Silica Dome may be better described as a large feature rather than a small peak in the Valley of Fire, but its distinctive shape attracts enough attention to merit its own viewpoint and trailhead half a mile away. Too close and easy, I thought, to make it a worthwhile route. A longer, more challenging trip can be had by starting from Rainbow Vista trailhead.
Our route would take us down Fire Canyon, but before reaching the canyon, Dinah and I took a side trip to see Fire Canyon Arch. Guided by a waypoint, we climbed over a short ridge and after a brief search we not only came upon a small arch but got our first look at Silica Dome. Then we returned to the trail and followed it where it ended at Fire Canyon Overlook.
We couldn't drop directly down to the canyon floor, but after backing down the trail a bit, we easily reached the canyon bottom. Fire Canyon veered right but we continued straight ahead, scrambling over a headwall to reach a small wash. This wash runs into a major wash that took us to the base of Silica Dome. We easily scrambled up the east slope to the summit. As tiny as Silica Dome is, it's higher than the surrounding landscape. The views were grand and colourful.
Rather than return the same way we tried making our way directly to Fire Canyon Arch. Faced with a maze of washes and ridges, the route, as I expected, was fraught with difficulties. We managed well enough until we encountered a chasm we had no hope of crossing and were forced to detour around it. However, we eventually found our way back to Fire Canyon Arch and to Rainbow Vista.
I suspect the attraction of any destination in the Valley of Fire takes a backseat to the feature-laden journey getting there, where every corner holds stunning landscape, unusual sandstone formations and striking colours, and our hike to Silica Dome was no exception. We found it fascinating every step of the way.
Rainbow Vista trailhead
The Rainbow Vista trail makes a short loop around desert flats
Fire Canyon Arch lies on the other side of this rise
Going over the rise
Looking for the arch
Fire Canyon Arch and Silica Dome
Checking out a cave (mouse over to see out of the cave)
Going back down the rise. Fire Canyon is left.
Following a trail
The trail ends
From the trail end it's too steep to reach the canyon, so we backed down the trail a bit and
found an easy way down (mouse over to look up our climb)
Fire Canyon turns right, but we kept left and scrambled over this headwall to reach a wash
The wash hits another wash at a right angle which will take us to the
base of Silica Dome
The next wash is ahead (mouse over to look back)
Heading down the next wash
Silica Dome from the wash
We head to the base of the mountain where we'll find a hidden wash on our left
Hiking up the wash
Around the next bend we found easy slopes to ascend
Delicate rock (mouse over for a closer look)
The summit dome comes into view
Slabs below the summit
Looking down the scramble section below the summit. Silica Dome parking lot is visible in the
centre background. It's a short walk to the base of the dome. (Click for a larger image)
On the summit
Hopelessly trying to determine a direct route back to the arch
Heading back down to the wash
Looking back after reaching the other side of the wash
Routefinding still appears hopeless
Our route took us over ridges and across washes
Steep terrain forced us to climb high and to the right
We passed a series of tiny arches
There appeared no way to cross this chasm so we went around it
Coming down the rise near the arch
Back at the trailhead a wedding celebration is taking place
Valley of Fire East and Valley of Fire West 1:24,000 Topos (2.9 mi, 2349 ft, 407 ft)
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