Cedar Breaks National Monument

Cedar Breaks Amphitheater

The Amphitheater

There is nothing subtle about the great natural rock amphitheater of Cedar Breaks. It is a spectacle of giagantic dimensions full of extraordinary forms wrapped in bold and brilliant colors. Once you see it for yourself, you may agree with the observer who said, "If Cedar Breaks were anywhere but in this region, it would be picked as one of the world's greatest scenic wonders." The Cedar Breaks amphitheater is a product of many of the same forces that created the Southwest's other great landscapes, including the Grand Canyon, Zion Canyon, and the Bryce amphitheater. It is, however, an original work of nature not quite like any other. Shaped like a huge coliseum, the amphitheater is more than 2000 feet deep and more than 3 miles in diameter. Millions of years of uplift and erosion carved the huge bowl in the steep west-facing side of the 10000 foot high Markagunt Plateau.

Exhibited like statues inside this natural gallery are stone spires, columns, arches, and canyons of intricate design and seemingly infinite variety. The many forms are time-worn sculptures of rain, streams, ice, and wind. Saturating the rock throughout is a color scheme as striking as any found on the Colorado Plateau. Varying combinatrions of iron and manganese give the rock its different reds, yellows, and purples. Impressed with the artistic shading, early Indians called the amphitheater the Circle of Painted Cliffs. Many years later early southern Utah settlers renamed the amphitheater Cedar Breaks: "Cedar" for the cedar, or juniper, trees that grew nearby, and "Breaks," another word for badlands. In 1933 Cedar Breaks National Monument was established, calling nationwide attention to the spectacular amphitheater,

The Highcountry

Atop the Markagunt Plateau is the highcountry of Cedar Breaks. It is a world every bit as rich in color and as delicate in form as the rock amphitheater below. Yet it is a very different place. Here you can immerse yourself in the lushness of the scenery, breathe in the intoxicating fragrance of spruce-fir forests, and tread softly through alpine meadows of grasses and seasonal wildflowers. In this sanctuary of clean, cool air, abundant rainfall, full sunlight, and fertile soil, nature exhibits its full irrepressible potential.

Seasons of color

Cedar Breaks flaunts its natural flair for life most dramatically with an annual show of spring and summer wildflowers. The floral display begins late in June, as sprays of mountain bluebell, pale pink spring beauty, lavendar fleabane, beardtongue and other penstemmons, and other early bloomers appear. In late July the display begins to peak, and the rolling meadows fill to overflowing with larkspur, lupine, penstemmon, columbine, Indian paintbrush, and a variety of other flowers. For the next few brief weeks, until about mid-August, the open fields are stages where the flowers of Cedar Breaks improvise one spontaneous show of color after another.

Ancient Trees of Life

In sharp contrast to the flowers, which rush through their lives in months, is the bristlecone pine. This native of the Cedar Breaks high country is the Methuselah of trees; one gnarled and weatherbeaten individual at Spectra Point on the plateau rim has already lived for more than 1600 years. In other southwestern states 4500-year old specimens have been discovered. That the bristlecone lives at all is something of a miracle considering that it grows only in forsaken spots where water is scarce, soil is thin, and fierce winds blow unchecked.

A Place of Refuge

Elsewhere in the highcountry are luxurient forest retreats, like the one at Alpine Pond. This spring-fed backcountry pool lies in a shady grove of Engleman spruce, subalpine fir, and quaking aspen. Interspersed among the trees are luxurient meadows of grasses and wildflowers. Here, and throughout the park's fields and forests, various kinds of wildlife roam. As you drive along a road or walk a trail, you are likely to encounter many birds, including the neighbrly Clark's nutcracker, the violet-green swallows that fly along the plateau rim, and the common raven. You also may see or hear mule deer, oikas, marmots, porcupines, red squirrels, golden mantled ground squirrels, and chipmunks. Rarer, harder to find animals, such as mountain lions, also inhabit this protected area.

This, then, is the world of Cedar Breaks highcountry atop the Markagunt Plateau. Small in size but great in what it has to offer, this land of meadows and forests is a gentle and glorious expression of wild America.

A Park Guide

Planning Your Stay A good starting point for your tour of the park is the visitor center. This building is packed full of books, brochures and exhibits on Cedar Breaks and its geology, history, wildlife, and wildflowers. Rangers can help you plan your stay and suggest things to do. The center is open daily from early June to mid-October. The rest of the year, information is available at the Kolob Canyons Visitor Center in Zion National Park, located 43 miles southwest of Cedar Breaks just of U. S. 15. Throughout your travels, be aware that high altitudes may cause shortness of breath and tiredness. Slow down and rest often. Also, remember that everything here - even the tiniest flower - is protected and should be left undisturbed. Feeding wildlife, hunting, and carrying firearms are prohibited.

Cedar Breaks Overlook

The Scenic Drive

A 5 mile road through the highcountry of Cedar Breaks is the main route to the park's scenic attractions. Scenic overlooks, trailheads, and all visitor services are located along this road or on short side roads. The roads are designed for sightseeing, not speeding; observe posted speed linits. Don't drive into easily damaged meadows; use designated roadside parking areas only.

Scenic Overlooks

Four overlooks, where you can view the massive Cedar Breaks amphitheater, are located along the scenic drive. Stop at each viewpoint, for no two give you quite the same perspective. Stay behind overlook fences and away from the dege where the rock is loose and crumbly. Don't throw rocks or other objects off the rim. Keep a close eye on children. During thunderstorms, avoid overlooks and other exposed areas where lightning may strike.


Cedar Breaks has two highcountry trails. The circular 2-mile Alpine Pond Trail leads to a picturesque fprest glade and pond. A trail guide is available at the visitor center. The 2-mile Ramparts Trail along the plateau rim passes a stand of ancient bristlecone pine at Spectra Point and ends at a viewpoint overlooking the Cedar Breaks amphitheater. Pets are not permitted on these trails. Experienced hikers may want to explore Rattlesnale Creek Trail, just north of the park. Before attempting this hike, talk to a ranger about the hazards of steep terrain and flash floods.

Cedar Breaks Overlook

Camping, Picnicking

The 30 site park campground is open on a first come-first served basis from June to mid-September. Daytime temperatures are commonly in the 60s and 70s°F, while nighttime lows are in the 30s and 40s °F. The campground has water, restrooms, tables, fire grills, and an outdoor amphitheater where evening programs are given. Near the campground is a picnic area with water, tables, and grills. Fires are permitted only in campground and picnic area grills.

Winter Activities

Roads and services are usually closed from mid-October through May because of heavy snow accumulations, but the park is open for crosscountry skiing ans snowmobiling (only on unplowed roads).

Nearby Accomodations

Cedar City has lodging and other major services. Closer by, smaller towns, including Brian Head just to the north of the park, have year-round lodging, restaurants, gasoline, and groceries. These services are not available in the park.

Information and Emergency Assistance

For more information, write: Superintendant, Cedar Breaks National Monument, 82 North 100 East Street, Cedar City, UT 84720-2606; or call (801) 586-9451. In an emergency, come to the visitor center or contact any park employee.
This is a copy of the guide distributed by the Park Service.

See our map and guide reference section for trail maps and other useful information available from Maps.com. Maps.com has over 3,500 maps.

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© 1995 Karen M. Strom