TRIP REPORT: Cedar Breaks National Monument – Utah, 8-15-15
Stav and I decided that the day after our Narrows hike would be a rest day but being the restless soul that I am I was not content to just hang out in town all day! So after a lazy morning I headed out for a hearty breakfast at Denny’s and while there I looked at a map of the area searching for the days objective. Once I realized that Cedar Breaks National Monument was less than an hour away I knew that it would be the perfect choice for an easy day.
Cedar Breaks National Monument is a natural amphitheater which is pretty small at only about 3 miles long but plunges to a depth of over 2,000 ft, with the rim sitting at over 10,000 ft. I have not had the opportunity of visiting Bryce Canyon National Park yet, but from what Stav tells me Cedar Breaks is a miniature version of Bryce and gives you a good idea of what you can expect to see there on a larger scale.
Cedar Breaks sits between Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks so being as small as it is, it was a quiet place without any crowds. Which was a nice change of pace from how busy Zion was the day before. It is a shame more people don’t stop at Cedar Breaks though since it really is quite a gem.
I had a very nice drive up to the park and once arriving parked in the one small parking lot at the top of the rim. On top there is a small booth for paying your entrance fee if you do not already have a National Park Pass (which I would high recommend, it pays for itself!), restrooms, a small visitor center, and a paved overlook. Since it was adjacent to the parking lot I decided to start here and got my first views of the National Monument.
The first views I got from Point Supreme were great and it only got me more excited to view the amphitheater from a better angle. Since I had not looked at a map of the actual park I asked one of the rangers about hiking opportunities and he suggested that the rim trails directly adjacent to the parking lot were the best choices. He did tell me there was one more trail on the other side of the ridge but it mainly kept to the trees and I wouldn’t get the same bang for the buck out of it.
The Ramparts Overlook was only a 4 mile round trip so I decided I would just go for this one. I wanted to make sure I got a full value experience out of Cedar Breaks.
The trail itself is a nice and smooth dirt trail which is extremely obvious and easy to follow. It is also not strenuous at all which was perfect for a rest day adventure. The start of the trail did sport the above signage with its standard ominous NPS warning. There was also another sign warning you to watch your children on the trail but I neglected to take a photo of that one. At first I was simply going to dismiss the warning as just a standard formality but I have to say its actually quite accurate. The trail follows the cliff edge fairly closely and there is certainly potential for disaster if you are being careless. That being said it is still completely safe, just be sure to stick to the marked trail!
I only saw a few other people on the first stretch of trail leading to the first stop, Spectra Point and otherwise had the rest of the trail to myself. It was nice to hike solo for a little while and really be able to enjoy this beautiful place at my own pace. Its the kind of place you can go just to relax and enjoy the views for a while as the hike itself is not difficult or particularly long.
From Spectra Point you get another great vantage point from which to view the Cedar Breaks amphitheater but what was personally the highlight of this particular spot for me was the Bristlecone Pines. These particular trees are extremely long lived and highly resilient to hard weather and bad soil conditions. Some of the bristlecone pines at Cedar Breaks are close to 2000 years old! A little sign near the trees also lets you know that some of the oldest bristlecones in North America may have just been seedlings when the Egyptian pyramids were built almost 5000 years ago. The sign also notes that they are the oldest known living organisms in the world. To me this was truly remarkable.
In the photo above the tree may appear to be dead/dying but that is actually the beauty of this particular pine. Even if a section of it dies, the tree then transfers the nutrients from the dead section to whatever part of the tree is still alive and it will continue to grow. This is why the trees tend to have such a gnarled appearance.
Once you continue on from Spectra Point the trail dips back into the woods and down a couple of switch backs as you make your way to the Ramparts Overlook.
I found it fun to go between such vastly different landscapes as your hike along the rim. If you look to your left you get views of a verdant forest and to the right the red cliffs of the Cedar Breaks amphitheater.
This last section of the trail is only a mile long and I had reached the terminus of the trail in no time. I was greeted by magnificent views of the National Monument. I would highly recommend taking the time to go the extra 2 miles down to this point from Point Supreme up above as it really gives you a better sense of the grandeur of this location.
I would also recommend being careful at this point because there are no railings, and although the ground seems mellow enough the drops off the edge are quite dramatic!
Overall I had a great time at Cedar Breaks National Monument and I would HIGHLY recommend stopping here if you are in the area. It isn’t a huge detour if you are in nearby Zion or Bryce Canyon National Parks and is completely worth a visit. In all I only needed a couple of hours to enjoy the park at a leisurely pace. I hope to return to Cedar Breaks one day in the winter months as I think the contrast of white snow on the red landscape would be incredibly dramatic to see in person.