In the eastern part of Nevada, sort of in the middle of nowhere, is a hidden gem waiting to be explored – Cathedral Gorge State Park! With unique landscapes, towering spires, and narrow slot canyons, the park is one you don’t want to miss.
This guide will tell you everything you need to know about Nevada’s Cathedral Gorge State Park, from getting there to the best hiking trails!
Head’s up: some of these links are affiliate links, so I get a commission if you make a purchase (at no cost to you). But that’s great, because I was going to share anyway, and this helps me keep making free guides for you!
Table of Contents
Pin this photo to save this guide to Cathedral Gorge State Park and reference it later!
How to Get to Cathedral Gorge State Park
Cathedral Gorge State Park is pretty far away from it all – Vegas is the nearest major landmark. The park is 2.5 hours north of Las Vegas, and all you need to do is take Highway 93. The park is right off the highway, near the small town of Panaca. I definitely recommend stocking up on any groceries you’ll need before you go!
If you’re flying in to Nevada to explore the park, the closest airport is the Harry Reid International Airport, in Vegas.
Expedia is a good way to find flights and rental cars, I also super recommend signing up for Going (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights) – they send you amazing deals, so you can find cheap flights to Las Vegas, and to destinations all over the world. The free account is great and totally worth the few minutes it takes to sign up, and I do recommend the premium account too!
If you fly into Vegas, you can rent a car through Discover Cars or Rental Cars. But, a great alternative to a rental car is a tiny home on wheels! With a camper van, you get a vehicle and a place to sleep, all in one! This is my favorite way to travel, and you can rent a fully decked out van with Escape Campervans. Another option for vans is to use Outdoorsy, which is more like Airbnb for campers – you can rent a van, RV, or trailer from a person in the area. You’ll need a vehicle to get around Nevada during your trip.
The Best Time to Visit Cathedral Gorge State Park
Each season brings something a little different to Cathedral Gorge State Park, and the best time to visit is usually spring or fall.
Summers are very hot, as the park is located in the desert of Nevada – temperatures get up to the high 80s and into the 90s! Mornings and evenings can still be great times to explore, but the midday sun is definitely harsh.
Fall and spring temperatures are much nicer. It’s still very warm during the day, but you’ll want to bring some layers as it can get chilly once the sun starts going down. Wildflowers bloom in the spring, blanketing the desert in a colorful display.
Winters are very cold at night, and it does snow – but this can create a really unique experience of the park! Daytime temperatures are usually in the 40s in the winter, so while it’s definitely chilly, it’s not too terrible, as long as you have a warm place to go at night when it dips below freezing.
This park is pretty remote, so you don’t have to worry too much about crowds no matter when you go. But, campsites in the park are popular, so if you plan to stay there you may want to get there early.
Leave No Trace at Cathedral Gorge State Park
Anytime you’re outdoors, whether you’re a beginner hiker or an experienced adventurer, it’s essential that you practice Leave No Trace (LNT). LNT is a set of seven principles that help us understand our impact on the outdoors – because while we usually have good intentions, the environment is more fragile than we think, and one snap-second decision can cause damage to the environment that will take the earth years, even decades to repair.
Leave No Trace means enjoying the outdoors without disrupting nature, as much as it’s possible to do so. Here are the 7 principles of LNT, and how they apply when you visit Cathedral Gorge State Park!
- Plan ahead and prepare – read this guide, make sure you know have the right gear, and be prepared for any weather.
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces – stay on the trail to avoid trampling grasses and plants. One special consideration for this area is cryptobiotic soil – soil that’s actually alive! The crusts are made of tiny little organisms, and are important for the ecosystem. Don’t step on it!
- Dispose of waste properly – don’t leave trash, or anything else, behind. Pack it out!
- Leave what you find – I know it can be tempting to take a cool rock or leaf, but leave these things where they belong! Animals often use these, and if everyone takes one, the trail won’t be as pretty.
- Minimize campfire impacts – campfires are only allowed in fire rings at the campground.
- Respect wildlife – don’t approach wild animals, and never feed them.
- Be considerate of other visitors – yield to other hikers, and be respectful – no speakers or loud music.
How Much Does it Cost to Go to Cathedral Gorge State Park?
If you’re from Nevada (if you have Nevada license plates), the cost to go to Cathedral Gorge State Park is $5. For everyone else, it’s $10.
There’s a pay station as you enter the park, with a machine that takes cards! You’ll get a receipt that you can put on your dash.
What to Bring to Cathedral Gorge State Park
When you visit Cathedral Gorge State Park, here’s what you’ll need to bring.
