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Outdoor Nevada: Hit the Slots!

Landscape of Cathedral Gorge
Vegas PBS

Cathedral Gorge State Park

Cathedral Gorge is arguably Nevada’s most fun state park. Along a cliff face measuring less than a mile in length, dozens of lengthy slot canyons are carved like hallways into the soft bentonite clay. Each one twists and turns and climbs and dives in unique and unpredictable ways, splitting and branching as they probe deeper into the ever-eroding landscape.

The park is suitable for a day trip from Las Vegas. There are only a couple historical ruins and markers, and the main passages can be explored in an hour. However, those passages are only the tip of the iceberg. More adventurous hikers and climbers can spend days crawling through these picturesque formations and still not see every passage the park has to offer.

Within easy walking distance from the slot canyons is Cathedral Gorge’s excellent campsite, which features flushing toilets and hot showers. Sites are comfortably spaced and have trees and awnings that provide much-needed shade for summer campouts. At night, the stars are second-to-none.

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Slot name: Moon Cave

Getting there: From Las Vegas, take I-15 north approximately 20 miles. At the Apex landfill, head northeast (left) on US-93 toward Ely. You’ll stay on that highway for about 140 miles until you reach Cathedral Gorge, less than three miles past Panaca.

Inside the park, start from the marked parking lot and walk into the biggest passage heading into the cliff. Once in among the slots, hang a left and look for the cave at the end of the path. The trail continues through the cave, which is large enough to comfortably crawl through. If you’re uneasy in tight spaces, let your hiking companion go first.

Pro tip: Cathedral Gorge can be visited in all seasons, thanks to the cooling, cave-like atmosphere inside the slots. However, during rains, the bentonite clay turns into very slick mud that can get extremely messy. In the event of wet weather, check out nearby Kershaw-Ryan State Park instead.

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