In Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada, there are relatively few designated trails. However, there are also very few restrictions on where you can hike.
Today, with some hints and tips we picked up online, we took on the challenge of creating our own two-mile loop through some of the most colorful rocks you will see anywhere.
This morning started with a Bighorn ram walking right by our campsite here at the Atlatl Rock Campground in Valley of Fire State Park.
It wasn't the fantastic encounter we had a couple of days ago - Day With Bighorn Sheep - but this one was closer to our campsite than any so far.
That was a great start to a great day. After a few days of 100-degree heat, today's temperatures were only supposed to reach the low 80s.
Eventually, we set out to attempt a loop hike not designated on the park maps.
We drove out the White Domes Road (aka Mouse's Tank Road) and on the way, we encountered a dozen Bighorn ewes with their growing lambs.
They paid us little attention as they foraged along the road, and we were able to get pretty close.
Eventually, they all got on the same side of the road and started climbing up the rocks where they posed for us a bit.
After spending time with the ewes and their offspring, we continued on to Parking Area 3, which is the same parking area for the Fire Wave Trail that we did a few days ago.
But today, instead of crossing the road to that trailhead, we took some photos of the gorgeous landscape ....
And then we entered the wash located at the right side of the lower parking area (on the right in the photo below).
I had read about a hike following a wash down that eventually intersected the road and we could cross the road and continue through what is known as Pastel Canyon or Pink Canyon and then continue to follow the wash to an area just below the Fire Wave.
We could then hike up to the Fire Wave and follow that trail back to the parking lot to complete a nice two-mile loop.
So, that was the plan. But the first part wouldn't be on a designated or maintained trail. We would just follow any of the washes heading south down to a larger wash that would bear left (east) toward the road.
Immediately in the wash, we got a taste of the colors we would enjoy all morning - various shades of red, pink, yellow, orange, brown, and gray.
And we soon came upon the first snake we've seen in the park. I'm pretty sure it was a Red Racer (aka Coachwhip).
That was the best look I got, as it turned and was gone in a flash.
Of course, with views like this, we quickly forgot about the snake.
We simply followed a "use" trail along and through the wash until we came to an area where trails went in different directions. Linda chose going up and over some low slickrock, and then we dropped into another wash.
There are several washes that bear south and they eventually end up connecting to a larger east-west wash that runs between the White Domes Loop Trail and the road. So, as long as you have a decent sense of direction, it doesn't really matter which wash (or washes) you follow.
We came to a pink & yellow rock canyon.
It looked like there might be a little scrambling involved, but it wasn't too bad. It was a lightly traveled wash, and we saw no other people and very few footprints. We enjoyed the colorful rocks along the way.
Pink swirled rocks as the wash flattened out and we continued.
Now the path we chose had a lot of prickly vegetation, so we endured a few scratches on our legs as we made our way through and around the bushes. That's the price of taking trails that aren't maintained.
We squeezed through the rocks for one more little scramble ....
After that scramble, we went around a stand of Desert Willows and joined the wider east-west wash.
We continued east through the bigger wash ....
eventually coming to the park road where we crossed and continued in the wash on the other side.
Between Rainbow Vista and the Parking Area 3, there are five dips in the road where washes cross. These washes are commonly known by their number, and this being the last wash before Parking Area 3, it is called Wash #5 and there is a sign indicating that.
This next photo was taken very shortly after crossing the road.
And shortly after that, we came to this short section that was one of our favorites in the whole park.
The colors, the layers, the smooth shaping of the rocks - it was just stunning. Here is another view looking back as Linda stepped through.
And immediately after that, we stepped into the low-walled slot which is known as "pastel canyon" or "pink canyon".
It's not very long, but it's pretty cool. At the end of the canyon ....
Linda suggested we step out of the wash and climb up on the slickrock to the right to get a view of the two sections we just completed from above. It turned out to be an excellent suggestion.
We sat up there for quite a while, taking a rest, having a snack, and enjoying the breathtaking views.
Here's a little zoom of our favorite section.
It's hard to believe that this gorgeous spot is not listed on any of the park maps. But I suppose that's good for those of us willing to dig a little deeper and be rewarded with such natural beauty without the crowds.
Here is a view of the slot canyon from above.
From our vantage point, we could see people gathered at the Fire Wave (just out of the picture in the upper right of the photo above) which we would be passing shortly.
After several minutes of having our spot to ourselves, we descended back down into the wash and continued on.
After a fairly short distance, maybe a quarter of a mile, we exited the wash on our left, and climbed up toward the area of the Fire Wave.
There were a few different places we could have exited the wash as indicated by various "use" trails, but we selected one of the first we came to.
By the time we arrived at the Fire Wave, the people we had seen from a distance had vacated, and we had it to ourselves for a few minutes.
Having completed the out-and-back Fire Wave Trail a couple of days prior, we didn't stay long this time. But as we arrived later in the day this time and the lighting was different, I still took more photos of this iconic area of Valley of Fire.
We returned toward the parking area along the Fire Wave Trail ....
going around the left side of the large rock formation on the left in the above photo. Making that turn, we were treated to this view.
From there, it was a short, uphill walk to the parking lot.
Though we made up over half of today's hike, we have to say it was probably our best hike thus far in Valley of Fire.
Though we didn't mark GPS waypoints for the hike, I did put together a rough map of this approximately two-mile trek.
Points 2 - 22 on the above map are not on the official maps of Valley of Fire, so if you attempt to follow this map, you do so at your own risk. Have proper shoes, plenty of water, and a compass, GPS, or good sense of direction, and know your own physical limitations.
It's a fun way to experience amazing beauty without crowds and without having to backtrack. Again, it's hard to believe that this loop (or a better version) is not an official trail, but that benefits those that are a little bit adventurous.