(road trip) Cathedral Gorge, Nevada: when a side road state park is actually a true hidden gem

I’m back to talk about our summer road trip; we went back to the American SouthWest for 15 days at the end of August of 2017, our goal this time was to explore less known areas. I’ve already talked to you about what we did in a long recap, then I posted about the Valley of Fire when we left Las Vegas en route to an isolated national park in Nevada: Great Basin; and I hopped to talk about the day at Cedar Breaks. I skipped a piece there, I wrote too soon about Utah: when we left Great Basin, we actually stopped in a state park called Cathedral Gorge. What I remember mostly from this park is that the heat was extreme, and it was bigger than it looked.

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Step 4 of the road trip: Cathedral Gorge

Most of the time on a road trip, we drive way too much: our goal is not so much to reach the destination but the enjoy the scenery from the car window (many singers have said that better than me). When we left Great Basin National Park, we didn’t take the quickest road to go to Utah, we wanted to linger in Nevada, and to see a little bit more of this state. So we drove. While looking at the map, and following some advices from All Trails, a great website for hikers, we stopped in a state park by the side of Route 93: Cathedral Gorge State Park.

Standing above Cathedral Gorge, on the parking lot

The parking lot is located right next to the road, cars stop, people take pictures and leave quickly. You can see on the picture below what we see from the parking lot: you just get an idea of Cathedral Gorge could be. It reminds me of a dustier Bryce Canyon and a smaller Anza Borrego.  It is really hot outside, it’s 4.30pm, we have no idea where we’ll sleep tonight, camping here could be an option, there’s a campground down the canyon. We don’t want to see this only view of the park, we decide to go hike down. The sign says that the loop is no more than 5 miles, it should take us a little bit more than an hour. We pay the $5 entrance fee, and here we go!

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From Miller Point

Going down the gorge

It’s always both fun and strange to use stairs in a natural setting. It’s very handy but it doesn’t say “adventures!” I wonder when was the last time somebody checked if the stairs were okay, they don’t seem that stable. We just have a mile to walk to arrive in the heart of the park, meanwhile, we enjoy walking on the shadow of the canyon on a dusty and narrow path. The sides seem to be fragile.

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Weird look and sticky hair
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Yep, let’s use some caution
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I’m actually absolutely not chilling on this random bench in the middle of nowhere: I just sat for the picture, it was way too hot there

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The path down the gorge


The name of the park is Cathedral Gorge, but where’s the cathedral? After walking along the canyon, we arrive in a plaine covered in bushes, where there can potentially be a river when it’s flooding. All around, on the sides, it’s full of this type of giant stalactites in clay. The cathedral is actually all around us, we are walking in the middle of it. Like in a cathedral, it’s very quiet.

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The Crust Empire

On the picture below, you can see some crust, on the bottom right side: this is desert crust, it’s forbidden to walk on it, many signs remind the hiker to stay on trail. This crust is full of micro-organisms – lichens, mosses, bacterias – and it takes decades to be formed. They look like tiny canyons covered in a black shade. It would be a real pity to walk on those.

▶ If you want to know more about the crust, check out the vidéo “don’t bust the crust” or how to be a hiker in the American deserts of the South West

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I like this picture, I think it reflects how we felt in the middle of the cathedral

Camping or not camping ?

The loop crosses at some point the campground, we take the chance to use the restroom. The campground has not a lot of shade, and RVs and tents are not separated, I don’t want to stay there tonight. We decide to keep driving East, towards Utah. We planned loosely our road trip: knowing where we want to go, but never knowing for how long, or where we would sleep. It gives us a lot of freedom, but at some point, we need to find, night after night, a place to stay.

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It kinda looks like a Star Wars movie
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The loop is over, we have to get back up there: it seems very far away

I’m glad that we have stopped in this park, we didn’t stay more than 2 hours there; it’s crazy to stop on what looked like a side-road attraction, only to discover that it’s a true natural gem. I would not recommend to stay there more than 1 day, the hikes are short; it can be an option to camp there, if you don’t mind the heat and the RVs. Out next stop has been Cedar City, where we found an Airbnb, as soon as we got some data on our phones to book online. The day after, we were hiking in Cedar Breaks, dans l’Utah. 

▶ More info on the Cathedral Gorge State Park website

And what about you: have you ever stopped at Cathedral Gorge? Talk about your experience in the comment section below!


Rédactrice, grande organisatrice et réseau socialite du Blog de Mathilde. Quand je ne suis pas devant un écran, j'organise des visites guidées de Boston, là où j'ai fondé ma petite entreprise Boston le nez en l'air. Je suis aussi auteure de nombreux guides de voyages, de livres de yoga et de jeux chez des éditeurs français. Suivez-moi sur Instagram, Facebook ou Pinterest.

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