|Painted Pinnacles from Baseline Mesa|
|Silica Dome from Trailhead|
Eighteen hikers arrived at the Silica Dome trailhead parking lot at the end of Fire Canyon Road in the Valley of Fire State Park. The route today would take us to the Painted Pinnacles, up to the top of Baseline Mesa, across and down to a set of mysterious old building ruins, and back via an interesting sandstone wash. Most of us topped out the hike with an up and back peak climb of Silica Dome.
We started by dropping down past the "Danger" sign at Silica Dome. There is an old trail here. The trail became an old road then turned into a romp across the desert terrain to our right.
As we crested a lip of the rock, we were absolutely wowed by the Painted Pinnacles that lay before us. The bright colors bled from a dark red at the top to a bright yellow at the bottom with a few splatters of red and orange in the middle.
|Painted Pinnacles & Silica Dome|
After taking in the scenery from the overlook, we turned to our left and began the most difficult part of the hike, a steep climb up to the top of Baseline Mesa. Brian, our coordinator of Valley of Fire extraordinaire, was well-versed on the best path up through the loose rock and sandstone slab. If our lungs didn't give out, we were good! We all kept looking back behind us toward the Painted Pinnacles to see it from every elevation mark.
|Colorful Valley of Fire from Side of Baseline Mesa|
We also had a fantastic view of other regions of the park. The widespread silica sandstone that made the Valley of Fire park so colorful could be seen from our high perch.
|The Steep Climb up to the Top of Baseline Mesa|
Eventually, all eighteen hikers made it to the top. A large, very flat, plateau laid before us. The terrain was sprinkled with rocks and desert foliage.
|Valley of Fire View from Top of Baseline Mesa|
We hiked the half mile or so of the length of the mesa until we reached the end point that had a view of the silica mine nearby. Tucked into a nearby crevice of conglomerate rock, a trail switchbacked down off of the east end of the plateau. The trail was narrow and hung off of the side of the loose dirt of the Baseline Mesa. We circled around to the north side and dealt with a couple of very slippery spots.
|Descending from Baseline Mesa|
The trail led us along a very tiny ridge with steep slopes on either side. It was difficult to keep our eyes on the trail and
the gorgeous scenery in the distance!
|The Steep Trail down from Baseline Mesa|
The trail turned into an old road and soon, we arrived at the ruins of an old building complex. There was a main building, fire pits, possible previous sun shelters and, most interesting, two latrines. The latrines were built in a spiral shape down below the main building.
|Old Buena Vista Campground Ruins|
We took our break at the ruins and speculated about what this building used to be. Our imaginations (maybe working overtime) surmised that it was a sort of visitors' center for those that traveled the Old Arrowhead Highway that ran near here. Perhaps the trail up to the mesa was their overlook. At any rate, we finished our break and retraced our steps up the road a little then dropped down into the wash below.
We were dropping into the area below a large earthen dam that was built for one of the silica mine's ponds. It was a little unnerving to walk beneath the huge old thing but we knew the pond above it was dry.
Our drop to the wash included a nice slot that we each had fun descending with our own methods. Soon, another slot presented itself after we turned to the left in the wash. The conditions warranted an up and around for most of us.
The sandstone wash was very pretty as it swayed back and forth around us. At first, it was mostly sandstone but as we advanced up the gentle climb, more and more sand appeared. Brian kept the pace going at a good clip so there was little time to stop and appreciate the small arches and windows on either side of us. Still, a few of us dragged our feet at the end of the line!
|Following the Wash|
When the wash turned a corner to the right, we saw the evidence of an old wildlife dam. The dam is now filled in and overgrown. Rusted barbed wire sits to the side. Wildlife does just fine without us sometimes.
|Old (Filled In) Wildlife Dam|
The wash changed from red sandstone to sand to pink sandstone as we neared the vicinity of Silica Dome again.
|Still Following the Wash|
Reaching the original old road of the hike, we divided into two groups: those that wanted to hike to the top of Silica Dome and those that wanted to go on back to the cars. The larger group separated toward the dome and up we went. Some of us went for the climb and some of us went for the view. And, what a view it was!
|View from Side of Silica Dome|
As the sandstone became very steep, a look around gave us different perspectives of what we had already seen today.
|A Very Steep Climb up to Silica Dome Peak|
Some of us lithely scrambled up the steep slope and others, well, we were slower. This was obviously the area that the "Danger" sign was warning the tourists about. There were steep slopes and drop offs on every side.
|Say Cheese, Brian! Atop Silica Dome|
After a few quick photos at the top, we began the precarious descent. We followed the same trail that many before us have followed. (Although, that didn't make it any easier!) Finally at the bottom, we circled back around retracing our steps from when we started out earlier. Another fantastic Valley of Fire hike!
6 miles; 1100 feet elevation; 3.75 hours
|The Painted Pinnacles & Baseline Mesa from Top of Silica Dome|
|Descending Silica Dome|