Tucked away along the eastern border of Nevada, not far from the tiny town of Panaca, is one of the state’s hidden treasures, Cathedral Gorge State Park. We discovered Cathedral Gorge in 2012 when we were driving through the area en route to St. George, Utah. I had never heard of the park and made a point to Google it later that night. After seeing just a couple photos, Cathedral Gorge was added to my ever-growing bucket list. It looked like our kind of place with fascinating geology and great hiking opportunities, but without a lot of people. It took us ten years, but we made it to Cathedral Gorge as the first stop on our Winter 2021-2022 travels.
Cathedral Gorge State Park is located in a long, narrow valley in southeastern Nevada, where erosion has carved dramatic and unique patterns in the soft bentonite clay. The park’s beauty began with explosive volcanic activity that, with each eruption, deposited layers of ash hundreds of feet thick. Great walking trails abound for exploring the cave-like formations and cathedral-like spires that are the result of geologic processes from tens of millions of years ago. A photographer’s dream, the park offers stunning views of the scenic canyon and visitors can enjoy hiking, picnicking, camping and nature study. – taken from the park’s website.
In 1924, Governor James Scrugham set aside the area for preservation and in 1935 Cathedral Gorge became one of Nevada’s first four state parks. The Civilian Conservations Corps built many of the original structures including the stone water tower and rest room facility located in the park’s day use area. They also built the ramada at Miller’s Point, one of the best observations points in the park.
The Cathedral Gorge Campground has 22 first-come, first-serve sites, each with a table, grill, shade ramada and electric hookups. Water spigots are available throughout the park. Restrooms with flush toilets and showers are open year-around. There are two handicapped-accessible campsites at the group area that also have a restroom with flush toilets and showers. A dump station is available. Camping is limited to 14 days in a 30-day period.
We pulled into the campground the Saturday before Thanksgiving. It was a beautiful 62 degree weekend day which made me nervous the campground might be full. The majority of the sites were occupied, but we managed to score one of the larger sites (perfect for our nearly 55 foot long setup) and it even had a great view! With the out-of-state rate and optional electrical hookup, we paid $30 per night.
Cathedral Gorge State Park has 5 designated trails ranging in length from 0.4 – 3.0 miles roundtrip (click here for map). We hiked all the trails except the Bullionville Cemetery. All the trails had a good dirt surface and were well maintained. Unfortunately, none are handicapped accessible. Hiking was generally easy along nearly flat grades with the exception of the Miller Point Trail as it climbed to Miller Point. There were no designated trails through Cathedral, Canyon, and Moon caves, but these areas should not be missed. These are actually deep, narrow canyons with vertical walls. They are fun and easy to explore from the picnic area.
Miller Point Trail
Miller Point is a 2.0 mile roundtrip out-and-back trail from the day use area up to Miller Point. The first half of the trail is flat while the second half climbs moderately steep slopes and stairs up to the rugged gorge walls to the old CCC Ramada and Miller Point where there are picnic tables and restrooms.
Eagle Point Trail
Eagle Point is a 1.6 mile roundtrip out-and-back trail from the parking lot at Miller Point that offers 360 degree views of the distant mountains and down into Cathedral Gorge. The trail is mostly flat and has a couple of benches for hikers to stop and enjoy the views.
Juniper Draw Loop
Juniper Draw is a 3.0 mile roundtrip loop along the canyon floor that leads hikers past the base of some of the park’s most impressive formations. This trail can be accessed from the day use area or directly from the campground.
Nature Loop & Caves
The Nature Loop connects the campground with the day use and cave areas. This is a flat and easy 0.5 mile loop, but be sure to add a little distance by exploring Cathedral, Canyon, and Moon caves.
The Cathedral Gorge State Park Visitor Center is open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily. It is located at the park entrance off U.S. 93 just 2 miles northwest of Panaca, Nevada. The park is open 365 days a year, but the the visitor center is closed holidays during the winter. The park sits at 4,800 feet and is arid with semi-hot summers and cold winters. Fees are as listed below. Removing, disturbing or damaging any historic structure, artifact, rock, plant life, fossil or other feature is prohibited. State and federal laws protect this area and its resources. Please recreate responsibly. For more information, see the park’s website.
- Day use entrance fee: $5.00 per vehicle (Non-NV Vehicles $10.00 per vehicle)
- Camping: $15.00 per vehicle, per night (Non-NV Vehicles: $20.00 per vehicle, per night) + $10.00 for sites with utility hook ups
- Bike in: $2.00 per bike
We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at Cathedral Gorge State Park. We planned on spending about four nights there, but only stayed two due to a cold front moving in that was expected to drop night time lows into the teens. We’ll definitely stop in again if we return to the area (which is highly likely). I’d like to explore the nearby towns of Pioche and Caliente as well as some charcoal kilns that are in the area.
The Adventure Continues
Be sure to join us next time as we celebrate Thanksgiving at Lake Mead National Recreation Area. And don’t forget to check out our Amazon RV and Adventure Gear recommendations. We only post products that we use and that meet the Evans Outdoor Adventures seal of approval. By accessing Amazon through our links and making any purchase, you get Amazon’s every day low pricing and they share a little with us. This helps us maintain this website and is much appreciated!