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    Cathedral Gorge State Park: striking canyons and strange rock formations in Nevada

    Who I am
    Lluis Enric Mayans
    @lluisenricmayans
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    wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

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    Nevada isn't just Las Vegas: although it is probably not among the most visited South West states for its naturalistic beauty, it does have some pearls to take into consideration. Many will know the Valley of Fire and if you have been around here you may have also happened to visit the Red Rock Canyon, not far from the city of casinos. Here we are talking about a smaller park, but one that will surely appeal to those of you who are passionate about all those rocky conformations that are never lacking in souvenir photo of a trip in the American South West: the Cathedral Gorge State Park.



    Index

    • Where is it and how to get there
      • How to insert it in an on the road itinerary
    • Timetable and ticket prices
    • What to see in the park
      • The paths of the park
    • Tips for visiting by car and on foot
    • Interactive map of the park
    • Where to sleep nearby

    Where is it and how to get there

    Il Cathedral Gorge State Park is a state park in Nevada located along the Great Basin Hwy, less than 40km from the Utah border. The two closest major cities are Las Vegas in Nevada and St. George in Utah - it is very likely that you will depart from one of these cities to reach the park.

    • From Las Vegas (270km): take the Great Basin Hwy, which crosses the city and which in the first section corresponds to I-15, and follow it to exit 64, where you will continue north-west. You are already on the right path, just follow it to the park.
    • Da St. George (160km): Take UT-18 north and follow it to the intersection with UT-56 at Beryl Junction. Here, turn left and follow the road until you cross the border with Nevada: after about thirty kilometers you will arrive in Panaca and immediately after crossing the town, you will cross the Great Basin Hwy: it will take you a few minutes to see the sign for the park. .

    How to insert it in an on the road itinerary

    It will be very difficult for you to visit this park if you are on your first trip to the South West American, where you will certainly want to give way to larger and more famous parks. This does not mean that minor parks are to be excluded a priori, far from it! But the Cathedral Gorge it is located off the beaten track and it is therefore more complex to include it in a classic itinerary than in other places. If, however, it particularly attracts you, or if it is not the first time you visit these lands and you have already checked all the must see from the list, I suggest an alternative itinerary between California and Utah.



    Most tourists traveling between California and Utah and vice versa use two major routes to cross Nevada: I-80 to the north, which joins San Francisco and Sacramento with Salt Lake City, and I-15 to the south. , which leads from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and then to the great parks of southern Utah and northern Arizona. Well, there is a third way to consider.

    The US-6 joins California and Nevada at the height of Yosemite National Park and therefore, why not take this path after seeing one of California's major parks, or heading to it? It is true, between Yosemite and the Cathedral Gorge there are 650km: practically all of Nevada in between but, however monotonous it may seem, the journey has its surprises.

    Nevada is famous for being a state in which excess and oddities of all kinds are the masters. It can be seen in its most famous city, Las Vegas, but also in many other remote places around its desert territory. An example is Tonopah, where you can stay overnight along this route, which, not surprisingly, is one of the stops on our itinerary among the oddities of Nevada.

    Most importantly, part of your journey will be the Extraterrestrial Highway: the road that leads to Area 51 and where everything smells of alien. In the midst of a desert landscape, which will make you doubt you are driving to Mars, you can visit the Alien Research Center and stop at the Little A'Le'Inn: the UFO-themed hotel and restaurant.


    Along this route, after Area 51, you will therefore find the Cathedral Gorge, which will be one of the last stops before arriving in Utah, in the Cedar City area, a few kilometers from Zion (Kolob Canyon) and Bryce Canyon. Here is a map of the itinerary


    Timetable and ticket prices

    The park is always open: all year h 24. The entrance ticket is $ 5 per vehicle, regardless of the number of passengers. Being a state park, in this case it is not possible to enter with the parks card, valid only in national parks, however the price is very affordable.

    What to see in the park

    High stone spiers and narrow passages between the rocks: Although it can't compete with the Mighty Five of neighboring Utah or other large American geological parks, Cathedral Gorge State Park is a small but quite relevant park for the state of Nevada. It was 1935 when the first four state parks in Nevada were born: this was part of it. The original picnic facilities built in the 30s are still in use today and we can still see the stone water tower built around that time.

