Cathedral Gorge State Park is like a scene from a sci-fi film. A different planet. You know the dripping sand castles we all used to make as kids on the beach? That’s what it reminds me of. I have had the pleasure of exploring this park a couple of times now and it never ceases to amaze me. Here is everything you need to know to plan a trip to Cathedral Gorge.
But first, a little about me! My name is Daniela Blagoeva. I’m a creative daydreamer who is learning to nurture her wandering spirit. I love hiking and nature and crave time in solitude. I grew up in Samokov, Bulgaria and moved to the United States when I was 12 years old. I’m actually home in Bulgaria right now as I’m writing this. It has been 18 years since I was last home. Being back home has been extremely emotional and reinvigorating.
I have always been a creative and artistic person. Photography has always been there, but nothing more than a hobby. After high school, I studied health coaching and when I got certified I started my own health coaching practice. I loved the whole creative process of designing my website, and writing and designing ebooks. That’s when I actually became more interested in photography – particularly food photography.
In the meantime, my sister started her fashion blog and she needed a photographer. I had a camera, so that led me into fashion and portrait photography. But my real passion for photography and travel came around two years ago. I can’t even explain it. This all just happened naturally.
I think I started attracting the right people and right circumstances because I was finally in that space where I allowed myself to be creative. I had spent a good chunk of my life hiding and suppressing this part of me. All of a sudden, I felt ready to let go of some parts of my past and release my adventurous wandering soul. And then, COVID-19 happened.
During times of lockdown and uncertainty, my passion for travel needed more creative expression. Fear of wasting away my potential propelled me forward. I love to look at the world through the eyes of a child. For example, I jump around in puddles when it rains and exclaim when I see spring blossoms and butterflies. I try to see beauty and appreciate simplicity. That’s what inspires me as a photographer, a creative and a woman.
Working as a Photographer in Las Vegas
I have been working as a photographer in Las Vegas since 2019. Like I said, I never thought of it as anything more than a hobby. I was very shy and insecure about my possible talents and abilities as a photographer. I would take good photos but in my mind someone out there was always more talented, took better photos, had better equipment and so forth.
It baffles me how often we stand in our own way without knowing it. When the world shut down last year, I finally had time to do things I loved. The moment they locked us down, I was out early in the mornings to go hiking and take pictures. For me, being on my own away from people in nature is an elixir! Soon I realized that Nevada was seriously underrated.
There was so much to see in Nevada at places that I didn’t even know existed. Even my friends who have lived in Nevada for years didn’t know half of the places I was posting pictures of. And so I was hypnotized! That’s all I wanted to do: travel, take photos, make memories, meet new people and most importantly – feed my soul. That’s how I began exploring more of Las Vegas and Nevada for my photography shoots.
Inspiration to Visit Cathedral Gorge State Park
I remember being on Instagram and going through my explorer page when I stumbled upon a photo of the full moon framed by slot canyon walls. I had never seen anything like it before. I clicked on the photo hoping the location was tagged. It read “Moon Caves”. I opened it on Google Maps and was stunned to find out that these caves were slot canyons located in Cathedral Gorge State Park, two and a half hours away from Las Vegas.
I was already planning a road trip in July and decided to make a stop off at Cathedral Gorge. Temperatures rise above 100 degrees Fahrenheit in July. So I packed more than enough water, a few snacks and took my sister along. I have returned to Cathedral Gorge State Park twice since then.
My Favorite Place at Cathedral Gorge: Moon Caves Trail
My favorite place at Cathedral Gorge is Moon Caves Trail. It winds through a maze of slot canyons and tunnels. The landscapes feel like they come straight out of an Indiana Jones movie. I love this place because I am flighty and scatterbrained, and these beautiful slot canyons further stimulate my daydreaming tendencies. You are in a labyrinth! It’s so stimulating.
