Atlatl Rock a large red sandstone rock in the Valley of Fire

Explore Atlatl Rock at the Valley of Fire

In this guide:

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Staircase leading up Atlatl Rock in the Valley of Fire

Atlatl Rock at a glance

OverviewClimb up the Atlatl Rock to examine ancient petroglyphs.
Distance~0.1 miles round trip
Trail DescriptionOut and back
LocationValley of Fire, Overton, NV 89040 – near the western entrance.
Entrance FeeThe Valley of Fire state park requires an entrance fee. $10 per vehicle, ($15 non-NV vehicles), pricing subject to change.
Reservations will be required in all NV state parks in early 2023. Learn more.
Park HoursSunrise to Sunset
Average Time Spent<30 Minutes
AmenitiesPicnic tables, paved parking area, trash receptacle, restrooms
Rating3.5 Mooses

What to expect at Atlatl Rock (our experience)

You can find a number of petroglyphs in the Valley of Fire, including along Mouse’s Tank trail, at the Cabins, and of course Atlatl Rock.

Having been to the Valley of Fire before, we knew Mouse’s Tank Road was the most popular stop in the park, so we waited to see Atlatl Rock until the end of our visit.

We arrived at the parking area around 12:30 p.m. on the Saturday of a busy holiday weekend. Needless to say, there were quite a few visitors.

Covered picnic table area with parking area in the background

The parking area holds about 25 vehicles and we didn’t have any issues snagging a spot. The turn-over at this location is pretty quick, so you likely won’t have any problems either. The rock is located directly next to a campground, so some visitors will walk over.

There’s a nice covered picnic area that several people were taking advantage of. We visited when the temperatures were in the high 50s, so it was quite comfortable. In the summer months, however, the shade would be a requirement if you wanted to have a picnic.

Picnic Tables covered by metal roof with Atlatl rock in background
Picnic area at Atlatl Rock

After leaving the parking area, you’ll see Atlatl Rock directly in front of you. A staircase leads up to the viewing area of the petroglyphs.

It’s about 0.1 miles from the parking lot to the staircase and back, but you can also walk around the entire rock formation if you’d like.

Atlatl Rock at the Valley of Fire

As you head up the stairs, you’ll see the remnants of an old stone staircase carved many years ago. Oddly enough, the carved stairs didn’t go all the way to the top. The last portion looked to be a straight climb up with nothing to stop you from tumbling down.

Anyone that could have made it up without the new staircase is far braver than I.

Original carved stone stairs leading up Atlatl Rock
Original carved staircase at Atlatl Rock

Once you reach the top of the stairs, you can examine many ancient petroglyphs carved into the rock. This includes the famous “atlatls”.

What is an Atlatl?

An Atlatl, pronounced “atul-atul” or “aht-LAH-tul, is also known as a throwing spear or dart thrower. It is usually around two feet long and is held on one end while a hook rests on the other.

Atlatls came before bow and arrows and are still used in some parts of the world today.

Ancient Atlatl
Miniature Atlatl, Peru, 8th-mid 16th century | Photo by: Metropolitan Museum of Art, CC0.

At the top, you’ll find a sign describing what the Petroglyphs mean.

Orange sign describing meaning of Petroglyphs
What do the Petroglyphs mean?

These petroglyphs have existed for over 4,000 years. Ancient drawings are a reflection of the past and the lifestyles of Native American cultures. Although we don’t know exactly the meaning of the images, this art reflects the thoughts of those people.

Valley of Fire State Park

A large panel of petroglyphs will greet you at the top of the stairs.

Can you find the atlatl in the picture below?

Petroglyph collage featuring ladders, bighorn sheep, atlatls, and circle shapes

Here it is!

Petroglyph depicting man holding atlatl over bighorn sheep

You can also find many other shapes on the wall including circular objects, a ladder, big horn sheep and humans.

Circular Petrogplyphs carved into red sandstone

There are also many circular shapes carved in the rock that were likely left from the water that originally covered the area.

It seems hard to believe, but over 200 million years ago the entire valley was covered by a deep ocean.

The Valley of Fire later formed around 150 million years ago, when the ocean floor rose and a great shifting of sand spread across the area. Between the water receding and wind throughout the years, the resulting erosion can be seen in Atlatl rock and throughout the valley.

Holes carved by water in red sandstone at Atlatl Rock in Valley of Fire

After enjoying the petroglyphs, we decided to head back down the staircase.

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Is visiting the Atlatl Rock worth it?

Rating: 3.5 Mooses

Our own rating system of 3.5 mooses out of 5.

What we liked:

  • Atlatl Rock is a beautiful feature in the middle of the Valley of Fire. The color and shape of the rock are pleasing to look at and the stairs beg to be climbed.
  • We learned about the history of the area, including the famed “atlatls.”
  • There was a nice covered area to enjoy a picnic.

What we didn’t like:

  • While to be expected on a Saturday afternoon, it was busy. We didn’t have to wait to climb up the stairs, but the landing was crowded.
  • If you’re afraid of heights, you might feel a little queasy on the final approach up the stairs. It’s a lot steeper than you’d expect. I decided I needed to hold onto the railing quite tightly and was afraid I might drop my phone. Mr. Moose (along with most people), seemed to have no issues.
  • The landing area was small and it was difficult to photograph some of the petroglyphs due to the angle and the barrier surrounding the landing.
  • The parking area was pretty small.

More information for your trip to the Valley of Fire

White Domes Trail in Overton NV
The End of the Rainbow Vista Trail
Hiking the Silica Dome and Fire Canyon lookout