Sweeping views at Cedar Breaks.
Fluffy clouds drifted above us.
Red rock hoodoos with arches.
The trail winds through lush
A chipmunk nibbles bluebells.
"Place where the rocks are sliding
down all the time."
1,600 year old bristlecone pine tree.
Gnarled old fellas.
A young fawn looks up as we pass.
North View Lookout.
Cedar Breaks is known for
Redrocks through the trees.
Millions of years old, the canyon weathers all.
Thick green carpet on the Alpine Pond
The Upper Loop wanders through a meadow.
Last glimpse of the red rocks.
Reflections on the Alpine Pond Trail.
Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah
Mid-August, 2011 - Visiting Cedar Breaks National
Monument was the main reason we came to Dixie National
Forest but, sidetracked by caves and canyons, it took us a
while to get there. Vastly overshadowed by nearby Zion,
Bryce Canyon and Grand Canyon National Parks, a lot of
folks are like us and only hear about it from a ranger or
other traveler once they get to this area. Years ago we had
stopped by for an hour on a quickie drive-by. This time we
wanted to hike the two hikes and see the canyon up close.
Perched nearly in the clouds at 10,350' elevation, the wildflower-lined
winding road seemed to climb forever before we got to the park.
Intrigued by the sign for the Spectra Point overlook in the parking lot,
we went straight up that path when we arrived, not knowing we were
venturing out on a 2-mile round-trip hike.
WIthin minutes we were staring at a wonderland of red rock spires
and hoodoos. The puffy clouds floated by above us, casting
shadows across the red rock "amphitheater." Red, pink, white and
orange rocks in crazy shapes filled the view in all directions, and
bristly pine trees speckled the distant cliffs
The trail wanders along the rim of
the canyon, weaving in and out of
lush greenery. There are no railings
or gates to obstruct the view, and
we felt as though we were
suspended above an orange
Wildflowers bloomed alongside the
trail: white columbines and red
indian paintbrush flowers begged to
A little chipmunk
sat contentedly in
a thicket of
bluebells and ate
them for lunch.
We made very little forward progress as we kept stopping to take in the views,
admire the colorful wildflowers and chat with other people on the trail.
Many people were at the canyon that day somewhat by
accident, as it hadn't been on their original itinerary. One
fellow had had car trouble while visiting Zion and Bryce and
had asked the mechanic how to keep his family entertained
while waiting for the several-day repairs to be completed.
"Go to Cedar Breaks!" He was so happy to have discovered
this park; his kids were running ahead of him down the path,
excited to get to the overlook.
A 1,600 year old
tree stands near the
end of Spectra
Point, thriving in a barren, windwhipped and
hopelessly exposed spot. The wood is striated
beautiful shades of orange and brown, and a few
scraggly branches prove to the world that the
seemingly lifeless giant is truly alive and well.
The sun felt warm on our skin as we walked,
but the brisk wind that swept across the
canyon was a sharp reminder of just how
cold this area can be. A ranger told us that
the park usually gets 15' of snow each winter,
but last winter was buried 30 feet deep.
On our way back we noticed a doe eating the flowers, and then
behind her we saw her fawn.
As we drove out of the park we stopped at Chessmen overlook
and the North View Lookout. Stunning. Amazing. It's impossible to find words to
describe the vastness, the vivid color, the exotic contours and shapes of this beautiful
Earlier residents of this area were the Paiute Indians, and they named the canyon, "Place
where the rocks are sliding down all the time." After that the Spanish explorers
misidentified the juniper trees as cedars (much as they did on Isla Cedros off of Mexico's
Baja Pacific coast). The word "breaks" refers to the steep, eroded landscape.
Cedar Breaks is known as much for its glorious wildflower
displays as it is for its majestic red rock amphitheater.
We returned on another day to hike
the Alpine Pond Loop Trail, and
found ourselves snapping shots of
the many brilliant wildflowers before
we even got to the trailhead.
Lupines and daisies and a myriad of
other flowers lay thickly on the green
brush surrounding the trail. The hum
of bees and mosquitos was very loud
too, and the lush land seemed to be
teeming with life.
Oddly, the forest of tall pine trees shading the
wildflowers is largely dead. In past years the
energetic National Forest Service extinguished all
wildfires within hours of them starting. The result was
an unhealthy forest dominated by one species of tree.
Those trees provided the most awesome feast for the
bark beetles that like to eat them, and in the past
decade the beetles have munched their way through
the woods, transforming the living pine
canopy into a pin-cushion of dead trunks and
Between the dead branches you can glimpse
the red rock canyon, however. The spires,
nooks and crannies of that spectacular
landscape are utterly impervious to the
comings and goings of trees upon the
Eventually we arrived at the alpine
pond. It wasn't the crystal clear kind
of lake we have seen at Yosemite
and other places, but it had its
Some of the dead tree
trunks had been carved
by Nature's graffiti
artists -- little worms
made all kinds of
patterns in the wood.
We had started on
the Lower Trail
which is lush and
green and closed-
in feeling. We
returned on the
Upper Trail which
takes the hiker out
across a wide
meadow filled with
flowers. The peak of the wildflower
season in Cedar Breaks is the final weeks
of July and perhaps the first week of
August. We were a little behind the peak,
so the blanket wasn't quite as thick with
color. But it was plenty
beautiful enough for me.
Mark has a green thumb
and cultivated strawberries
at one time, so he instantly
recognized the shape of
wild strawberry leaves
among the other greens.
"Strawberries!" He cried,
and then he spotted a beautiful tiny red ripe one, about a half inch
across. We left it for whatever bird or bunny might come that way.
The trail gave us one final glimpse of the red
rocks of Cedar Breaks and then we were
back at the truck.
Mark's parting shot was the reflection he saw
in my sunglasses. He came up to me really
close and said, "Oh, that looks really cool!" I
thought he was sweeping in for a kiss, but
suddenly he stopped, put his camera up and
snapped a picture. I made a face at him,
and then, being a romantic, he swooped in
for a real kiss.
Looking for more red rock adventure and a slightly lower altitude, we wandered 30 miles or so north along the incomparably
scenic Route 89 to the Red Canyon area.