Cathedral Gorge State Park

High Desert Park in Eastern Nevada

Cathedral Caves at Cathedral Gorge

Cathedral Gorge is a high desert park in eastern Nevada comprising 1,608 acres of spectacular geological formations -- spires and pillars carved by centuries of water running over clay in a Pliocene-era lakebed.

Here, abundant birdlife includes hawks, migratory songbirds and hummingbirds, as well the fabled roadrunner. Stone structures left by the Civilian Conservation Corps, which built the camp in the 1930s provide additional interest.

General Information

Seasons / Hours

Open year round, 24 hours a day.

Rates & Fees

Fees are charged for day use and camping. Current fee schedules are posted in the park.

Visitor Center

The Regional Visitor Center is open from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm daily except for holidays during the winter months, and is located at the main entrance to the park off US 93.

The visitors center features exhibits on the history and natural resources of eastern Nevada.


There are no food or supplies within the park.

Rules, Regulations, Precautions

  • Operating unlicensed vehicles is not permitted. All vehicle operators must be licensed.
  • Drive only on designated roadways.
  • Camping is allowed only in designated areas. Saving or reserving campsites is prohibited, even if prepaid.
  • Fires are permitted only in the fire rings and grills provided.
  • Collection of fire wood within the park is prohibited.
  • All plants, animals, rocks, minerals and historic artifacts within the park boundaries are protected by state law. It is illegal to destroy or disturb these features.
  • Pets must be kept on a leash no longer than 6 feet.
  • Use garbage dumpsters provided. Do not bum or bury garbage.
  • Quiet hours in the park are from 10:00 pm to 7:00 am.
  • Visitors are responsible for knowing all park rules and regulations, which are posted in the park

Climate, Geography, Setting


Cathedral Gorge is located in Eastern Nevada, 1 mile north of the intersection of US Highway 93 and State Route 319.


At an elevation of 4,800 ft., the park is typically arid with hot summers and cold winters. Summer temperatures range from 95 degrees F at mid-day to 55 degrees F at night. Rainfall is variable and thunderstorms are common.



Cultural History

Nomadic Native Americans occupied this area as long ago as 10,000 BC. The Fremont, Anasazi and Southern Paiutes used the area for seasonal hunting of local game and gathering of edible plants. There is no evidence of any permanent settlements.

The town of Panaca was settled by Mormon pioneers in 1864. They were attracted to the area by abundant water resources which allowed agricultural crops and livestock to flourish.

The discovery of silver ore near Panaca led to the establishment of Bullionville in 1869. Some remnants of the town are still visible east of the main park entrance. The Bullionville Cemetery is located just north of the park entrance, off US Highway 93.

During the 1920s, with increased leisure time and the advent of automobiles, Cathedral Gorge became popular for picnicking and hiking. Open-air plays and "vaudevilles" were given with the spires and canyons as backdrops.

In 1924, Governor James Scrugham visited the area and began the process of acquiring the land from the Federal government. In 1935, Cathedral Gorge became one of Nevada's first four state parks. The Civilian Conservation Corps developed early picnic and camping facilities, some of which are still in use. The stone water tower and several structures in the picnic area were built by the CCC.

Natural History



The park's different soil types permit various plant associations to grow. The "badland" topography below the eroded escarpment does not permit many plants to take root since the clay is constantly eroding away. Small sand dunes are held in place by many kinds of wildflowers and grasses, like dune primroses and Indian rice grass. In the middle of the valley, clay, sand, and gravel have mixed to a loamy soil that is conducive to narrowleaf yucca, juniper trees, barberry sagebrush, greasewood, "white sage," shadscale, and four-winged saltbush. Rabbitbrush grows in disturbed areas such as roadsides and walkways.

Several non-native species of trees have been planted at the campground and group use area to provide shade. Few cactus species grow in areas of climate extremes such as Cathedral Gorge, where temperatures may fall below freezing in the winter or rise above 100 degrees F in the summer.


