When I was around 8 or 9, on a family vacation with two of my cousins. We visited Cedar Breaks and Bryce Canyon. Both amazing parks and great memories. With winter here Cedar Breaks is to cold to visit but… “I am dreaming of warm camping, just like the ones I use to know. Where the treetops glisten and children listen to hear the birds tweet…”
Located close to I-15 near Cedar City, Cedar Breaks National Monument contains a steep, bowl-shaped cliff face eroded into the west side of the Markagunt Plateau, similar to Bryce Canyon National Park (though much less visited), with colorful strata and many strange rock shapes. The access road (UT 148) circles the cliff edge from which the spectacular limestone formations can be seen, extending 2,000 feet downwards and 3 miles across, all eroded from the Clarion Formation of the Pink Cliffs – the highest and most geologically recent component of the great series of escarpments that stretches eastwards across south Utah, known as the Grand Staircase. Some areas of the cliffs are even more brightly colored than at Bryce Canyon, and present an enchanting mixture of delicate shades of red, yellow, white, pink and orange, like the icing on an extravagant wedding cake. Iron oxides found in the rocks of the Amphitheater are the cause of the red, orange, and yellow colors. Magnesium oxides are responsible for the purple hues. Seeing this rainbow of muted colors within the badlands of Cedar Breaks creates a fantasyland you never could have imagined. If you have time, a memory not to be missed is finishing the day at Point Supreme. Watching the shadow play across the Amphitheater as the sun sinks below the horizon is sure to put a smile on your face.
While Cedar Breaks National Monument may sport magnificent views of spires and hoodoos ranging in color from white to red and reminiscent of Bryce Canyon, education was actually one of the main reasons for the park’s establishment, and it is still central to its mission today. The park, which sits above 10,000 feet approximately 20 miles east of Cedar City, is the crown jewel of the Markagunt Plateau. In archaic days, it was the domain of early people down to the Paiutes, who migrated to and from the plateau with the weather. Settlers – sheepherders, dairymen, and ranchers – discovered it in 1868, describing it as “a paradise on the mountain,” according to one early scout. In the 1920s, the Utah Parks Company, a subsidiary of the Union Pacific that led national park tours and administered prime lodging in Zion, Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon’s North Rim, started leading tours that included the three parks. Cedar Breaks was included on some of those tours. Franklin D. Roosevelt designated it a national monument on Aug. 22, 1933. A ceremony commemorating the monument’s creation took place on July 4, 1934, and was the first time Civilian Conservation Corps enrollees made an appearance in the monument. CCC boys directed traffic, assisted drivers with stalled cars and served a barbecue dinner at the event. The CCC had a lasting impact on Cedar Breaks. The corps was responsible for building the visitor center as well as the caretaker’s cabin in 1937. The visitor center, built in the rustic style popular at the time and designed to blend into the park environment, is one of the few CCC-built visitor centers still in use today within the National Park Service system. In more recent history, attempts have been made to fulfill the original vision for Cedar Breaks – make it a national park. The proposals have garnered a lot of local support, but have never gotten over the hump.
Cedar Breaks National Monument is excited to have the designation of Cedar Breaks as an International Dark Sky Park. This distinction recognizes Cedar Breaks as a sanctuary of natural darkness and for the opportunity, it provides visitors to enjoy the night sky. 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 as part of its commitment to pristine night skies and the Dark Sky Parks certification. Cedar Breaks is the 16th of the 417 National Park Service (NPS) units to be designated as an International Dark Sky Park, and the first in southwestern Utah. With this designation, Utah is now home to seven IDA Dark Sky Parks, more than any other state or province in the world. During the winter season, Cedar Breaks is a premier cross-country skiing and snowmobiling destination with access from Brian Head Ski Resort.
—- Location —-
Cedar Breaks National Monument can be reached from four directions. In the north, UT 143 climbs quite steeply from Parowan on I-15, passing the Brian Head ski resort and into the northern part of the national monument, then turning away west, through more hilly woodland to Panguitch near Red Canyon. The other road is UT 14, approaching from Cedar City up a steep canyon – it ascends 4,000 feet in 18 miles, and once past the turning to Cedar Breaks continues to US 89 at Long Valley Junction. The nearest city with regular airline service is Las Vegas, Nevada. To get to Cedar Breaks National Monument from Las Vegas, follow I-15 north till you get to exit 57 and follow UT-130 to UT-14 in Cedar City, Utah. Follow UT-14 to UT-148 and follow UT-148 into the National Monument. UT-148 will remain open until snow forces its closure. Until that time regular traffic is permitted, but caution is advised in winter conditions.
—- Park Camping —-
Camp at 10,000 feet elevation! Camping is available approximately from mid-June to mid-September. Each site has a picnic table and fire pit or grill. There are also restrooms with showers, chopped firewood, and water spigots. Note that the campground opening and closing dates may be slightly earlier or later and is subject to favorable weather. Point Supreme Campground has 25 campsites and accommodates both tents and RVs. There is not a dump station located within the campground. Nearby dump stations are located at Duck Creek on Highway 14, and a free dump station at Panguitch on Highway 143, and KOA, in Cedar City. The nearest local store is located in Brian Head (eight miles north of the campground). Brian Head also has WiFi access, several small restaurants, and a gas pump (credit card only). Duck Creek (ten miles south-east of the campground) and Panguitch (33 miles from the campground) have gas.
—- Free Camping —-
Based on https://freecampsites.net/#!cedar%20breaks%20utah there are 15 free campsites within 20 miles of Cedar Breaks National Monument.
—- Area Camping —-
—- Hiking & Biking —-
Within the national monument, there is one main trail along the rim and another through woodland to a sheltered pond. Spectra Point/Ramparts Overlook is an easy two-mile hike, starting from the visitor center, heading along the cliff edge for a short distance than on to a promontory that juts out into the southern part of the amphitheater. In contrast, the Alpine Ponds Trail has no major viewpoints of the formations but instead encounters trees, meadows, flowers, and wildlife en route to a tranquil pool fed by melting snow. Just beyond the north edge of the monument, a longer trail (Rattlesnake Creek) descends through forests of fir, spruce, and aspen into the Ashdown Gorge Wilderness, a remote region centered around a steep, narrow limestone ravine. Wildflowers are abundant along the path, especially the upper part, and it offers occasional distant views of the Cedar Breaks cliffs, eventually descending into the red rock formations.
—- Things to do —-
Utah’s Patchwork Parkway National Scenic Byway (S.R. 143), Markagunt High Plateau Scenic Byway (S.R. 14) and Cedar Breaks Scenic Byway (S.R. 148):
This high-elevation and densely forested area of Southern Utah offers a particularly unique leaf peeping experience this fall. During June and July, a fire consumed 70,000 acres near the area of Brian Head, though the town and resort were fortunately saved. In many ways, the patches of charred backdrop make the contrast of the multitude of spared trees even more dramatic. Yes, you will see fire damage along Utah’s Patchwork Parkway National Scenic Byway, but you will also see maples and aspens, golden and fiery red, rising triumphantly — almost a tribute to their fallen soldiers — along with your journey up to a 10,000-foot plateau. Remarkably, this area connects three scenic byways and features the outstanding Cedar Breaks National Monument — the topmost rise of the geological Grand Staircase. You can also experience the sparkling white beauty of winter at Cedar Breaks! There are many activities available for those who are unafraid of a little cold weather! Once the first heavy snowfall closes Utah Highway 148 (roughly mid-November to late May) it becomes a groomed trail through the monument for visitors to ski, snowshoe and snowmobile. For more info on accessing the park in winter, visit our Winter Access page.
—- References —-