Monday 22 July 2019

Las Vegas Valley of Fire, White Domes Running Route

Click here for route map

Length 1.7 km (1.1 miles), terrain: a few ups and downs, gain 23 meters

Las Vegas Running Routes:
The Strip  
University of Nevada

Red Rock Canyon
White Domes, Valley of Fire 
Fire Wave, Valley of Fire

For more running routes, see the Route List page.

NOTE: This is in the desert: don't run it during the summer heat. Either get there at daybreak or wait till the cooler part of the year!

Heading down into the canyon
If you have a free day in Las Vegas and you want to explore something completely different, experience some of the Great American West, then drive north of the city to Valley of Fire State Park. This spot encloses a ridge of red sandstone in a sea of multi-colored rock hills and canyons. There are wind-eroded holes, Native American rock carvings, petrified logs, amazing views and a few great hiking/running trails.
The trail starts here. Now does this look like Vegas?
This trail, White Domes, gives you a lot of variety in one short run. And you can combine it with a run on the nearby Fire Wave Trail, with its spectacular red-white layered slickrock.

This short run basically circles the white domes that dominate this corner of the park. The trail also connects to the Prospect Trail at the half-way mark, and you could follow the Prospect Trail for another 4.6 miles southwards to the campgrounds.

The trail is short but sweet: a few great vistas, rocks of all colors, cliffs and peaks, a slot canyon, ruins, caves, desert plants and cactus. You might even see some wildlife: I saw a desert iguana. And there was a herd of bighorn sheep grazing nearby. And you can easily add a run on the nearby Fire Wave Trail, just a few minutes away.

To get there, just drive north along White Domes Road from the visitor center. This road takes you to the most scenic parts of the park. The road ends right at the trailhead, after tracing a left-hand turn to the white dome rocks.

Start the run at toilet house at the parking lot. There's a sign marking the beginning, and there are trail markers and stone cairns marking the way on its circle around the dome peaks.
Looking straight ahead along the trail
You'll run through some deep sand at first, with a view through the jagged peaks around you. But soon you'll descend along rock stairs towards the movie-set ruins far ahead. You follow a multi-colored rock wall on your way down: white, pink, yellow, red. Don't forget to look up once in a while, the scenery is amazing!

At the bottom, the trail goes through an old film set. What looks like real ruins -- the wall of the hacienda -- are from a scene shot for the movie "The Professionals", starring Lee Marvin, Burt Lancaster and Claudia Cardinale.
The movie ruins
Next, the trail curves westwards to go through a short slot canyon (just a meter wide). A very cool spot, where you can't even see the sky in spots.
Heading into the short slot canyon
The trail heads lightly uphill from here, and the landscape opens up to a view over the plains to the west. You'll also see a way-marker showing where the Prospect Trail splits off and heads south towards the campgrounds.
Trail splits here: we head to the right
At the end, you run through a gap in a ridge of red rock full of delicate holes and caves. The trail now connects into the road just below the parking lot.
I saw a desert iguana on a rock along the way back
That was simple. Maybe you're ready for the a run to the park's most famous site, the Fire Wave. That will be our next route: stay tuned!
The way back: the trail turns right at the red rocks, and heads back to the parking lot

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