Cedar Breaks National Monument
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,
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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© 1995 Karen M. Strom