Hidden Adventures: A Cathedral Millions of Years in the Making

Featuring Solo Stove Content Creator, Jonathan Young

If there is anything we crave, it’s adventure. We live to don our packs, grab our hiking sticks, and roam. This year, you might be feeling the itch to get out and explore somewhere new, to feel the rush of finding a hidden adventure.

With the “Hidden Adventures” series, we’re bringing you along to explore America’s tucked-away deposits, waterfalls, beaches, canyons, and so much more. Each edition highlights a secluded location that might just become your next adventure destination.

Welcome to Cathedral Gorge State Park

The geography of southeastern Nevada’s Cathedral Gorge State Park is like nothing you’ve seen on Earth. A two and a half hour drive from Las Vegas near the Utah border, the Great Basin Desert seems to open up into itself. The park’s bizarre monoliths of otherworldly spires and slot canyons seem to change color in the sun, making you feel like you landed on Mars. Cathedral Gorge comprises a relatively small, two thousand acre system of canyon-like ravines millions of years in the making. Eons ago, ancient volcano eruptions spewed ash lay hundreds of feet thick. Millions of years of water and wind erosions carved dramatic patterns in the clay to create the park’s emblematic ravines. Now, adventures can spend hours hiking the quiet trails through the canyons to experience some of the most awe-inspiring views in the desert. The best part? It only costs $5 a day with overnight camping available on site.

Jonathan Young, Solo Stove Content Creator, says Cathedral Gorge State Park is one of his family favorite places to get away. We got to talk to Jonathan about why he and family love the park so much. We’ve even included his ideal itinerary of things you shouldn’t miss when you spend a day or two at Cathedral Gorge. 

All the photos you see are courtesy of Jonathan.

Slot Canyon Formations

The main attraction of the park are three systems of slot canyons: Moon Cave, Canyon Caves, and Cathedral Caves. An ancient lake eroded the clay deposits into a maze of gullies, crevices, and spires free for the adventurous to explore. While the cavern walls soar above, most often the caverns are only two to three feet wide. The effect makes you feel like you are underground. Be aware these passages can lead to some abrupt deadends, but there are a handful of trail routes to lead you through to some gorgeous vistas achieved at one of the many outlook points over the park.

Jonathan recommends spending the majority of your time inside these canyons. There’s something about them that makes you feel calm, even while surrounded by monolithic cavern walls on all sides.

Trails and Outlooks

To get a better view of the land, you can take the Juniper Draw Loop, including the detour to Miller Point to see the whole valley in its beauty. Together, it’s a 3.5 mile round-trip, so make sure you bring water and some snacks!

According to Jonathan, the best trails are the Eagle and Miller Point trails. They are the perfect length to hike with your family, especially if you have kids! Plus, the view from the top is outstanding.

View from the top of Eagle Point Trail

What Makes Cathedral Gorge State Park A Hidden Adventure?

We got to hear first hand from Jonathan on what makes Cathedral Gorge State Park a staple family adventure.

What makes Cathedral Gorge so special for your family?

It’s just the awe of it all. Cathedral Gorge is not of this earth, if that makes sense to you. I’ve only been to a few places that make you feel like your existence matters. It’s one of those places that makes you feel calm. I’m grateful to know that this place was created for us to experience. You almost forget about everything else that might be going on in your lives. That’s what Cathedral Gorge did for me. I had all my kids running around like crazy, but the calming atmosphere made us feel right at home.

I found out about Cathedral Gorge from my sister-in-law. We were talking about cool places to take our families to explore, and she said “Oh, we go to Cathedral Gorge twice a year.” I was like, “You’ve never told me about it!” [laughs]. It’s one of those hidden gems people don’t talk about, because they don’t want it to get too busy. On Instagram, I see so many people posting photos from there, but they don’t tag the location. I did, though [laugh]. As long as people respect nature anywhere they go, it should be enjoyed and celebrated.

What are your recommendations of things to do when you visit Cathedral Gorge State Park?

Definitely the slot canyons. Our family spent so much time exploring them inside and out. What’s crazy about those canyons is that if you knock on them with your hand, you can feel they are actually hollow. That was a wild experience, because they are so tall, and they just surround you. One of my favorite moments of the trip happened inside the canyons. As we explored the canyons together, my four-year-old took my hand. He told me how much he wanted to come back here again someday because he thought they were so cool. There have only been a few places where me kids said something like that, to be affected by a place so much that they wanted to come back again. That moment made this place even more special to me as a dad wanting my children to experience something truly great.

We looked around and found there are some ghost towns near the park you can visit. The one I recommend is the town of Caliente. They have a train museum and a small diner we ate lunch at. It’s just one of those towns that you knew was awesome back in the day.

If you go a bit further outside of Caliente, about twenty minutes south of Cathedral Gorge, you can actually dig for trilobite fossils at Oak Springs Trilobite Area. It was a blast to spend some time learning about the history of the region and see some cool fossils. We did find any though.

What’s your ideal day trip itinerary for those wanting to visit Cathedral Gorge State Park?

If you want to experience the best of Cathedral Gorge in a day, I would start by getting there early and spending half of the day in the slots. They are the first thing that stands out to you about the spot. You want to spend as much time in the canyons as possible. If you are taking your kids, I would definitely recommend visiting the visitor’s center. It’s very informative, and they have some cool exhibits for your kids to experience.

After the slots, I recommend driving the twenty minutes from the park to Caliente. Eat at the diner for lunch to get the full feel of the town, and then go visit the trilobite area and the visitors center there.

In the afternoon, you can go back to Cathedral Gorge to experience some of the longer trails through the park. We enjoyed the Eagle Point trail, because it ends at the top of the canyons. Looking out from the overlook, you get the feeling that Cathedral Gorge is like a mini Grand Canyon.

You are in a desert, so the best time to visit is in the Fall, particularly in October. That way it’s not too hot or cold depending on the time of day. If you are visiting in the hotter months, you can flip this schedule by doing the trilobite dig in the morning when it’s not as hot. Visiting the slots in the afternoon will be cooler, because when the wind whips through the canyons it’s almost like an air conditioner is blowing on you while you hike.

What are your favorite “hidden adventures?” We want to hear about them! Share your story and your photos with us!