Gorge on the Scenery
The Juniper Draw Trail traces a mellow loop around the bottom of Cathedral Gorge. This trail provides excellent up close and personal views of the formations. The trail is very easy to follow, and offers no great physical challenge - the reward is in the intimate views of your surroundings.
Cathedral Gorge State Park was designated as one of four original state parks in 1935 to preserve the badlands-style geology. Silt, clay, and volcanic ash are being continuously eroded by rain to form towers, spires, narrow slots, and cliffs. The trail makes an easy loop around the bottom of a valley surrounded by these formations. Start from the trailhead and simply follow the trail. Once you loop through the valley and start to head back toward the CCC water tower, a signed spur trail will take you to Miller Point. This spur takes you up a few sets of metal stairs to an overlook of the valley. Once up top, walk down the road a ways to the short trail (~0.5 mi) for Eagle View - it is by far the better view. From here, back-track to resume the loop and head toward the tower.
In the 30's, the CCC built picnic and overlook shade structures, a stone restroom, and stone water tower. The water tower had to be decommissioned after only a few years, when mineral deposits from the groundwater rendered it inoperable. The trail visits all of these projects, including better interpretive signs than at some national parks.
Behind the day use area, there are a number of slot canyons in the clay that you can crawl and/or squeeze through. Some are named and signed, and even have planks and ropes to allow further access. The first few Europeans to explore the valley thoroughly called these "caves," and the name stuck, even though they are open to the sky and not true caves. Great area to explore.
Resume the loop by hiking back toward the campground. This portion of the trail has small signs describing plants and animals along the way.
The cryptobiotic soil crusts here are very well-developed. Be sure to stay on trail or travel in the washes. Use ropes and planks found in the caves at your own risk.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.