At an elevation of over 10,000 feet, Cedar Breaks National Monument looks down into a majestic geologic amphitheater, a three-mile long cirque of eroding limestone, shale, and sandstone.
Situated on the western edge of the Markagunt Plateau, this raised area of earth located in Southern Utah between Interstate 15 and Highway 89, sits entirely above 10,000 feet. Like a naturally formed coliseum, the Amphitheater plunges 2,000 feet taking your eyes for a colorful ride through arches, towers, hoodoos, and canyons.
The park is known for its spectacularly colored cliffs, bright blue skies, and breathtaking 100-mile views of the Great Basin. Take the scenic drive, wander among timeless bristlecone pines, ponder crystal-clear night skies, experience the richness of a subalpine forest, and stand in lush meadows of wildflowers.
The scenic drive has four pullouts for gazing deep into its interior. North View overlook faces south. Chessman Ridge and Sunset View overlooks both have views to the west, and Point Supreme has the only viewpoint that looks due north.
A panache of color explodes here during July when the 260 species of wildflowers are in full bloom, and the experience lingers well into August. Even beyond peak wildflower season, the breathtaking views of the amphitheater featuring colorful cliffs and hoodoos are not to be missed. Stunning views are common throughout so keep your camera nearby.
When photographing the amphitheater, weather often determines which overlook will provide the best image. If a thunderstorm starts rolling in from the west, the Chessman Ridge and Sunset View are the best locations for capturing the amphitheater below, with the rolling clouds in the distance. If the western sky is relatively clear, images from Point Supreme or North View will emphasize the depth of the formations below.
The best photos of the amphitheater from Point Supreme are taken a short time before sunset.
To top it off, it’s 10,350 foot elevation keeps the temps at a comfortable 60-70 degrees, which makes Cedar Breaks an ideal cool mountain retreat during the peak of summer.
During your visit to the monument, you can choose a from variety of ways to view the wildflowers and hoodoos. You can take a guided tour with a ranger. Tours are offered two times daily, in the morning and the afternoon. These hikes range from 30 minutes to an hour, and the ranger will fill you with facts and information during your hike.
You can also head out on your own. There are three hikes within the park to enjoy and take in the scenery. The ADA-compliant Campground Trail travels from the visitor center to the campground, a distance of a half mile. It is a pleasant trail for those who are in a wheelchair or have difficulty hiking on uneven ground.
Spectra Point and Ramparts Overlook Trail is a more challenging jaunt that clocks in at four miles round trip, but affords the best views of the amphitheatre and wildflowers like Indian Paintbrush, which grow more readily along the rim.
You can also check out the 2-mile round trip Alpine Pond hike, a solid hike that gives you a wonderful overview of the wildflower bloom, especially where it is most epic around the marshy meadows. Whatever path you choose, you surely won’t be disappointed.
The trails are easy walks but can be strenuous for the elderly, persons with respiratory problems, and those who are not in good physical condition due to the park’s high elevation. Drink plenty of water and stay well-hydrated.
Popular wildflower sightings include the Colorado columbine, aspen bluebells, elkweed, Indian paintbrush, sunflowers, and yellow evening primrose. There are even some flowers that are endemic to Cedar Breaks. You won’t see these in Zion or Bryce Canyon national parks unless you chance upon a rare microclimate; Cedar Breaks boasts high-elevation and marshy meadows, which provides the perfect environment for wildflowers to grow.
For fans of wildflowers, plan ahead for next year: The colorful wildflower bloom is generally at its peak during the first two weeks of July, which coincides with the annual Cedar Breaks Wildflower Festival, a wonderful reason to visit the park. The festival offers many family-friendly activities. Events associated with the festival are free with park entrance.
Not to have known…either the mountain or the desert is not to have known one’s self.
—Joseph Wood Krutch