Cedar Breaks National Monument

Written by on August 2, 2014 in UT Outdoor Adventures - Comments Off on Cedar Breaks National Monument

Atop the Colorado Plateau in southern Utah, sitting at 10,000 feet is a small but mighty park known as Cedar Breaks National Monument. The “breaks” are a series of precipitous, carved slopes and spires in the shape of an amphitheater, 3 miles across and over 2,000 feet deep. Because some of the rocks are softer than others, wind, water and weather create the fantastic shapes, spires and arches at Cedar Breaks National Monument. Reminiscent of Bryce and Bryce Canyon National Parks, this small area packs the same beauty and awe-inspiring shapes of carved stone with a lot fewer people to contend with!

The Paiute Indians referred to the area as “u-map-wich,” which translates to “the place where the rocks are sliding down constantly.” The muds, silts and limes of the formation were created 50 to 60 million years ago in a freshwater lake. The lake bottom was raised along a fault line, leaving the soaring Markagunt Plateau exposed to wind and weather, causing a great deal of erosion and a place where the rocks slide down constantly. The layers of rock come in a rainbow hue of colors, from snow white to black, pink to red, orange to brown. Changing light throughout the day changes the colors until sunset fires to whole with crimson.

Cedar Breaks National Monument sits at the extreme western end of the Markagunt Plateau, a Paiute word meaning “highland of trees.” Which brings us to yet another draw of Cedar Breaks, the soaring evergreen forest of Engelmann spruce and fir trees. Some of the bristlecone pines are as much as 1,600 years old (hike to Spectra Point to see these beauties).

Cedar Breaks National Monument is an excellent location for wildflower walks in the summer and brilliant leaf color in autumn. The Wildflower Festival takes place in July, while late September to early October offer the best views of leaf colors in Cedar Mountain. USA Today rates Cedar Breaks National Monument as “one of the top ten places to experience fall colors” in the United States.

The monument offers some great hiking trails, from leg-stretchers to truly challenging scrambles. Remember, 10,000 feet will have your lungs starved for oxygen so take it slow! There are also plenty of ranger-led programs during the summer months to help you learn more about the geology, plants, animals and history of the area.

Pointe Supreme Campground (mid-June through late September) is a great place to get back to nature and enjoy the beauty of the monument. The nearby towns of Cedar City, Brian’s Head and Parowan, Utah, offer more civilized lodging, as well as dining and shopping opportunities.

The drive down to Brian’s Head Ski Area (Route 148) is breathtaking and STEEP, but it is well worth tackling the 13% grade with plenty of hairpin turns. Just take it slow and easy and enjoy the scenery. A drive on Route 14 up from Cedar City and across to Long Valley is a terrific accompaniment to the trip. Between 1,000 and 5,000 years ago, a shield volcano erupted here, sending lava streaming from crevices all over the plateau. The flows are so recent that nothing grows on them yet, leaving huge piles of basalt blocks tumbled all over.

Other attractions in the area include:
Snow Canyon State Park
Zion National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park

Cedar Breaks National Monument
2390 W. HWY 56, Suite 11
Cedar City, UT  84720
(435)586-9451 Phone

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