Nestled on the edge of the 10,000-foot-high Markagunt Plateau Utah’s Cedar Breaks National Monument stands as a million-year-old testament to the natural power of uplift and erosion. In a state that’s packed from end to end with a plethora of geological wonders Cedar Breaks – with its breathtaking views across a gigantic 2,500 foot deep amphitheatre filled with fins, spires and hoodoos – affords visitors a stunning multicoloured visual spectacle that’s easily on a par with more well known national parks in the Beehive State like Bryce, Zion, Arches and Canyonlands.
If truth be told the moment visitors get their first glimpse of a sea of red, yellow and orange siltstone, sandstone, and limestone plunging into a 2,000 foot abyss will be a memory that they will treasure for a lifetime. “I like to say it’s the number one cause of speechlessness in southwestern Utah,” said NPS Ranger Josh Boles when describing Cedar Breaks National Monument in an ABC 7 TV interview.
The extreme elevation of the high country within the national monument – the highest point in the park is 10,662 feet above sea level – can prove challenging to visitors unaccustomed to activities at high altitude and this can be exacerbated by the tremendous difference in temperature on the plateau when compared to that experienced at lower altitudes. Indeed, at the time of my visit the temperature at Cedar Breaks was 32°F compared to the balmy 66°F in Zion National Park – a difference of some 34 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re looking to warm up you should head for the quaint visitor centre at Point Supreme where you can hang out next to the wood burning stove and listen to a variety of ranger-led interpretive talks.
There’s a single 5-mile scenic drive (on UT 148) with four overlooks which takes in Point Supreme (10,350 ft), Sunset View (10,354 ft), Chessmen Ridge Overlook (10,467 ft) and North View (10,435 ft). There are also two trails within the park – the 2-mile Ramparts Trail (where hikers will pass a grizzled 1,672 year old Bristlecone Pine) and the 2-mile roundtrip Alpine Pond Trail – plus the USFS maintained 6.7-mile Rattlesnake Creek Trail just to the north of the monument. The Rattlesnake Creek Trail – located within the Dixie National Forest – descends to the west through alpine meadows covered with sheets of wildflowers – like Blue Columbine, Cinquefoil, Shootingstar and Fleabane – and passes through groves of fir, spruce and Aspen.
There’s wildlife in the park too – including Yellow-bellied Marmots and Mountain Lions (Felis concolor) – though some animals can be extremely difficult to spot. As you will discover in one of the ranger-led talks mountain lions are so widespread in both North and South America that they are actually known by over 40 different names including cougar, puma, mountain cat, ghost cat, catamount, and panther.
Cedar Breaks has a single 28-site campground that is open from June through mid-September. The fee is $14 per night (Senior and Access pass-holders pay $7 per night) up to a maximum of seven consecutive nights. Although there are no hook-ups the campground includes a restroom with showers, and there are water spigots, picnic tables, and fire pits. There are at least 10 sites that can accommodate larger RV’s with the maximum site length likely to top out at approximately 22 feet (many of the campgrounds on the drive up to Cedar Breaks suggest a maximum RV length of 19 feet).
If you’re based at Bryce or Zion National Park for a few days you should definitely pencil in a day trip to Cedar Breaks though larger RV owners would be better advised to use a tow vehicle rather than take the motorhome. Although the roads to the park are good (14, 148, 103 and 143), the high elevation and the lack of parking for large vehicles within the park would make your visit something of a chore.
Additional Information: Cedar Breaks National Monument
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