Natural Arch Trail in Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada is really an amazing journey through the Eastern end of Fire Canyon. Fire Canyon itself is surrounded by walls of beautiful red rock modeled into thousands of unique and wonderful shapes that flood your awareness and inspire your imagination. There are numerous natural arches and balancing rocks throughout the canyon all the way to the Silica Dome area and out the Western end of Fire Canyon. However, these features can also be found on Pinnacles Loop Trail, Prospect Trail, across the highway from Elephant Rock Loop and in the main offshoots from Fire Canyon ending at Mouse’s Tank Trail, Rainbow Vista Trail and Silica Dome. The entire area is well worth a deeper excursion to view weird and fantastic red and white rock formations.
One important note about Fire Canyon is that you’re walking in the deepest sand you’ve probably ever encountered. It’s beautiful red sand from the surrounding red rocks, but just imagine the deepest sand you can recall and multiply that by 2. That’s the experience of exploring Fire Canyon, the Eastern portion of which is the Natural Arches Trail!
You might miss the Natural Arches Trailhead in Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada if you have not previously viewed its location on the park map. This is because all the longer trails in Valley of Fire State Park have no road sign markers. They are marked only by small signs at the trailhead. These include Pinnacles Loop Trail, Prospect Trail, Charlies Spring Trail, Old Arrowhead Trail and Natural Arches Trail.
If you’re traveling East on the main highway and approaching the Eastern entrance of Valley of Fire State Park, the trailhead is an unmarked unpaved area on your left just before you reach Elephant Rock Loop. Once you park there, you’ll see a small trailhead sign pointing to Charlie’s Spring Trail going South and Natural Arches Trail going North.
Natural Arches Trail in Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada begins by following the pointer on the trailhead sign and heading left up the same canyon wash as Charlie’s Spring Trail, but in the opposite direction. At first the way is confusing as you’re traveling through a brushy desert area, but keep the maintenance area odds and ends to your left as you continue up the canyon. After less than 1/4 mile, a sandy canyon channel will become apparent. From this point onward, just stay in this deep sandy channel and you’re on track for the rest of the trip. As the trailhead sign says, there is no definite end to the Natural Arches Trail. In fact, the sandy channel will take you all the way past the Mouse’s Tank, Rainbow Vista and Silica Dome area, all the way through the entire length of Fire Canyon and out the Western end of Valley of Fire State Park if you want to go that far.
As you continue traveling up the sandy channel of Eastern Fire Canyon, the red rock canyon walls rise up on either side and the amazing rock formations increase. My favorite is what I call the Sentinel Rock, a piller on the right side of the sandy channel that looks as though it’s standing guard to Fire Canyon (pictured in the slide show above). Moving along, there is a rather tight squeeze through a miniature slot canyon with beautiful red rock walls (also pictured in the slide show) and pretty much the best chunk of wafer rock I’ve seen anywhere. You can imagine this being a section of the bottom of an ancient river or lake that received a new layer each year there was a flood, over hundreds of years. You can see each individual layer (also pictured in the slide show). You will pass many pinnacles, balancing rocks, miniature arches, collapsed arches, Swiss cheese rock walls and countless other incredible rock formation beyond imagination.
Near the point where Silica Dome came into view a family of bighorn sheep crossed the canyon right in front of me: A ram, a ewe and a lamb. They lingered on a high rock for a while, then disappeared into the canyon. I did not have time to get a good picture or video, but the magical moment remains in my memory.
All the while you are wading through very deep sand and emptying out your shoes often. In fact, I thought of traveling barefoot as the sand is very clean and smooth most of the time. Perhaps a good pair of rugged sports sandals would be the appropriate footwear for this trip.
At a high point in the canyon, the distinctive Silica Dome will appear in the distance. Anywhere after this point you may consider turning around because you’re as a mid-point in Fire Canyon. But if you haven’t traveled the Western end of Fire Canyon, you’ll want to either continue or return and head over to Mouses Tank Trail or Rainbow Vista Trail and descend into the canyon, then continue heading West to Silica Dome and beyond. The Western portion of Fire Canyon, in my thinking, along with the entrance shoots from the Mouse’s Tank and Rainbow Vista areas have even more incredible rock formations of every kind.