Cathedral Gorge is along U.S. Highway 93, approximately 165 miles north of Las Vegas, and just one mile from the tiny farming and ranching town of Panaca, in beautiful Lincoln county, Nevada. It has been a popular local picnic area, as well as a dramatic backdrop for open air plays and Easter celebrations, since the area was first settled in the 19th century, and Cathedral Gorge became one of Nevada’s four original state parks in 1935.
The Civilian Conservation Corps built the distinctive stone water tower, the stone picnic area that is still in use, as well as a stone restroom, which is no longer useable.
The elevation of Cathedral Gorge is 4,800 feet above sea level, and the area has arid, semi-hot summers, with average temperatures of 95 °F during the day to 55 °F at night, and cold winters, with day time temperatures in the 40s, and below freezing at night.
A million years ago, most of the Meadow Valley, which runs along Highway 93 between the towns of Caliente and Panaca, was covered by a fresh water lake. The soft pink gullies of Cathedral Gorge are the remnants of the ancient lake bed, and over the millenia, the lake gradually began to drain. Erosion worked away at the exposed sediment and gravel that once was the lake bottom, and melting snow and rain carved rivulets in the soft clay shale and siltstone, carving and molding the fissures into bigger and bigger gullies and canyons.
Known as “the caves,” the park’s geological formations have extremely narrow slot canyons, which visitors can explore, discovering hidden chambers in the maze of canyons, which can offer a cool hide-away in the heat of the summer.
The park includes a 22 site RV campground with electrical hook ups, and ADA-accessible sites. The park also recently added wifi for a small fee ($5 for 500 MB) Be aware, Lincoln county has sparse cell coverage. I had OK Verizon 1X, but the 3G was not strong enough to go online. If you choose dry camping, it’s $17 a night, with electric, add $10. There are water spigots throughout the camping area, and an RV dump station along the road into the park.
There are also group use areas, restrooms and showers. A visitor center at the park entrance has information and interpretive displays, as well as information about other parks in the area.
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