Cathedral Gorge State Park:
10 minutes from Pioche (8.8 miles)
CLICK HERE for directions
Nomadic Native Americans occupied this area as long ago as 10,000 BC. The Fremont, Anasazi and Southern Paiutes used the Cathedral Gorge area for seasonal hunting and gathering. There is no evidence of any permanent settlements however.
Panaca was settled by Mormon pioneers in 1864, attracted to the area by the abundant water resources that supported crops and livestock. Bullionville was founded in 1869 following the discovery of silver ore near Pioche. Remnants of the town are still visible east of the park entrance. The Bullionville Cemetery is north of the park entrance, off US Highway 93.
During the 1920’s, Cathedral Gorge was popular for picnicking and hiking. Open-air plays and “vaudevilles” were given with the spires and canyons as backdrops. In 1924, Governor Scrugham designated it as a park and in 1935, Cathedral Gorge became one of Nevada’s first four state parks. The Civilian Conservation Corps built picnic and camping facilities, some of which are still used. The stone water tower and several structures in the picnic area were built by the CCC. Today, the park covers 1,608-acres.
The buff-colored cliffs and canyons of Cathedral Gorge, called the Panaca Formation, are remnants of an Cathedral Gorge Photo12ancient lakebed. About one million years ago, much of Meadow Valley (the area along US 93 from Caliente to Panaca) was covered by a lake. As the climate changed, the lake gradually drained, exposing the bottom sediments. Erosion from rainwater and melting snow carved rivulets in the siltstone and clay shale, eventually widening the cracks into gullies and canyons. The “caves” on the east side of the Gorge are not true caves–the canyon walls twist and wind into slots which are open above but narrow and dark below.
Erosion is a constant process, caused by runoff, freezing and thawing, heat expansion and contraction, and evaporation of moisture from within the rock. Visitors hasten erosion by driving off the roads and compacting the soil. Once compacted, gullying occurs. This is why off-road driving is prohibited in the park.
Vegetation & Wildlife:
The park’s different soil types permit various plant associations to grow. The “badland” clay below the eroded escarpment makes plant growth difficult since the clay is constantly eroding away. Small sand dunes are held in place by many kinds of wildflowers and grasses, like primroses and Indian rice grass. In the middle of the valley, clay, sand, and gravel create a loamy soil favored by narrowleaf yucca, juniper trees, barberryCathedral Gorge Photo3 sagebrush, greasewood, “white sage,” shadescale, and four-winged salt-bush. Rabbitbrush grows in disturbed areas such as roadsides and walkways.
Several non-native species provide shade at the campground and group use area. Few cactus species grow here due to climate extremes. Winter temperatures fall below freezing, while summer temperatures rise above 100º F.
Small mammals inhabiting the park are black-tailed jackrabbits, cottontail rabbits, coyote, kit foxes, skunks, packrats, kangaroo rats, mice and even gophers. Deer browse in the area around Miller Point and many venture into the Gorge in the late fall and winter. Several species of non-poisonous lizards and snakes are abundant. In summer, the Great Basin rattlesnake may be found.
Birds common in the campground and shrubby areas include ravens, kestrels, small hawks, roadrunners, robins, sapsuckers, flycatchers and several kinds of sparrows. Migratory birds include tanagers, cedar waxwings, warblers, bluebirds, and hummingbirds. A bird list is available at the Information Center.
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.
Camping: The campground has twenty-two sites, each with a table, grill and shade ramada. Sites cannot be reserved. Water and a flush restroom with showers are available from April-November.
Picnicking: The CCC Day Use Picnic Area has a large shade ramada with three picnic tables.
Group Area: Accommodations for a day and overnight groups are available by reservation. Facilities adjacent to the campground offer large overhead ramadas, grills, picnic tables and water. Contact Regional Information Center for reservations.
Trails: 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 CCC Picnic Area. Motorized vehicles are not permitted.
User Fees: Fees are charged for entrance, camping and group use. Current fees are posted in the park.
Regional Information Center: The center is open from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm daily. It is located at the park entrance off US 93.
Location and Climate: Cathedral Gorge is located 1 mile north of the intersection of US Highway 93 and State Route 319. The park sits at an elevation of 4,800 feet and is open year-round.
The area is typically arid with hot summers and cold winters. Summer temperatures range from 95º F at midday to 55º F at night. Rainfall is variable and thunderstorms are common.
Reminders: To make your visit and the visits of others more enjoyable, please observe the following rules:
1. Drive only on designated roadways. Operating un-licensed vehicles is not permitted.
2. Camping is allowed only in designated areas. Saving or reserving campsites is prohibited-even if prepaid.
3. Fires are permitted only in the fire rings and grills provided. Collection of firewood within the park is prohibited.
4. All plants, animals, rocks, minerals and historic artifacts within the park boundaries are protected by state law. Please do not remove, destroy or disturb these features.
5. Pets must be kept on a leash no longer than 6 feet.
6. Use garbage dumpsters provided. Do not burn or bury garbage.
7. Quiet hours in the park are from 10:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.
8. Practice to Leave No Trace skills and ethics and Tread Lightly minimum impact camping techniques.
You are responsible for knowing all park rules and regulations in effect. Detailed rules and regulations are posted in the park.
Cathedral Gorge State Park
P.O. Box 176
Panaca, NV 89042