Cathedral Gorge State Park: Nevada's Hidden Gem for Road Trippers | An Architectural Miracle of Nature

Cathedral Gorge State Park | Introduction

Cathedral Gorge State Park, located in southeastern Nevada, is Nevada's fourth state park, established in 1935. This state park is situated in a long and narrow valley, and because the appearance of the valley resembles the spires of many cathedrals, it is called Cathedral Gorge. The park's landscape has been formed over tens of millions of years, due to volcanic activity and erosion, and is quite spectacular.

Cathedral Gorge State Park is open year-round, with campgrounds, a visitor center, and picnic areas, making it a suitable stop on a Nevada road trip. The best times to visit are in the spring and fall. If visiting in the summer, be prepared for high temperatures.

Cathedral Gorge State Park | Transportation

To get to Cathedral Gorge State Park, it's about a 2.5-hour drive north from Las Vegas. We passed through it on our way to Great Basin National Park (check out our Great Basin National Park road trip route).

Cathedral Gorge State Park | Attractions

Cathedral Caves and Canyon Caves

Visiting Cathedral Gorge State Park means seeing the Slot Canyons. Since the 19th century, Cathedral Gorge (then known as Cathedral Gulch) has been a popular picnic spot. You can drive directly to the Day Use Area, where right next to the picnic area, you'll find the very unique backdrop of the Slot Canyons.

The picnic area is on a flat surface surrounded by colorful, peculiar rocks and formations. During the Pliocene Epoch (about a million years ago), most of this area was covered by a freshwater lake. Subsequent geological shifts pushed the lakebed and surrounding rocks upward, and as the water drained away, the original sediments were exposed. The colors of the canyon are remnants of that ancient lakebed. Continuous erosion by rain and snow water has expanded the small cracks between the rocks into larger ravines and canyons. The circle of rocks we see here likely represents the former boundary of the lake.

Directly across from the picnic area are the Cathedral Caves, and a bit further away, next to the towers, are the Canyon Caves. The stone canyons next to the picnic area may not be very large, but climbing into them is quite spectacular. Squeezing between the rocks, the paths inside are narrow and go deeper than one might expect, allowing for at least half an hour of exploration. Entering these crevices can feel a bit cold, as the sunlight doesn't reach inside, dropping the temperature by more than ten degrees Fahrenheit.

Because the terrain was originally a lakebed, the rocks here appear very fragile, easily crumbling to the touch, brittle like dried clay.

Next to it is a tower, which, although interesting in appearance, doesn't have much of a story, only a bit of historical value. One of the projects during the Great Depression under Roosevelt's New Deal, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), created job opportunities by recruiting young men for public construction projects across the country. The picnic area here is one such project. While building the picnic area, they also constructed a tower, which seemingly has little practical use.

Miller Point

Miller Point is an excellent spot for viewing both sunrise and sunset. If you simply want to see Miller Point, you can drive directly to Miller Point Overlook. Located on the edge of the canyon, the scenery is very spectacular. In the past, a river flowed through here, carving out the deep canyon terrain. Now, due to water management projects that divert Nevada's water to Lake Mead, the river is no longer visible.

If you're interested in hiking, there are actually quite a few trails in the park. The most classic trail starts from the trailhead near the picnic area mentioned earlier and goes 1 mile to Miller Point, truly entering the middle of the canyon for exploration. Crossing the canyon, you can also reach the Moon Caves or connect to the Juniper Draw Trail.

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Further reading

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