The best part is looking up. The geometry is perfect for daydreamers and star gazers. I haven’t been at night, but every time I look up at the gorgeous shapes that the slot canyon walls create – I imagine how surreal it must be looking at a starry night framed by abstract geometric shapes.
Biggest Attractions of Cathedral Gorge State Park
Undoubtedly, the Moon Caves are the main attraction of Cathedral Gorge State Park in Nevada. They are simply spectacular. Right after you explore the caves and slot canyons, head up to Miller Point Overlook. This is a very short and picturesque hike – about two miles round trip. It’s not too technical and has stairs at the end that take you to an incredible overlook – serving up beautiful sunrise and sunset views of the slot canyons below.
Visiting Cathedral Gorge for the first time, you will want to put together a bit of a plan. The best way to do that is to stop by the Visitor Center. You can learn more about the park and talk to rangers who always know the best trails. Camping and photography are the other popular activities to enjoy. The landscape makes for such a unique setting for photographers.
Best Memories from Cathedral Gorge State Park
The first time I visited Cathedral Gorge was in July – the peak of summer with hot temperatures. For some reason, I thought I would be okay if I packed water and got there before sunrise. I was half right. Early mornings are just divine, but once it hits 10am the temperature rises quickly.
Thankfully, I had packed a whole case of water. However, I didn’t bring a cooler – so it kind of felt like I was drinking hot flavorless tea in the middle of summer. Oh, and I forgot to mention, I got burned quite badly. I forgot sunscreen. So that was fun! Besides all these little mishaps, I had the most magical time exploring the caves and canyons and taking pictures.
The best thing you can do around noon to combat the heat if you happen to visit in the summer is to hide inside the slot canyons. It’s cooling, dark and quiet with soft rays of light illuminating just the very top of the cathedral-esque canyons creating this gorgeous dream-like atmosphere.
I spent the afternoon going in and out of the slot canyons to cool off and continued shooting without dying. I love scrambling rocks when I hike. The Moon Caves were fun to explore. I was able to climb my way on top of the caves and had this 360 degree view of the whole park. It was a fun day.
I loved how it felt like I was on a completely different planet. It still blows my mind that this park is located in Nevada. I have lived in Las Vegas for 16 years now and if it wasn’t for the pandemic and the lockdown, I would have never sat down to research what unique places there were in Nevada to see and explore. Fun fact, it actually snows up here in the winter. So, I want to come back in the winter and capture the canyon with soft white snow.
Nearby Towns and Accommodation
Cathedral Gorge State Park is an hour and forty minutes northwest of St. George (Utah) and two and a half hours northeast from Las Vegas. So there are some fantastic options for accommodation at both of these cities. You can book a hotel or airbnb and make an awesome day trip out of the visit.
Pioche and Panaca are the closest towns to the park and they have motels, cabins and B&B’s. If you are road tripping in an RV or a campervan there are a couple of RV parks and campgrounds around the area where you can spend the night. There is camping available inside these parks.
More Amazing Places to Visit in Nevada
Echo Canyon State Park is a beautiful place near Cathedral Gorge that you should add to your travel itinerary. The main attraction here is the Echo Reservoir, which offers an array of activities like fishing and boating. Of course, there are amazing hiking trails and really good campgrounds.
Then there is this lush oasis in the desert called Kershaw-Ryan State Park. It’s a colorful canyon with towering walls up to 700 feet high and long with a grassy valley in between – a sharp contrast from the rugged landscape that surrounds it. Nevada is seriously one of the most underrated states.
Need to Know Before you Go
- Admission is super affordable: $5 per vehicle
- There are 22 campsites with water and flushing restrooms with coin-operated showers. Camping is $15 per night and $10 for utility hookups. First come, first serve.
- Dogs are allowed
- Bring water, snacks and your camera!
- The road inside the park is accessible for all vehicles, so don’t worry if you don’t have a 4×4 SUV
- If you can plan a trip to Cathedral Gorge in the fall or spring that would be the ideal time. Winters are cold and summers are scorching hot.