Small mammals predominate in the park: black-tailed jackrabbits and cottontail rabbits, coyotes, kit foxes, skunks, packrats, kangaroo rats, mice and even gophers. Deer browse in the area around Miller Point and many venture into the Gorge during the late fall and winter.

Birds are common, around the campgrounds and in shrubby areas. Park residents include ravens, kestrels and small hawks, roadrunners, sapsuckers, robins, black-throated sparrows, finches, blackbirds, and starlings. Migratory birds include tanagers, cedar waxwings, warblers, bluebirds, and hummingbirds. An updated list of wildlife is available at the Regional Visitor Center.

Several species of nonpoisonous lizards and snakes are abundant, and in the summer, the great basin rattlesnake may be found.


The buff-colored cliffs and canyons of Cathedral Gorge, called the Panaca Formation, are remnants of a Pliocene-era lakebed. About one million years ago, much of Meadow Valley (the area along US 93 from Caliente to Panaca) was covered by a freshwater lake. Sediments and gravel settled on the lake floor. As the climate changed over centuries, the lake gradually drained, and erosion started working on the exposed sediments. Rainwater and melting snow carved rivulets in the siltstone and clay shale, working their way down and widening the cracks into gullies and canyons. The "caves" area designated on the east side of the Gorge are not true caves but the canyon walls narrow down so much that explorers feel like they are in caves.

Erosion is a constant process and also occurs through the actions of freezing and thawing, heat expansion and contraction, and evaporation of moisture from deep within the rock. Visitors hasten erosion by driving off the roads; tire tracks compact soil and create new places for water to run. Once compacted, soils cannot recover, and gullying takes place.

Remnants of the Panaca Formation may also be seen south of Panaca, on the east side of Meadow Valley.

Things To Do

Sight-seeing and relaxing outdoors are the main attractions at Cathedral Gorge. The Miller Point Overlook has outstanding views of buff-colored canyons, cliffs and spires.

The CCC Day Use Picnic Area offers a large shade ramada with three picnic tables. The overhead ramada and restroom were built by the CCC.

Visitors can access the remote portions of the park via a 4-mile loop trail. Another l-mile trail connects the Miller Point Overlook to the CCC Picnic Area. Motorized vehicles are not permitted on these trails.

Camping & Lodging

  • All camping is on a first-come, first-served basis. Fees are charged per vehicle and are payable in the campground. The campground has 22 developed sites, each with table, grill and shade ramada. Water and a flush restroom with showers are available. Electric hookups are also available. There are two two handicapped-accessible campsites. Camping is limited to 14 days in a 30-day period.
  • Accommodations for day and overnight groups are available by reservation. Facilities are located adjacent to the campground. The group areas offer large overhead ramadas, grills, picnic tables and water. Contact the Park Office at the Regional Visitor Center for reservation information.
  • Camping is allowed only in designated areas. Saving or reserving campsites is prohibited, even if prepaid.

Resources & Nearby Attractions


DesertUSA Trading Post

Cities & Towns

Panaca, Nevada: 1 miles south.

Pioche, Nevada: 10 miles north.

Las Vegas, Nevada: 164 miles south.

Ely Nevada: 115 miles north.

Cedar City, Utah: 80 miles east.

Parks & Monuments

Echo Canyon State Park: 22 miles north.

Spring Valley State Park: 28 miles north.

Beaver Dam State Park: 46 miles southeast.

Valley of Fire State Park: 116 miles south.

Cedar Breaks National Monument:

Great Basin National Park: 130 miles north.

Recreation & Wilderness Areas

Lake Mead National Recreation Area: 130 miles south.

Desert National Wildlife Refuge: 75 miles southwest.

Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge: 70 miles southwest.

Historic & Points of Interest

Lincoln County Historical Museum: (Pioche)

Bristol Wells Historic District: 30 miles west.

Cathedral Gorge State Park
111, Cathedral Gorge State Park Road
Panaca, NV 89042

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