see this sign|
|The footpath can be somewhat ambiguous at times.|
|Eventually you will hit a large section of smooth, sloped rocks. This will take you to the wave. You can see it just barely in the center of the picture.|
|This is it from a different angle. It can be very easy to miss.|
GPS Coordinates for the Fire Wave
N 36 28' 58.0"
W 114 31' 20.6"
Photography Notes for the Fire Wave
Photography of the Fire Wave is perhaps the main reason why so many people want to hike to it. A full spectrum of desert colors can be seen from this location which allows for some brilliant shots. I'm not an expert on photography; mostly I just get lucky with my lil' point and shoot. However, I'll just provide some notes on what First of all, the Fire Wave is smaller than most pictures make it out to be. The whole thing is less than 40 ft long and it dips into a bowl shaped area. It runs in a North-South direction and most of the pictures of it are facing south to highlight its colorful striations.
Different times of the day offer diverse opportunities for photography. We first visited the wave in the mid-morning which was not ideal but make for some interesting shots. The midday winter sun illuminated the striated rocks below the wave. I also wished I was there in the early morning to photograph the east-facing side of the wave.
|Just below the Fire Wave |
|On the hike out... not sure why, but I liked this one.|
Sunset photography of the Fire Wave was slightly more difficult than anticipated- perhaps due to the low setting winter sun. Sometime 1-2 hours before sunset probably would have been perfect. There's a bowl just in front of the wave which is where most of the best pictures are a taken. Hopefully the first couple of pictures will show you what to expect. If I had any real background in photography, a D-SLR and photoshop, I'm sure I could spruce up these photos more. At any rate, it was fun to play with perspective.
|Fire Wave at sunset, looking towards the bowl|
Hopefully this will give you good directions on you adventure to the Fire Wave! I am surprised that this place is as open and accessible as it is. It bears such striking resemblance to The Wave
of Arizona which is one of the most strictly regulated hikes in the country. I would not bet on this place being unrestricted for long. The rangers told me that this is quickly becoming a destination for buses and Southwestern tour companies. I would highly
advise you to minimize
your impact on the land and hike as little as you can in the surrounding areas. Leave no trace
practices are capital in a place such as this. Enjoy the wave, take many pictures and leave it beautiful for the next hikers.
Read. Plan. Get Out There!