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Explore This Otherworldly Park in Nevada

Towering spires of otherworldly rock formations, incredible desert wildlife, and an oasis campground perfect for an unforgettable off-grid weekend: Wlcome to Cathedral Gorge State Park in Nevada!

Tall rock formations at Cathedral Gorge State Park in Nevada.
Rock spires in Cathedral Gorge, Nevada

Located right on the Utah border, Cathedral Gorge is a gem of a park that is 100% worth a stop on your next Southwest road trip.

And speaking of road trips… not too long ago, our family embarked on a monumental road trip, covering more than 10,000 miles in a Pontiac Vibe over the course of two and a half months.

During this particular road trip, we were fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants kind of travelers.

We stayed in campgrounds every night without making reservations, which led us to some incredibly interesting and beautiful campgrounds that we never would have discovered online.

Cathedral Gorge State Park was one such location.

At-A-Glance: Cathedral Gorge State Park Camping

Location: View on Google Maps
Hours: Always open
Camping: 22 tent/RV sites, some with electric/water hookups (no reservations)
Fees: day rate – $5 ($10 out-of-state), camping rate – $15 to $30 depending on site
Dogs: On-leash
Official Park Website
Download a Cathedral Gorge Trail Map

We had just hopped off of the Extra-Terrestrial Highway after some seriously long and lonely driving and were looking for a spot to camp for a few days. Cathedral Gorge State Park showed up as a little tent-next-to-a-pine-tree icon on our (real paper) map.

As we drove down the narrow, winding road toward the park, we felt like we were entering another world entirely.  

Spires of soft, bentonite clay rose out of the desert and seemed to go on for miles and miles. Surrounding the gorge was a land of sprawling sagebrush, and in the middle of that was a tiny oasis of activity, otherwise known as the Cathedral Gorge State Park Campground.

We spent several days in Cathedral Gorge before continuing on our massive road trip.

We relaxed in the campground, hiked the trails, and saw tons of wildlife, including songbirds, lizards, snakes, jackrabbits, and foxes. Cathedral Gorge State Park was one of the highlights of our road trip, and we can’t wait to share it with you!

How to Get to Cathedral Gorge State Park

The entrance sign at Cathedral Gorge State Park in Nevada.
Cathedral State Park entrance sign

Cathedral Gorge State Park is kind of in the middle of nowhere but also en route to some pretty amazing destinations.

If you aren’t visiting as part of a mega cross-country road trip, I would advise flying into Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas and renting a car.

If you want to up the fun factor, rent an Escape Campervan in Las Vegas and use it as your adventure mobile. The campervans come with everything you need to explore in style, including beds, dining areas, and kitchens.

Combine your visit to Cathedral Gorge with a trip to Great Basin National Park, which is about 128 miles north of Cathedral Gorge, or continue west into Utah to explore Zion National Park or Highway 12, which brings you to both Bryce Canyon National Park and Capitol Reef National Park.

It’s an easy drive from Harry Reid Airport to Cathedral Gorge State Park. Hop on Interstate 15 North for a few miles and then take 93 North all the way to the park. Total driving time is just under three hours.

Best Time to Visit Cathedral Gorge State Park

A boy hikes among the red rocks at Cathedral Gorge State Park in Nevada.
A sunset hike through Cathedral Gorge in the summer.

Cathedral Gorge State Park is open year-round but does experience some major weather extremes.

The park is located 4,800 feet above sea level with a high-desert climate. Temperatures are very hot in the summer, with daytime highs hitting 95 degrees Fahrenheit or higher most days.

Winter temperatures are often below freezing at night, and snow is not uncommon. To avoid these temperature extremes, we recommend visiting in September/October or March/April, when you’ll experience warm days and cool nights that are perfect for outdoor recreation and camping.

What to Pack for Your Visit to Cathedral Gorge State Park

What you need for your adventure in Cathedral Gorge State Park will depend on what time of year you visit, but here are a few things you’ll want to pack no matter what season you visit.

  • Sun protection: This includes a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. The sun is harsh, even in the winter, and there is very little shade.
  • Long pants: Even on days when it’s warm enough for shorts, we recommend wearing long pants to protect you from desert plants and animals. My current favorite hiking pants are these Halle Pants from Prana. They are one of the few companies that make petite sizes for shorties like me, and they are so comfy!
  • Rugged hiking shoes: We don’t recommend hiking through the desert in sandals or other flimsy shoes. Get yourself a pair of sturdy hikers that will keep your feet protected from prickly plants.
  • Insulated water bottles:  Insulated water bottles from Klean Kanteen will keep your water cool and fresh while hiking in the desert.
  • Trail guide: If you’re exploring more trails in Nevada, Top Trails of Nevada covers hikes in Great Basin National Park, Cathedral Gorge State Park, Valley of Fire State Park, and 23 more Nevada parks.

