Wednesday, November 14, 2018

ROADTRIP: Cathedral Gorge State Park

Cathedral Gorge State Park
Sun shines into a crevice at
Cathedral Gorge State Park.
I am willing to bet, when people think of Nevada, they do not think of world-class parks, but some of the most iconic landscapes are in the Silver State. While Cathedral Gorge State Park might not be quite as known as Valley of Fire, people usually recognize the unique pillars of ash, formed when sediment eroded in a now-dry ancient lake bed.

More photos

Millions of years ago, volcanic eruptions spewed ash, which settled in a nearby lake. As the lake dried, the sediment eroded and not only can the result be seen today, you can actually walk into and explore the narrow -- sometimes claustrophobic -- crevices between clay pillars towering above. It's breathtaking to venture into these roofless caves, especially as the temperature plummets, and I felt it was a testament to visitors as well: People have been coming here for more than a hundred years, and we're still allowed to touch.

There are two entrances to the park, and they are connected by a hiking trail. Driving up to the formations is also permitted in some areas. The north entrance provides an overlook to see the formations in the ancient lake bed from above. We got to the park late in the evening and visited the overlook before deciding to come back exploring the next day. For photographers, the light is tricky in the canyon, and having the preview from the overlook helped a lot for planning the next day's visit. We also didn't get to explore the path down from the overlook as it involved stairs and one of us was still recovering from a broken leg.

Cathedral Gorge State Park
We also opted to stay in nearby Echo Canyon State Park as the campsites had more cover. There are campsites in Cathedral Gorge, located in the middle of the canyon, and day use areas, but because of the landscape and location, they have minimal cover and likely would be very hot and crowded in the middle of the day.

Unlike some of the parks we visited on this trip, Cathedral Gorge is well known, easy to get to and boasts a unique landscape, so the services and personnel were more plentiful. The nearby town of Pioche was also worth driving through and somewhere I know we'll be back to explore. Plus, as pointed out in this great video from Nevada State Parks, the formations are constantly changing, so you never know how it will look when you visit.