Valley of Fire: the 7 wonders loop trail
The 7 Wonders loop trail is an unofficial trail located in the Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada.
Only 1 hour from Las Vegas, Valley of Fire is a small State Park very friendly and fast to discover during a stay in the American West. Valley of Fire's reputation is built on its astonishing heaps of reddish rocks emerging in the heart of an arid desert. Although invisible at first sight, these impressive rock formations are home to many geological wonders! With sculpted arches, colourful rocks, impressive strata and slots canyon, nature has something to amaze us here!
Among these little treasures, 7 can be discovered in this small and pleasant 4 km / 2.5 miles hike.
1Before starting the 7 Wonders loop trail
The hike starts at the Fire Wave parking lot in the north of the park, near White Dome. Fire Wave is the last wonder we will discover. Indeed, a recently marked trail leads directly from the car park. It is not yet printed on park maps (it will probably be soon) but it already attracts a lot of people.
A large number of travellers park in the car park and cross the road to directly reach Fire Wave by making a single round trip, without suspecting that other wonders are located on the other side of the car park. You might as well know that this one-way trip to Fire Wave is not very interesting in itself.
Few people know the 7 Wonders loop hike (even if the trail starts to be referenced) and even less so because the loop is not marked, except the part between Fire Wave and the car park. So if you're a lover of solo trekking (which we personally love in the American West) then this trek is for you!
As the trail is not mapped out and the wonders are sometimes a little hidden, you will have to prepare this hike beforehand and enter in your GPS all the coordinates that we will show you here. Some applications for smartphones and GPS maps (such as Mapbox or Galileo) indicate the trail (even if there is no real path), which allows you to navigate without too many difficulties. Attention, there is no GSM network in the park. You will then have to expect to climb some rocks on the course. Nothing very sporty but better to know in advance.
If you come in the summer, or during hot weather (temperatures often exceed 30°C in the Valley of Fire), start as soon as possible, ideally at sunrise where the colors are the most beautiful and the temperatures the most pleasant (except for Fire Wave which is better illuminated at sunset). Take a lot of water with you! The last kilometers before arriving at Fire Wave until the return to the car park are the hottest.
2From the car park to Kaolin Wash
From the car park, look south-east and search for a passageway behind the large rocky dome on the left. Pretty quickly you should identify footprints as the soil is slightly sandy.
Once the passage is found, just follow it. Now we have to find the wonders. For that the GPS is essential because you will have to search for the first 3 wonders unless you fall on it by chance. To locate them, point your GPS in their direction and get closer by paying attention to the topology of the terrain.
If you followed the right path you should easily find Fire Cave on your left. If you have followed a path that has turned higher by following flat rocks, you will have to go down a little to the right to reach Fire Cave (what we did).
Fire Cave is the first wonder. It is a superb sculpture shaped by erosion in a pastel-coloured rock. It is not very large but very aesthetic. In the morning it will be in the shade, but the absence of direct sunshine will not take away the charm of the discovery.
The second wonder is a small, easily accessible arch. It is located about 150 meters after Fire Cave, slightly higher on your right. Here the rocks start to tint with pretty pink streaks. Do not hesitate to discover the back arch for another original view.
Crazy Hill's colored rock is more difficult to find because it is located high up. We found it by chance while exploring the area. From the GPS track, it will be necessary to fork as soon as possible towards the rocky promontory that begins east of Thunderstorm arch.
The "crazy hill" is incredible! We would think that pots of paint poured out, tinting the rock white, yellow, orange, yellow and purple. The colours are surreal!
Walk on the rock to admire all its colors that an indirect sun will sublimate. Do not hesitate to venture around the area which is also very pretty.
From Cray Hill, go down again either on the left or opposite to find a path along the large rock face on your left. From here, the sand begins to be tinted with a sublime pale pink, revealing other pretty purplish strata along the small wash.
The wash will soon be cluttered with small thorny bushes. You can choose to climb over them and try to stay in the small wash or climb the rocks to look for a more unobstructed way in altitude. At times large stones will require some acrobatics to cross them.
The wash then leads to a crossroads with some shrubs. We have now reached Kaolin Wash which connects the road to the left and White Dome to the right.
