Ancient geologic formations are most definitely the centerpiece of Cathedral Gorge State Park. Millions of years ago, a series of volcanic eruptions left thick layers of ash that hardened to create unique rock formations. However, the eruptions were so violent that they fractured the bedrock and created what is known today as Meadow Valley.
For years Meadow Valley was filled with fresh water. However, changing weather conditions caused the prehistoric lake to slowly drain over a long period of time. Water erosion, combined with the thick volcanic deposits, turned Meadow Valley into a gorge full of tall, spiky rocks resembling architectural spires. These cathedral-like formations tower over the surrounding high desert floor, attracting visitors from miles around.
Seeing these amazing rock formations isn't the only thing this park has to offer. Other things to do in Cathedral Gorge State Park include hiking along trails and through slot canyons, photography, picnicking, and stargazing. Hiking trails lead visitors through the delicate desert ecosystem, and at this altitude, the sky comes alive at night. The campground has about two dozen RV-friendly sites with plenty of shade and water at each campsite. Full of history and sights unlike any other park in the world, RVers will not want to leave Nevada without stopping by Cathedral Gorge State Park.
Despite being rather secluded with its location in the middle of the Nevada desert, Cathedral Gorge State Park is surprisingly accessible. About three hours north of Las Vegas, park visitors can follow U.S. Highway 93, which is open all year long and runs almost directly past the park. This highway is fairly wide and straight, though there are a series of curves in the road occasionally, so RV-ers will need to watch their speed and be cautious. If you need gas or basic supplies, the small towns of Panaca and Pioche are your closest options.
Inside the park, many of the roads are dirt or gravel, which can sometimes create a rather bumpy ride. This park is fairly large, but it is mostly undeveloped so there is plenty of space for visitors to spread out.
The RV campground is over a mile from the park entrance and more parking is available near the Day Use Area and the major trailheads.
This picturesque campground is located right next to a footbridge that was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The campground has a total of 22 sites that are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations cannot be made for any of the campsites, so visitors will want to make sure that they arrive early in the day to claim their spot.
Each of the 22 sites has electrical hookups, and two of the sites are ADA-accessible. Additionally, each site includes a picnic table, grill, and a ramada to provide campers with shade. Campground amenities include a restroom with flush toilets, a shower area, drinking water, an outdoor amphitheater, and a dump station, which is located about a half-mile from the campground.
The best way to see the park and the spire-like rock formations up close is to head out on foot. Park visitors have four different trail loops to choose from with varying lengths and difficulty levels. Be sure to take plenty of water because these rugged trails are long and sunny. The best time to hike through the gorge is early in the morning or late in the afternoon because visitors will be able to see the light dance around the canyon walls as the sun moves across the sky.
Cathedral Gorge State Park is popular among photographers due to the spectacular views from overlooks like Eagle Point and Miller Point. Both of these areas offer visitors aerial views of the desert landscape below. At Miller Point, brave guests can go right up to the edge of a sheer cliff wall and take a peek at the steep drop below. Another popular subject for photographers is the cathedral-like rock formations, especially in the early morning and late evenings when the sunlight flickers through the rocks, creating dramatic shadows and highlights.
At Cathedral Gorge State Park, caves are more like extremely narrow canyons. When the lake drained several million years ago, the sediment left by the waters formed small slot canyons. Park visitors love to explore these geologic wonders, crawling through the canyons and wiggling into cool indentations that provide shelter from the summer heat. Adventurers will need to be sure to bring enough water with them as there are no fill-up stations outside of the campground and day-use areas. Be sure to review all park rules and regulations before heading out.
Eastern Nevada has some of the darkest skies in the United States and at this high elevation, RVers don't need much equipment to make out stunning details in the night sky. Thanks to the park's secluded location away from any city lights, visitors can easily make out astronomical wonders like the rings of Saturn and the redness of Mars. Visitors can also expect to see lots of shooting stars. If you happen to be in the park during a meteor shower, get ready for a cosmic show unlike any other.
Although no longer in use, the Civilian Conservation Corps' water tower is an impressive sight. At almost three stories high, this retired cistern once provided water for all of the workers who were stationed in the area during the Great Depression. It’s an impressive stone structure that resembles the towers on medieval castles, except there are no battlements at the top. Guests can easily visit and explore the water tower via a short hike on the Nature Loop Trail.
There are no shortage of picnic areas at Cathedral Gorge State Park. The park's day-use area has several different picnic tables that are all placed under a large ramada that provides visitors with plenty of shade to cool off in. Additionally, visitors can take lunch out with them onto any of the park's trails for a scenic picnic overlooking some of Nevada's rugged desert beauty. Be sure to stay on the trails and be careful not to leave anything behind.