    Ma let's take a step back some geological era to understand what we are going to see. Tens of millions of years ago a long series of explosive eruptions began at the nearby volcanic complex Caliente Caldera ("Hot boiler" in Spanish), located south of the present state park, depositing meters after meters of layers of ash. Five million years later, tectonic movements created the fault known as Meadow Valley, where space was created to accommodate a large lake. By dint of rain, the deposits were eroded and carried into the lake, where those formations were generated of clay, silt and volcanic ash, which were then shaped by the wind once the lake dried. Today we can admire them in the form of rocky spiers and sinuous slot canyons.



    The narrow and slender valley of Cathedral Gorge State Park offers a fairly clear example of how geological processes have generated some of the most striking formations that characterize the great natural parks of the American South West. But in addition to the rocks, in the gorge we can admire numerous plant and animal species, which find their habitat in this valley protected by the surrounding desert. Walking along the paths that cross the park we can therefore come across various species of birds and small rodents, but also foxes and coyotes.

    The paths of the park

    The park is small, if compared to other American naturalistic areas, but to visit it well it still takes some time, because the only way to appreciate its beauties is to wear comfortable shoes and walk the paths that cross it. By car you can reach the Moon Caves, which are some of the park's slot canyons, but this is the only attraction you don't need to walk around for. You will find them well indicated along the road which, after the entrance, heads to the right: this is where you must also go to take the different paths, while the detour to the left leads to the campground. To get a clearer idea, you can view a map of the park at this link.

    There are 4 paths and they are all quite simple, but of different lengths. To these is added a fifth very short path, which leads from the car park located at the park entrance to the Bullionville Cemetary, the small cemetery at the beginning of the valley.

    • Nature Loop (0.8 km). It is a very short loop, created to have an overview of the tree species present in the area. A sort of small botanical garden that with explanatory signs makes us learn, as we walk, the characteristics of the flora that grows in the valley.
    • Miller Point Trail (1,6 km). Not far from the entrance of the Nature Loop, we find the signs for this straight path (to be done then there and back), which allows you to climb up to Miller Point, a panoramic point from which it is possible to admire a large part of the gorge. To get to the trailhead, you pass the Cathedral Cave, another series of slot canyons other than the Moon Caves. If we do not have a lot of time available, we can therefore choose to do this path, associating it with the Cathedral Cave.
    • Juniper Draw Loop (4,8 km). This is the longest and most complete path in the park, which allows you to have a truly complete view. The great ring coincides in the southern part with the Nature Loop and with the first section of the Miller Point trail (also in this case, we can make a stop at the Cathedral Cave), but then goes into the gorge heading towards the north end of the naturalistic area to see the valley in its entirety.
    • Eagle Point Trail (1,3 km). The fourth trail starts from a side entrance to the park, which is located a little further north along the Great Basin Hwy. This short stretch of asphalt is called Miller Point Road, as it allows you to reach Miller Point by car, but there you will also find access to the Eagle Point Trail. It is a straight path and you will have to follow it uphill to reach the viewpoint that has as its destination, and then retrace your steps downhill to the parking lot.

    Tips for visiting by car and on foot

    If you are passing through and you are running out of time, but even if you are here on a hot summer day, when it is not advisable to walk for a long time in the sun, use your car to reach the main points of interest. Stop first near the Moon Caves and then, past the Water Tower, walk to the Cathedral Cave. Get back in the car and head to the park's secondary access to get to Miller Point and take a nice panoramic photo.

    If you have more time and you like to walk, take the Juniper Draw Loop, the only one that really allows you to visit the park in its entirety. You could also add the Miller Point Trail, the first part of which is already included in the loop you are traveling on: you just need to do the second half up to the viewpoint. Then, taking your car back, head to the secondary entrance for walk to Eagle Point and to park your car at Miller Point (if you haven't reached it on foot first).

    Interactive map of the park

    Where to sleep nearby

    Panaca is the closest town to the park, but it doesn't offer many choices for sleeping. If your trip also includes Utah, you will likely be passing through St. George or Cedar City - stay overnight in either of these cities the night before or after your visit to the park, depending on your direction.

    • Hotel a Panaca
    • Tips for accommodation in St. George
    • Hotel a Cedar City

    If you intend to follow the alternative route suggested above, two hotels that are certainly unique in their kind where to stay overnight are the Little A'Le'Inn and Rachel e The World Famous Clown Motel a Tonopah.

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