CATHEDRAL GORGE STATE PARK, NV
You could easily spend all day racing through the slot canyons in Cathedral Gorge State Park. It's one of the most unique places we've ever been. And we get around a bit!
Located about a mile north of Panaca, Nevada off the 93, is Cathedral Gorge State Park. From Las Vegas, Nevada, it's a two and a half hour scenic drive. If you plan ahead, it's totally doable as a day trip. Just leave early in the morning and return late at night. Easy as that. Be sure to pack a lunch and plenty of water though. There's aren't any amenities in the park, but we hear there are some delicious restaurants outside of the park in Caliente, Nevada. Park entrance fee is $5, so bring cash for the envelope.
The extremely narrow slot canyons, spires and bluffs in the Cathedral Gorge State Park were formed over tens of millions of years. The crazy thing is that these incredible structures were formed as a result of a supervolcano located just south of the Cathedral Gorge State Park at the Caliente Caldera Complex. We think the history of our land and geology is fascinating. Especially here! Scientists have found evidence of 15-20 super-eruptions near the Cathedral Gorge State Park that deposited ash hundreds of feet thick forming the super-structures we see today. And even more incredible, supervolcanoes don't stand high like a cone, so they're not as obvious to the naked eye. Supervolcanoes blast out more than 1,000 cubic km of volcanic material when they erupt and then collapse at the core, creating enormous holes in the ground. Supervolcanoes aren't active today, but 30 million years ago they were. In Nevada. How cool is that? Dinosaurs were already extinct at the time, but 25 million years ago, Nevada was home to rhinos and camels, along with tortoises. And now, we're walking where they were. On the same land.
Fast forward 5 million years from when the supervolcano eruptions ceased, to when the bedrock fractured, creating the valleys and mountains that we see all over Nevada today. The faulting bedrock created a huge depression that eventually filled with water, forming a freshwater lake. Rain continued to erode the exposed volcanic ash sediments. Streams carried that eroded sediment into the newly formed lake. As the landscape changed, the lake drained, further exposing the volcanic ash sediments. Continued rain and wind carved the existing super-formations that you see today.
If you walk through the tunnels, you'll discover hidden chambers in the network of canyons. Temperatures drop 10-15 degrees the deeper you go in the canyons. Look upward, while inside the slot canyons, to see spectacular "skylights" where the canyon walls merge. It's truly a sight to see.
There are covered picnic areas, restrooms with showers and a public campground at Cathedral Gorge State Park. The visitors center at the start of the park entrance has interpretive displays and information about other parks in the area as well.