Hidden in the flats of the Great Basin you’ll find a cathedral sculpted into the desert floor. Cathedral Gorge State Park seems like it was created by a great architect, but is simply a beautiful work of nature.
Exploring this park in southeast Nevada feels like you are exploring another planet. The cathedral spires sculpted out of the rock wall are a horizontal rainbow of tans with vertical lines of shadow. All the texture in the spired walls contrasts with the flat smooth ground.
As the spires rise out of the ground they create a maze of narrow slot canyons perfect for exploring. Cathedral Gorge State Park is an excellent place for kids. However, be careful after rain or snow. The ground can be muddy when wet.
Geology of Cathedral Gorge State Park
Tens of millions of years in the making, Cathedral Gorge State Park began with volcanic activity where layers of ash hundreds of feet thick were deposited. The valley was filled in by a freshwater lake, which slowly drained away. The ash weathered and formed bentonite clay, which was carved by erosion into the unique structure of patterns you can explore today.
Exploring the slot canyons
There are several fun slot canyons to explore along the park road near the picnic area. Moon Caves and Canyon Caves have pullouts so you can park and walk in and among the spires. The Cathedral Caves is at the end of the park road at the picnic area.
The slot canyons are fun to explore because you can pick a crevice and follow it until you hit a dead end. In some places, the path becomes so narrow that you have to squeeze through it but then opens up to a bigger area. It is also amazing to look up and see the narrow slits of sky framed by the curved patterns of the spires.
Cathedral Caves, Canyon Caves, and Moon Caves don’t have marked trails so you can just pick an opening and follow it.
The park offers several hiking trails that vary in length from 0.2 miles to 3 miles. Juniper Draw Loop takes hikers to remote portions of the park. This 3-mile loop is the only trail open to bicycles and equestrians.
The Miller Point trail is a 1-mile, out-and-back that takes hikers through a wider canyon. The park trail map says the trail is 2 miles out and back, however, my GPS only tracked me at 1 mile. It connects the picnic area to the Miller Point overlook, for views of the terrain from within the canyon and then above it.
Eagle Point Trail follows the plateau above the Miller Point Trail for an overview of the area. The Nature Loop is a 0.5-mile loop connecting the campgrounds to the picnic area.
Cathedral Gorge State Park has a campground with 22 sites. They each provide a table, grill, and shade structure. Electric hookups are also available. The campground has water, flush toilets, and showers, which are open all year long.
Cathedral Gorge State Park
Cathedral Gorge State Park in southeast Nevada might be a small park, but it should definitely be on your list of places to explore. It’s a fun way to experience nature, marvel at geology, and see unique terrain. And if you’re feeling creative, it’s a great place to play pretend.
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