Cedar Breaks National Monument & Utah 14

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Even though Zion is great, and I could have easily spent my entire vacation there, I decided to devote a day to some of southern Utah’s other amazing natural attractions.  Places like Cedar Breaks National Monument and Bryce Canyon National Park are just a couple of hours away, and make for a nice change of pace, just in case you somehow grow tired of Zion’s wonders.

From the St. George area, take Interstate 15 north to Cedar City, and make a right onto Utah Rte. 14.  Rte. 14 climbs steadily, until you reach Utah Rte. 148.  Cedar Breaks National Monument is just a few miles north on 148.  At the north end of Cedar Breaks, take Utah Rte. 143 east toward Panguitch, and US 89.

To get to Cedar Breaks, you need to essentially go around Zion.  I-15 takes you north, then Utah Rte. 14 takes you east.  Cedar Breaks is well above 10,000 feet (the highest viewpoint is at 10,435 feet), so you’ll be gaining quite a bit of elevation as you go.

One surprise along the way is the red, eroded outcropping in the picture above.  It appears before you, as you climb Rte. 14.  For a moment, I thought that, perhaps, I was looking up at part of Cedar Breaks.  I wasn’t — Cedar Breaks is much bigger and more impressive, but the geology and formations are similar.

In about this same area, there’s a roadside overlook that looks back to the south, towards Zion.  It was just hazy enough during my visit to make seeing Zion Canyon difficult.  It’s out there somewhere, though.

Cedar Breaks National Monument

After you’ve climbed about as much as you think you possibly can, Rte. 148 turns off of Rte. 14, heading north, and gaining even more elevation.  At this point, you’re just a few miles away from the southern entrance to Cedar Breaks National Monument.

Because of its high elevation, Rte. 148 and the Cedar Breaks rim receive a lot of snow in the winter, too much to keep the road open all year.  You can ski, snowshoe, or snowmobile in during the winter, but all park facilities will be closed.

If you’re entering from the south, the first overlook you’ll reach is Point Supreme.  A short walk takes you out to a viewpoint, where you can look down on “the breaks”–which is essentially a 3-mile-long, 2,000-foot-deep amphitheatre, formed by erosion.

The best view here is looking northward.  A rainbow of reddish colors stretches out before you.

Cedar Breaks was erroneously named by early explorers.  It is a break in the forest–that much is accurate.  But the trees are mostly fir, pine, and spruce, not cedars.

Aside from gazing at Cedar Breaks from the overlooks, there are also a few trails to hike.  One leaves from the Point Supreme parking area, leading to Spectra Point and Ramparts Overlook.  It doesn’t leave the rim, so there isn’t a dramatic elevation change.  Up the road at Chessmen Ridge Overlook, there’s a 2-mile double loop trail that leads to an alpine pond, just below the rim.  I had considered the alpine pond trail, but at this elevation, it was cool, windy, and I was already out of breath just from the walk from the car.

Chessmen Ridge Overlook

I passed the second overlook and stopped at the third, Chessmen Ridge Overlook.  This viewpoint places you right in the middle of the amphitheater, with a good view in all directions.

The eroded canyon walls stretch out like fingers.

You’ll find a few hoodoos here, but not nearly as many as in Bryce Canyon.

There is one more overlook, just north of the Rte. 148/Rte. 143 intersection.  Since I planned to head east on Rte. 143, I skipped the final viewpoint.

Panguitch Lake

As you head east on Rte. 143, you lose some of the elevation you gained on the way to Cedar Breaks.  You’ll enjoy some alpine meadows and Panguitch Lake (the only real settlement along the road) before dropping down into the town of Panguitch.

Seems like it would be easier to tell people what road it is, not what road it isn’t.

It was merely by chance that I saw this sign, as I drove downhill into Panguitch.  I guess before the sign was there, people driving southbound on US 89 often missed the left-hand turn in the middle of town.  I imagine they continued down Rte. 143, maybe for miles, before realizing they were off course.

In Panguitch, take a right at the town’s only big intersection.  This will put you on US 89 southbound.  Rte. 12 is just a few miles away, and Bryce Canyon is just a few miles beyond that.

Note: This trip was first published in 2007.

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