My husband and I celebrated Veteran’s Day weekend (November 2012) camping in our tiny trailer at the Valley of Fire. We stayed three days and two nights in the park’s one of two campgrounds, Atlatl Rock Campground. We had never visited this park, let alone camped here. Our stay was more than fulfilling; it was very inspiring with a breathtaking landscape! We gave the overall experience a score of 3 out of 4 tires!
Background on the Park
The Valley of Fire is Nevada’s oldest and largest state park. It is situated in Overton, Nevada and butts up to the northern portion of Lake Mead National Recreation Area. The park is about 50 miles northeast of the Las Vegas Valley. The best times to visit the park are the fall and spring seasons. Summer’s scorching temperatures of 120 degrees Fahrenheit can be deathly overbearing.
There is plenty to do and see in the Valley of Fire. The park has a number of trails that display the park’s unique geology, most notably sandstone. Uncanny rock formations display the miracles of nature and weathering. Petrified wood peeks up from the ground and symbols of past human existence are evident in the many Petroglyphs found on rock walls. The park has an extensive history of its own and is thoroughly showcased in the Visitor’s Center.
Visitors to the park can explore on their own or take part in guided trail tours and other interactive events offered monthly by the staff. Many enjoy camping, picnicking, horseback riding, or simply taking a leisurely drive through the mountains. The park is extremely dog-friendly, but requires pets to always be on a leash. Valley of Fire is a photographer’s haven. Many weddings are held here, as well (an estimated 100 weddings a month).
Atlatl Rock Campground Location
Both campgrounds, Atlatl Rock and Arch Rock, are nestled side-by-side amongst sandstone rock formations. They are located in the southwest corner of the park, about 1.5 miles from the west entrance. Many of Valley of Fire’s key features are within walking distance of both campgrounds. They include natural rock formations entitled the “Piano,” “Beehives,” and “Natural Arch.” Petroglyphs are found on the walls of Atlatl Rock after climbing up the winding staircase. A petrified log trail is just across the street from the campgrounds too. A short drive or relaxing bike ride takes you down the road to the Visitor’s Center and more trail and historic marker exploration.
Arch Rock is considered the more primitive campground because it does not have as many amenities as Atlatl Rock. It lacks RV hook-ups (electric and water), super private showers (single shower rooms as opposed to several shower stalls in one room), and a trailer dump station. Not all the campsites at Atlatl Rock accommodate RVs. Only about 15 sites are designated specifically for trailers and other motor homes.
Combined, the campgrounds have a total of 72 campsites. Camping units are spread out about 5-10 yards and separated by rock formations or plant life, providing a decent amount of privacy. Both campgrounds are equipped with patio tables, fire pits and/or grills, and water.
An interesting tidbit, from a park ranger, about the showers at Atlatl Rock campground: there are showers located in both the RV section and general section. A camper must pay to use the showers in the RV section using quarters. On top of that, the hot water is not hot, especially in the cooler seasons. The showers in the general campground area are free and have hot showers. It’s mind boggling but definitely a “no brainer”!
Despite the fact that there is no dog run or doggy poop bags accessible, the park is very pet-friendly. Two key rules include keeping your pooch on a leash at all times and cleaning up messes. Other than that, your best friend is allowed anywhere in the park, save buildings like the Visitor’s Center.
The campground/entrance payment portion of the trip can be confusing. There is a camp host present at the campground, but they are not responsible for collecting payment. Instead, payment is made by inserting your amount into a lock box at the entrance of the camp to be collected by a park ranger the following day.
Payments are also specific to your campsite. If you are staying in a general unit (no RV hook-ups) your payment is $10 a night. If you are staying in an RV unit, the charge increases with the utilities and is $20. Aside from this charge, you must make sure to add the park’s entrance fee ($10 or $8 if you live in Nevada) to each night you are staying.
There are no reservations; every site is “first come, first serve.” There are exceptions to the rule if a group wants to reserve a site or two. Check-in times are not specified but 2:00 in the afternoon is a park ranger approved check out time.
The campground was immaculate! We were amazed at the cleanliness of the public restrooms and showers. Trash was nowhere to be found on the landscape, let alone the entire park in general. All of the trails we went on were litter free.
The campsite fire pits were squeaky clean down to the bottom, completely free of ashes and other debris. We figured it was for the safety of the park and inhabitants. Trash cans were placed throughout the campground and disposed of regularly, so no unsightly, lingering smells.
Our first stop was the west entrance of the park where we were greeted by a park ranger. He handed us a brochure and map of the park and informed us about special events that would be taking place that weekend, everything from a marshmallow roast to guided trail tours.
We ended up overpaying for our campsite and after consulting with the friendly camp hostess, we wrote a note to the park ranger explaining our dilemma and shot it into the lock box. Sure enough, the following day, a park ranger stopped by our campsite and refunded the money.
We attended all of the activities for the weekend (one a day) and were immersed with facts and tales about Valley of Fire. The park rangers and volunteers were not only knowledgeable about the history of the park, but they were also well prepared with materials and emergency supplies (especially on the hikes).
Nevada State Park
Valley of Fire