- Hiking Shoes – the trails in the park are pretty flat and easy, so you don’t need anything intense for footwear. I prefer hiking in sandals and wore my Chacos, but if you want more ankle support, wear boots. I love my Danner boots – and they come in men’s and women’s.
- Layers – the desert gets surprisingly cold as the sun goes down, so a lightweight windbreaker or a fleece is a good idea. It can also get really windy!
- Backpack – you’ll need a backpack for water and snacks. I use an Osprey Hikelite 26L.
- Water – water is a must, always. Bring a water bottle for any hikes!
- Tent – if you want to camp, you’ll need somewhere to sleep! I love my super light Big Agnes Tiger Wall tent, and I also use a footprint to keep the bottom safe & dry.
- Sleeping Bag – make sure you have something warm enough! I use this ALPS Mountaineering sleeping bag.
- Sleeping Pad – an essential for a comfy night of sleep! I have this Sea to Summit pad, but am planning to upgrade to a thicker one, like this Therm-a-Rest pad soon!
The Best Cathedral Gorge State Park Trails
There are only a few hikes in Cathedral Gorge State Park – the park is pretty small! Here are some trails to check out and things to see.
Juniper Draw Loop
This is the best hike in Cathedral Gorge State Park! The loop takes you through beautiful formations, passes by slot canyons, and offers a detour to the Miller’s Point Overlook. I recommend parking at the end of Cathedral Gorge Drive, and taking the loop clockwise (the most beautiful views will be towards the end this way). Make sure to stop by Cathedral Cave and head into the slot canyon to explore!
Length: 3.3 miles (5.3 km) loop
Elevation Gain: 216 feet (65.8 meters)
Difficulty: Easy – moderate
Hike Time: I consider myself an average hiker, and this trail took me 2 hours and 5 minutes, including stopping for lots of photos and taking the detour to Miller’s Point. You can check out my hike on Strava!
You can drive right up to Miller’s Point – it’s a really stunning overlook of the canyon. I really recommend going here at sunset for the best view, but it’s incredible anytime of day. You don’t have to hike, but the trail goes down some steep stairs to the bottom of the canyon, then back up to the overlook. You can also go to Miller’s Point from the Juniper Draw Loop!
Length: 0.5 miles (0.8 km) out and back
Elevation Gain: 111 feet (33.8 meters)
Difficulty: Moderate – it’s short, but steep with a lot of stairs
The Moon Caves are a slot canyon that’s fun to explore. It’s a short, easy walk through them – there are a few narrow sections and some wider ones, and it’s really interesting to walk through.
Length: 0.2 miles (0.32 km) out and back
Elevation Gain: 26 feet (7.9 meters)
Eagle Point & Nature Loop
This trail is an easy nature walk that overlooks the gorge. It’s a really beautiful, low effort trail that’s extra beautiful at sunrise and sunset!
Length: 1.0 miles (1.61 km) loop
Elevation Gain: 91 feet (27.8 meters)
Cathedral Gorge Nature Loop
This short nature loop is perfect to take from the campground. It goes through the desert brush, then over to the Cathedral Cave. There are some signs along the way that tell you about the plants and the wildlife you might see in the park!
Length: 0.6 miles (0.97 km) loop
Elevation Gain: 16 feet (4.9 meters)
Where to Stay Near Cathedral Gorge State Park
Glamping, Cabins, & Yurts
For a unique place to stay during your trip, check out Hipcamp! It’s like Airbnb for campsites – and you can find yurts, cabins, glamping sites, and more.
You can even get $10 off your first booking here!
A Camper van
With a camper van, you get a vehicle and a place to sleep, all in one! This is my favorite way to travel, and you can rent a fully decked out van with Escape Campervans. Another option is to use Outdoorsy, which is more like Airbnb – you can rent vans, RVs, and trailers from people who live nearby!
Find a Campsite
Whether you car camp, tent camp, or rent a tiny home on wheels, The Dyrt is the best way to find campsites! You can stay right in the park, or there are options nearby. There’s also BLM land just outside the park where you can camp for free!
Try the Dirt Pro
Free for 30 days
Find campsites, plan road trips, and see the boundaries of national forest land where you can camp for free!
Hotels & Lodges
There are a few lodging options in the small town of Panaca, which is just a few minutes from the park, and also a few towns nearby that you can stay in when exploring Cathedral Gorge. Booking.com is a great resource for finding a place to stay!
For more options, check out this map of places to stay. Make sure to change the dates, and zoom out to see all of your options!
More Adventures Near Cathedral Gorge State Park
For more desert adventures, here are some other posts:
If you’ve been to this park and have any tips, or if you’re planning a trip and have any questions, leave them in a comment below!
Pin any of these photos to save this guide to Cathedral Gorge State Park for later!