In a hike combining Valley of Fire State Park’s most Instagram-famous spot with the wilder and more adventurous Seven Wonders route, this scenic loop traverses some of the park’s most spectacular scenery, from narrow slot canyons to vibrantly-hued sandstone knobs. The wonderful diversity makes this perhaps one of the best two-mile treks in the state of Nevada and is relatively easily accessible to all—as long as one can follow the sporadically-placed yellow blazes, essential for navigation in this trail-less terrain. (Note: Admittedly, however, the “seven wonders” are still hard to spot; yours truly identified only four of the seven; see here and here for details of more successful runs. The hike is also sometimes combined with the one-mile White Domes Trail to form a roughly three-mile trek.)
The walk amid the “wonders” begins at the Fire Wave Trailhead (Scenic Vista #3), with parking lots on both sides of the White Domes Scenic Byway, about 4.7 miles north of the Valley of Fire State Park Visitor Center and just under 60 miles from Las Vegas, Nevada. Park on the east side for easiest access to complete the loop in the clockwise direction.
The jaunt begins with the very popular Fire Wave Trail, which culminates at the first of the “Seven Wonders.” (Note: The Fire Wave Trail is on the Valley of Fire maps found at the Visitor Center, but the Seven Wonders Loop—although now an “official” trail—is not.) Set on a sandy, scrubby basin surrounded by deep ruby outcrops of Aztec sandstone, the Fire Wave Trail sets out eastward toward the “Rock of Gibraltar” (no, not that one). The iron-oxidized behemoth towers above as the trail drops partway into a minor drainage and bears south.
The Fire Wave route makes for a clay saddle with several mammoth-sized boulders that at one point were sheared off from the Rock of Gibraltar above. Rise to a crest at 2/10 mile, then descend a new arroyo that passes through another crop of sandstone chunks. Beyond, hikers can catch a glimpse of a pinkish-orange ridgetop; the Fire Wave feature lies just beyond. Descend to the drainage again, then follow the yellow blazes out across the slickrock, enjoying the striated patterns and colorful swirls at your feet.
The route ascends a slight incline as it approaches the first “wonder,” with many stopping to take in the view at a high point overlooking the Valley of Fire. Find your way down to the protruding pink-and-cream colored knob below—the Fire Wave. The best angles are from the immediate north and south sides of the grooved “wave,” with the colors most vibrant in the bowl-shaped washes adjacent to the famous knob. Expect lots of people here, however, to prevent you from getting a clean shot!
This marks the end of the Fire Wave Trail, with most turning around at this point. But the Seven Wonders Loop picks up where the initial trail leaves off. The more rugged route drops down into a side drainage on the south side, where a sign greets you reading “END OF FIRE WAVE TRAIL; 7 WONDERS LOOP CONTINUES.”
Drop into gravelly Kaolin Wash, a scenic drainage that cuts west-east across the park, and bear right, following the wash upstream. Immediately one begins to notice the multiple colors of the surrounding sandstone—including varieties of pink, orange, and gold—a prelude to the aptly-named Pastel Canyon (a.k.a. Pink Canyon), the second “wonder” on the tour. Here Kaolin Wash narrows to nearly a slot. (Note: After recent rains, it may be filled with water; in this case, bypass by ascending and descending the slickrock on the left, careful to avoid cryptobiotic soil.)
The beautiful narrows continue for perhaps 100-150 yards before emptying out at a spot where the trail crosses the White Domes Scenic Byway. (Note: There is no parking allowed here.) Carefully cross the road and continue up Kaolin Wash on the other side.
The creamsicle colors are particularly vibrant thereafter, and at some point around here (I missed it), the trail passes the third wonder: Striped Rock. With tall golden outcrops up ahead, the hike reaches another short slot section at about 1.3 miles. (Note: This too is sometimes filled with water, requiring a slightly tedious but passable bypass, again on the left.) This part of Kaolin Wash (as well as the larger slot, off trail on the neighboring White Domes route) is sometimes considered to be the fourth “wonder.”
Pass through (or around if necessary) the narrows, then stay in the drainage as it opens up again, but soon look for a yellow stake signaling that hikers should exit on the right, following a tributary wash. Follow the drainage for about 1/10 mile, then cut right across open slabs, with a wonderful viewpoint up to the right. From here one can peer back across Kaolin Wash to the towering sandstone domes of the heart of the park.
Then drop to another sandy wash and cross another before arriving atop a fin with a view back at Crazy Hill, the fifth wonder. Here the sandstone appears as if an artist spilled a rainbow of paint, with cream, orange, gold, and purple colors all in a line.
By now the hike is almost done, and the exact locations of the final two “wonders” (Thunderstorm Arch and Fire Cave) are still a mystery to me. But the remaining stretch is scintillating as usual, with the cream-colored sandstone soon returning to deep red. Skirt the right flank of a fin, then follow the ruddy soil up a final drainage. With the wash thinning, the route at last spits out back at the main road, this time in the parking lot across from the Fire Wave Trailhead. Cross the street to finish the two-mile loop.
I can’t believe the water. Living just 45 mins from here we’ve hiked this area so many times and have never seen water. Such a beautiful loop. My favorite is Pastel Canyon.
Wow, must have been record rains this year? That’s certainly been the case here in CA.
Yes, we had the same wet weather you had in CA. As a matter of fact I’m sure you saw the now covered Spring Mountains when you were in our area. The local ski area is still open in May!! They got 265 inches of snow which is a new record. It was still snowing up there in mid April. It was a very cool winter for the Vegas Valley staying the 50’s most of the time.