3From Kaolin Wash to Pastel Canyon
From this point, you can decide to continue the loop by taking the Kaolin Wash eastward to join the road, or try to extend the ride by joining the White Dome slot, which allows you to combine the 7 Wonders loop with the most interesting part of the White Dome loop.
We recommend this small detour because it is to the west that Kaolin Wash is the most beautiful. From the fork it narrows to about one metre wide. It is not very high so we do not speak about slot canyon. At this point the rock is marbled with white and pinkish lines. The rocks are beautiful!
After the narrow passage, the Kaolin Wash widens and joins the White Dome trail. Continuing for about a hundred meters, we then enter the White Dome canyon slot. This canyon is quite nice because it has high walls, but I realize that we didn't think about taking pictures of the place (but we can see it in the video at the end of the article).
The rest of the trail leads to the White Dome parking lot, which will not interest us. You can then turn around at this point and turn back to the bifurcation following Kaolin Wash.
From the intersection, the Kaolin Wash widens, this time the path is very evident and passes through the sand. The portion is open air and can be quite warm.
The Kaolin Wash leads directly to the road. We'll leave him here to head northbound for Striped Rock.
Striped Rock (or Nike Rock)
The colourful Striped Rock is visible from the road, but parking is not allowed here. The only way to approach Striped Rock is to walk the loop of 7 wonders or walk along the road (which is much less fun).
Striped Rock is a rock famous for its orange mark reminiscent of the "swoosh", the famous comma of Nike that appears on its lower part of the rock, which also gave it the nickname "Nike Rock". The upper part is also tagged with 2 orange waves. What impresses is the clarity of the drawing on the rock!
To continue the hike you have to turn back on the road until you reach the entrance of Pastel Canyon which is in the extension of Kaolin Wash.
Pastel Canyon (or Pink Canyon)
Pastel Canyon, also called Pink Canyon, is a beautiful little canyon with an incredible light pink colour! To be discovered absolutely when the sun is not too high to see the pink reveal itself. Pastel Canyon is not very long but it is beautiful! We were really impressed by this pink hue and the resulting sand colour.
4Return by Fire Wave
Going up Pastel Canyon, the walls widen to leave a wider and dryer wash. The pink colors fade and the traditional pale yellow regains the landscape. We now have to go up the sandy wash for several hundred meters. This portion is unfortunately not the most pleasant because it is very exposed to heat.
You will have to fork to the left to climb a bit and join Fire Wave. The beautiful grooved rocks are only revealed at the last moment. Fire Wave is located below the passageway, where the rock forms the famous bowl that can be found in all the photos.
Fire Wave has become popular, so expect to join a much more touristic trail from this point. You may even have to wait your turn to take the picture!
Don't hesitate to walk around the rock formation which offers other beautiful red and white waves below on the right side of the rock. To enjoy Fire Wave, it's at sunset that you have to come, the rock facing west.
From Fire Wave the trail is marked to the car park. It will be necessary to go up slightly to join the road, crossing very dry areas and without vegetation. This is the part we least appreciated in this pleasant hike.
5The GXP track
- We suggest you download our GPX file of the 7 wonders loop trail.
This is not the record of the hike we made because we started the recording during the walk, so unfortunately our file is not complete. However, we have made this one which will give you the track of the main trail, knowing that you will have to move away from it a little to see the wonders when you pass near them, especially for Crazy Hill which is located high up, or Striped Rock where you have to walk a few dozen meters on the road.
6Our review of the 7 Wonders loop trail
In conclusion, I will say that this hike is really a must for Valley Of Fire. This is our best memory of the park, but to be done with a mild temperature and preferably at sunrise.
To give you an idea of what you will experience, here is our video that retraces this hike made on September 30, 2017. The video is in French with English subtitles (activate them if they do not appear at the beginning of the video).
We have set the difficulty level to 3 on 5 because of the heat that can be overwhelming and make the progress more exhausting. Apart from this aspect, the small passages to climb are not difficult. The timing varies according to the time spent exploring and photographing the area.
Remember to take a plenty of water with you so that you don't run dry before the arrival. The hike can be done without any problems with children, making them aware of the presence of snakes (as everywhere in the west).