If you want to enjoy Monument Valley-type scenery but do not want to deal with Monument Valley-type crowds, take your RV to Nevada’s Cathedral Gorge State Park for a week or a weekend. It may be just the place for you.
Long ago, a series of volcanic eruptions created rock formations like no other ones. The cathedral-like formations tower over the surrounding high desert floor. Several eons later, Civilian Conservation Corps workers labored diligently to create a state park here. The fruits of their efforts are still visible today, and in many cases, still in use today as well.
The scenery is the centerpiece of Cathedral Gorge State Park. In addition to the gorge, the landscape is quite diverse. Even though it’s in the desert, this area is on the edge of the heavily forested regions of Utah. There are lots of other things to do here as well. Hiking trails lead visitors through the delicate desert ecosystem. During the day, there’s also hiking and wildlife viewing. A few hours later, at this altitude and in this area, the sky comes alive at night.
Cathedral Gorge has about two dozen RV parking spots. Even though visitors are in the middle of a desert, there is plenty of shade and water at each campsite. Other campground amenities are available as well. So, RV visitors get the comforts of home while they are out on the road.
Considering it’s in the middle of the Nevada desert, Cathedral Gorge State Park is surprisingly accessible. It’s only about an hour north of Las Vegas. U.S. Highway 93, which is open all year long, runs almost directly past the park. This highway is fairly wide and straight. There are a series of curves in the road just west of Caliente, but watch your RV speed and you should be fine.
This park is fairly large, but it is mostly undeveloped. So, there is plenty of space. The RV campground is over a mile from the park entrance. Parking is available near the Day Use area and the major trailheads.
All of the campgrounds at Nevada State Parks do not offer reservations so each site is available on a first-come, first-served basis.
This picturesque campground is right next to a CCC footbridge. For your indoor pleasure, each of the 22 sites has an electrical hookup. For your outdoor pleasure, each RV campsite has a ramada, which is a shaded picnic area, and an outdoor grill. Campground amenities include a dump station, which is about a half-mile from the campground, a restroom and shower area that’s a whole lot closer, as well as an outdoor amphitheater and drinking water. All of the campgrounds at Nevada State Parks do not offer reservations so each site is available on a first-come, first-served basis.
If you travel a lot, you probably already know that not all “caves” look like the Batcave. At Cathedral Gorge State Park, the caves are more like extremely narrow canyons. Several million years ago, this entire area was a large lake. As the lake waters receded, they left sediment behind, which formed these canyons. It’s fun to crawl through the canyon and look for shelter from the summer heat. Who knows... you may find a real cave that no one has ever been in before.
To reach this scenic overlook, take the Miller Point Trail, which starts at the Day Use area. For the most part, this trail either straddles a dry creek bed or is a dry creek bed. Just before MIller Point, the trail suddenly gets steep, because this is one of the highest points in the Cathedral Gorge trail network. At the end of the trail, metal stairs carved into the rock lead to a gazebo. Brave hikers can go right up to the edge of a sheer cliff wall. Since there is no water at the trailhead, stop at the visitors’ center before you take off.
If you do not want to tackle Miller Point but want to see some really cool scenery, lace up your shoes and walk the Eagle Point trail. The first half of the trail is a rather boring gravel walkway. But then along comes the second half of the trail. It’s still a gravel walkway, but the closer you get to Eagle Point, the better the views become. Eagle Point is an overlook that has a great view of the desert floor below. The trailhead is next to a parking area.
Although no longer in use, the Civilian Conservation Corps water tower is basically a three-story cistern which once provided water for all the workers stationed here during the Great Depression. It’s an impressive stone structure which resembles those medieval castle towers, except there are no battlements at the top. The Nature Loop trail goes right past the water tower. This trail also gives RV visitors a chance to see some of the sagebrush desert floor landscape.
Eastern Nevada has some of the darkest skies in the United States. Moreover, at this high elevation, RV visitors do not need much equipment to make out stunning details in the night sky, like the rings of Saturn or the redness of Mars. Visitors may also expect to see lots of shooting stars. If you come during a meteor shower, get ready for a show.
If you want to check out pretty much the entire Cathedral Gorge State Park on foot, check out the three-mile Juniper Loop Trail. It begins and ends at the Day Use Area. Take plenty of water, because even in the fall or winter, this rugged trail is long and sunny. It’s mostly flat and firm, but it is a bit rocky or sandy in some places. Try to go early in the morning or late in the afternoon so you can see the light dance around the canyon walls.