A Rainbow in the Badlands: Cedar Breaks National Monument

The Spectra and Rampart Points trail, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah
The Spectra and Rampart Points trail, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah Louis Arevalo
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Hidden within the mountains above Cedar City is the brilliant geology and vibrant environment of Cedar Breaks National Monument. The geologic amphitheater and surrounding environs are home to hiking trails, ancient trees, high elevation camping, and over-the-top views along the “Circle of Painted Cliffs”.

What Makes it Great

Cedar Breaks’ majestic amphitheater is a three-mile long cirque made up of eroding limestone, shale, and sandstone. Situated on the western edge of the Markagunt Plateau, the raised area of earth located in southern Utah between Interstate 15 and Highway 89, the monument sits entirely above 10,000 feet. A naturally formed coliseum called the Amphitheater plunges 2,000 feet below taking you for a colorful ride through arches, towers, hoodoos, and canyons. Stunning views are common throughout so keep your camera nearby.

Rampart Point, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah
Rampart Point, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah Louis Arevalo

The modern campground located on the edge of an alpine meadow is one of the best locations for astral viewing. 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.

A hike to the Alpine Pond is a great way to stretch the legs. You can follow the lower loop into a forest of spruce trees. Here you are given a close look at the devastation inflicted by the spruce beetle epidemic. Beginning in the mid-1990’s a massive bark beetle outbreak made its way through the monument and surrounding Dixie National Forest, killing over half of the mature trees. The Alpine Pond Trail takes you through a ghost forest of dead spruce offering views of the amphitheater framed by the skeleton trees. Arriving to the pond you will most likely see marmots sunbathing on its peaceful shore. Beyond the pond the trail will take you to the rim and beneath several bristlecone pine trees. Bristlecone pines are some of the oldest living organisms on earth and some in the monument have been dated to be over 1500 years old. The apex of the Alpine Pond Trail is the picturesque vistas of Chessmen Point. Return to the Alpine Pond Trailhead via the upper loop walking through meadows of wildflowers.

Spectra Point, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah
Spectra Point, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah Louis Arevalo

Hiking to the Spectra and Rampart Points will take you along the Amphitheater’s rim. Beginning with the scent of wildflowers in your nose you will gradually make your way to the perfect overlook of Spectra Point. From here you will get a closer look at the amazing geology of Cedar Breaks. Continuing on to Rampart Point you will follow an alpine stream through a beautiful forest of bristlecone pines. Their elegantly twisted bodies will show you the way.

What You’ll Remember

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 fantasy land 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. Head back to camp and enjoy a delicious meal as the beauty of the Milky Way lights up the astral sky above.

Sunset on Point Supreme, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah
Sunset on Point Supreme, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah Louis Arevalo

Who’s Going to Love It

The outrageous scenery of Cedar Breaks is candy for your eyes. Hiking the trails is perfect for those with a base level of fitness and suitable for a wide age group. If you like gorgeous alpine settings with great hiking, superb camping, and a lack of crowds Cedar Breaks National Monument is the place for you.

GPS Coordinates, Parking, and Regulations

GPS coordinates of visitor center parking lot: 37.612127, -112.837309

Traveling south on I-15: Take exit 78 to Parowan. Travel south on Main Street for 1.3 miles. Turn left onto E. Center Street. Travel 0.3 Miles. Turn right onto Utah Highway 143 East. Continue approximately 15 miles to Cedar Breaks National Monument.

Traveling north on I-15: Take exit 57 to Cedar City. Travel north on Main Street for 2.2 miles. Turn right onto E Center Street/Utah Highway 14. Continue east on Utah Highway 14 for approximately 18 miles. Turn left onto Utah Highway 148 and continue 4 miles to Cedar Breaks National Monument.

Cedar Breaks National Monument requires an entrance fee.

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