The Prospect Trail in Valley of Fire State Park spans much of the park from near the West entrance to the White Domes Loop at the end of the Mouse’s Tank Scenic Drive. Not only does it span much of the park, but it also offers one of the widest variety of rock formations and colors seen on any other trail in the park from the 200 million-year-old red Azetc sandstone formations also seen on Pinnacles Loop, Fire Canyon, Mouse’s Tank Trail the Bee Hives and Atlatl Rock to the white sandstone formations seen in locations such as White Domes and Silica Dome to the variety of colors seen on the Rainbow Vista Trail to the red and white striped display seen on Fire Wave Loop. It’s all to be seen along Prospect Trail. In addition, the trail rises to a high point with a spectacular vista both to the North and to the South.
The total distance of the trail is in question since the sign at the West trailhead says it’s 4.6 miles while the sign at the East end at White Domes Loop says it’s 5.5 miles. I highly recommend this amazing trail!
There is a trailhead at the South and at the North end of Prospect Trail. The South trailhead is on the scenic drive beyond the West entrance of Valley of Fire State Park just past the Atlatl Rock and Arch Rock turnoff. Look carefully because it’s easy to miss as there are no road signs–just a small gravel parking lot with a very small sign at the entrance of the trail, very hard to read from the road. At the other end of Prospect Trail the sign is even more obscure, tucked away at the back of the White Domes Loop, which is itself at the very end of the Mouse’s Tank Scenic Drive. So, you really need to know where the trailheads are before you get to them.
I like to use the South Prospect trailhead near the West entrance of Valley of Fire State Park because this makes it possible to take in both the Prospect Trail and White Domes Loop in one adventure without retracing your steps. Parking at the South end is pretty ample for the number of people on the trail at any given time, but you might try to arrive in the morning. From the trailhead you’ll start up a well graded gravel road. For a point of reference in the distance, you’ll see a like of red rock formations to your right and a brown hill system to your left. Between the two there is a pass. Head for that pass.
When the initial gravel road turns to the right in about 1/4th mile past the trailhead, leave the road and continue straight. There’s a small trail marker at that point. Continue heading for the pass between the red and brown hills. For the next mile you’re on the remains of an old washed out dirt road that rises up to the pass. I estimate it’s between a 300 and 500ft elevation gain from the trailhead to the pass, relatively gentle incline.
As you enter the pass you begin moving through some beautiful red rock formations. At the summit of the pass you can see spectacular views of Valley of Fire State Park, all the way to Fire Canyon to the Northwest and back to Atlatl Rock, Arch Rock and the Bee Hives to the Southeast.
Beyond the pass, the trail begins to descend, weaving around until entering the canyon wash that leads to the White Domes area. At first the rocks on the right are primarily red and the ones to the left primarily white. However, the closer you get to White Domes Loop many of the rocks begin to take on a red and white striped effect. The trail is fairly well marked, so between the distinctness of the canyon and the presence of trail markers it’s pretty easy to stay on track.
Even though you will end up lowering yourself down some rock formations along the way, the rock formations are just a few feet high and it’s relatively easy to find natural steps. I was glad to have hiking poles for stability, but the trail would not have been measurably more difficult without them.
The end of the trail is well marked as you enter onto White Domes Loop, so you’ll know when you have arrived. Take a left and circle around White Domes Loop in a counterclockwise direction. Upon completing the loop it’s easy to locate the Prospect Trail again. It will come shortly after exiting the slot canyon on the loop.
I’ll admit that finding my way back along the Prospect Trail to the South trailhead where I began required remembering some of the twists and turns, and recognizing my shoe prints in the sand for assurance I was on course. But I stayed on course all the way back to the South trailhead without ever straying from the trail. The only directional problem is that the canyon splits off a number of times so you need to be alert to stay on course. Also, there is a place mid-way where you ascend above the canyon to bypass a drop-off, and there’s the place where you ascend out of the canyon and back up to the Prospect Trail pass. Alertness, memory and trail markers at these points will help, but the trail markers could be missed if you’re not watching.