NSS 75th Anniversary Convention

Cathedral Gorge State Park

Cathedral Gorge is located in a long, narrow valley where erosion has carved dramatic and unique patterns in the soft bentonite clay. Trails abound for exploring the cave-like formations and cathedral-like spires. Miller Point, a scenic overlook just north of the park entrance on U.S. 93, offers excellent views of this scenic canyon. Shaded picnic areas and a tree-shaded campground area are open all year. Hiking, picnicking, camping, nature study, photography and ranger programs are the most common activities at the park.

Cathedral Gorge is a photographer's dream. A number of walking trails provide great views of the canyon. Cavers of all ages love exploring the park's slot canyons. This location became one of Nevada's first state parks in 1935.

A visitor center offering interpretive displays is located at the entrance to Cathedral Gorge.


Audio Tour

Audio compliments of Nevada Commission on Tourism

These spires and buff-colored cliffs are the result of geologic processes occurring over tens of millions of years. The beauty enjoyed today had violent beginnings, starting with an explosive series of volcanic activity that deposited layers of ash hundreds of feet thick. The source of this ash, the Caliente Caldera Complex, lies to the south of Cathedral Gorge.

About five million years after the eruptions ceased, block faulting, a fracture in the bedrock that allows the two sides to move opposite each other, shaped the mountains and valleys prevalent in Nevada today. This faulting formed a depression, now known as Meadow Valley.

Over time, the depression filled with water creating a freshwater lake. Continual rains eroded the exposed ash and pumice left from the volcanic activity, and the streams carried the eroded sediment into the newly formed lake.

The Cathedral Gorge formations, made of silt, clay and volcanic ash, are the remnants of that lake. As the landscape changed and more block faulting occurred, water drained from the lake exposing the volcanic ash sediments to the wind and rain, causing erosion of the soft material called bentonite clay.

Recreational Opportunities

Cathedral Gorge State Park

Video compliments of KNPB - PBS Reno, Nevada

The remote portions of the park are accessible via a four-mile loop trail. Another one-mile trail connects the Miller Point overlook to the picnic area. The park's brochure may be found in the resources area on this page. The park's visitor center is open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily. It is located at the park entrance off U.S. 93. The park's campground has 22 sites, each with a table, grill and shade ramada. Electrical hookups are available. Campsites cannot be reserved. Water and flush rest rooms with showers are open year-around. Facilities adjacent to the campground offer large shade ramadas, grills, picnic tables and water. There are two handicapped-accessible campsites at the group area, plus a rest room with flush toilets and showers.


The park and visitor center is located about 2.5 hours north of Las Vegas on Highway 93. If you're travelling north to Ely from Las Vegas, this would be an easy stop. Driving time from this park to Ely is a little over 90 minutes.


The park sits at an elevation of 4,800 feet above sea level, and is typically arid with semi-hot summers, and very cold winters. In the summer, temperatures usually range from 95°F in midday to roughly 55°F at night. Rainfall is variable, and thunderstorms are prevalent.

Additional Information

Please help preserve this fragile desert environment by observing these rules:

  • Practice Leave No Trace and Tread Lightly principles.

  • Stay on trails.

  • Drive only on designated roadways. Vehicles must be licensed.

  • Keep pets on a leash no longer than six feet.

  • Plants, animals, fossils other natural objects and artifacts are protected by state and federal laws.

  • Camp only in designated sites.

  • Light fires only in the fire rings and grills provided.

  • Quiet hours are 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.

  • Fees are charged for park entrance, camping and group use. A fee schedule is posted in the park.

Topographic Maps

USGS 7.5 Quad Map: Panaca


Elevation: 4,819 ft
State: Nevada
District: Lincoln County
Coordinates (WGS84): 37.822222, -114.416667
Nearest town: Panaca, NV
Distance from the convention: ~90 minutes

Links & Resources

  • Cathedral Gorge State Park - Official Website

  • Park's YouTube Video

  • Park Brochure

  • KNPB Teacher's Guide

  • Nearby Geocaching Sites

  • GNIS Detail: Cathedral Gorge State Park

  • Wikimedia GeoHack

  • Wikipedia

  • Caliente Caldera Complex Supervolcano

  • USGS Fact Sheet: Biological soil crusts