Cedar Breaks National Monument: What Makes it Great?

Hidden within the mountains above Cedar City and loosely sandwiched between two southwestern Utah national parks—Zion and Bryce Canyon, Cedar Breaks National Monument towers 2,000 and 4,000 feet above these parks, respectively. The monument lies 22 miles west of Cedar City, about 60 miles east of Bryce Canyon, and 80 miles north of Zion.

Cedar Breaks is known for its spectacularly colored cliffs, bright blue skies, and breathtaking 100-mile views of the Great Basin. The geologic amphitheater and surrounding environs are home to cool hiking trails, ancient trees, high elevation camping for tents and RVs, and over-the-top views along the “Circle of Painted Cliffs.”

Iron oxides found in the rocks of the Amphitheater are the cause of the red, orange, and yellow colors. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Iron oxides found in the rocks of the Amphitheater are the cause of the red, orange, and yellow colors. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

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.

Cedar Breaks is known for its spectacularly colored cliffs, bright blue skies, and breathtaking 100-mile views of the Great Basin. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cedar Breaks is known for its spectacularly colored cliffs, bright blue skies, and breathtaking 100-mile views of the Great Basin. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

During your visit to the monument, you can choose a from variety of ways to view the 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.

Seeing this rainbow of muted colors within the badlands of Cedar Breaks creates a fantasyland you never could have imagined. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Seeing this rainbow of muted colors within the badlands of Cedar Breaks creates a fantasyland you never could have imagined. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A more challenging jaunt that clocks in at four miles round trip, Spectra Point and Ramparts Overlook Trail takes you along the Amphitheater’s rim. You will gradually make your way to the perfect overlook of Spectra Point. Continuing on to Rampart Point you’ll follow an alpine stream through a beautiful forest of grand bristlecone pines. Their elegantly twisted bodies will show you the way.

You can also check out the 2-mile round trip Alpine Pond hike. You’ll follow the lower loop into a forest of spruce trees. Here you’ll have a close look at the devastation inflicted by the spruce beetle epidemic. The Alpine Pond Trail takes you through a ghost forest of dead spruce offering views of the amphitheater framed by the skeleton trees.

At an elevation of over 10,000 feet, snow comes early to Cedar Breaks National Monument. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At an elevation of over 10,000 feet, snow comes early to Cedar Breaks National Monument. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Approaching the pond you may see marmots sunbathing on its peaceful shore. Beyond the pond the trail will take you to the rim and beneath several bristlecone pine trees. Bristlecone pines are some of the oldest living organisms on earth and some in the monument have been dated to be more than 1,500 years old. The apex of the Alpine Pond Trail is the picturesque vistas of Chessmen Point. Return to the Alpine Pond Trailhead via the upper loop.

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.

If you like gorgeous alpine settings with great hiking, superb camping, and a lack of crowds Cedar Breaks National Monument is the place for you. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you like gorgeous alpine settings with great hiking, superb camping, and a lack of crowds Cedar Breaks National Monument is the place for you. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A modern campground located on the edge of an alpine meadow, Point Supreme Campground has 25 campsites and accommodates both tents and RVs. Ten sites are available for reservations: eight RV/tent sites and two tent only sites. The remaining 15 campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Sites best for RVs include sites 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 14, 15, 16 and 21. For most large motorhomes sites 1, 8, 15 and 21 are preferred.

Cedar Breaks National Monument is also a Dark Sky Park, so stick around when the sun goes down and you’ll have a chance to see the stars like never before. Far from any metro light pollution and high in altitude makes sleeping under the stars in the monument first class. Cedar Breaks holds stargazing programs with a ranger/naturalist throughout the summer months.

Chessman Ridge View overlooks offer outstanding views of the amphitheater to the west,. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Chessman Ridge View overlooks offer outstanding views of the amphitheater to the west,. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

This mountain, the arched back of the earth risen before us, it made me feel humble, like a beggar, just lucky to be here at all, even briefly.

—Bridget Asher

Leave a Reply