Camping at Cathedral Gorge State Park

With just 22 campsites scattered among the park’s only stand of trees, I thought we would be pretty lucky to find a site. However, the place was pretty empty when we visited in the summer, except, of course, for the birds and jackrabbits.

From the moment we arrived, the birds were singing and flitting around, and we learned later that the little campground in Cathedral Gorge State Park is a huge draw for desert birdwatchers. I love birds but can scarcely tell a sparrow from a warbler. The songs those birds sang to us that evening were an absolute treat.

The jackrabbits were everywhere, and unlike our little cottontail rabbits back east, these guys and gals weren’t at all skittish. They loved watching us and would bounce a few steps away when startled.

A lone jackrabbit in the desert landscape surrounding Cathedral Gorge in Nevada.
There are lots of jackrabbits in the Cathedral Gorge State Park campground.

The campground at Cathedral Gorge is beautiful, with lush plantings, shaded pavilions, and large private campsites.

From the campground, trails snake through the desert and sagebrush toward the gorge, which we’ll take you to in a minute. First, a few tips about camping at Cathedral Gorge State Park.

Tips for Camping at Cathedral Gorge State Park

  • Cathedral Gorge State Park and campground are open year-round. Electrical hook-ups are available for an extra fee. The bathhouse is really clean and has hot showers.
  • Sites are now reservable. Campsites at Cathedral Gorge State Park can be reserved on the park’s website.
  • You can camp here for up to 14 days at a time. Sign me up!
  • There are two handicapped-accessible sites and a large group area.
  • The night sky is one of the most outstanding features of Cathedral Gorge State Park. It’s incomparable, especially for someone from the East Coast of America.
  • Be prepared for sweltering summer temperatures. I guess this should go without saying, but like most of the state, Cathedral Gorge State Park gets really hot in the summer. My advice: Spend your evenings hiking, your nights paying homage to the universe, and your days chillin’ out in a hammock with your favorite book.
  • Watch out for rattlesnakes. There are lots of places for snakes to hike in the canyons and gorges.

Exploring Cathedral Gorge State Park

The milky way over Cathedral Gorge State Park in Nevada
The Milky Way over Cathedral Gorge

Cathedral Gorge’s rock spires and other formations are a short hike from the campground. You’ll pass through low-growing plant communities consisting of white sage, four-winged saltbush, barberry sagebrush, greasewood, and a few others that I couldn’t identify.

Because the ecosystem here is quite fragile, there are signs asking you to stay on the trail.

The gorge consists of incredible spires of bentonite clay reaching toward the heavens and creating cave-like formations that just beg to be explored.

It’s like an elaborate labyrinth – perfect for games of hide-and-seek.

Two desert foxes stare at the camera from behind two rocks at Cathedral Gorge State Park in Nevada.
Two baby foxes checking us out from behind the rocks.

Looks like we weren’t the only ones smitten with the allure of the towering cathedrals.

We found this litter of kit foxes playing inside the labyrinth. They weren’t a bit startled by our presence – in fact, they were incredibly curious about us.

A young fox curled up and looking at the camera in Cathedral Gorge State Park in Nevada.
We could have watched these foxes for hours!

After exploring the gorge a bit, you can hike a four-mile loop trail that starts at the campground and circles through the desert, around the gorge, and out to a spectacular overlook.

This is a great early morning or evening hike, especially if you’re hoping to catch glimpses of the abundant wildlife.

Our weekend at Cathedral Gorge State Park in Nevada was one of the highlights of our humongous cross-country road trip.

It’s a small park and really quiet, but perfect for a weekend getaway, and just as lovely if you’re only passing through.

Make Cathedral Gorge State Park a priority on your next road trip, and say hello to our friends, the jackrabbits.

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A collage of photos featuring Cathedral Gorge State Park in Nevada.
Tara Schatz sits with her two dogs, Gatsby and Flynn.

Tara is a freelance writer and travel blogger with a passion for outdoor adventures. She is the co-author of AMC’s Best Day Hikes in Vermont and currently blogs at Back Road Ramblers and Vermont Explored, where she shares travel tips, adventure destinations, and vacation ideas for the wanderer in everyone.