Cedar Breaks National Monument is a spectacular destination that is simply a must to see and experience when touring southern Utah. The rim of the Cedar Breaks amphitheater canyon is over 10,000 feet above sea level and at this high elevation, the sky is crystal clear and visibility is nearly unlimited. The vivid colors of the red rock outcrops, tall hoodoos, green forests, cobalt blue skies and snow capped mountains create a truly unforgettably beautiful panoramic view!
Cedar Breaks is often compared to Bryce Canyon, because both of these majestic landscapes are natural geologic amphitheater shaped canyons. Both of these canyons were formed by frost erosion forces over a eons of time. Tall hoodoos on the canyon walls are a signature mark of rapid freeze-thaw erosion and thousands of these unique rock formation can be seen throughout Bryce Country. The difference between these two famous amphitheater canyons is that Cedar Breaks faces the setting sun, while most of Bryce Canyon faces east. The light from the setting sun does have a way of intensifying the orangish red color of the Cedar Breaks landscape, which is quite spectacular to see. Simply put, Cedar Breaks is a western landscape painter and photographer’s paradise!
When I visited Cedar Breaks it was late in the month of May and there was still plenty of snow on the ground at that high elevation. In fact, a storm passed through while I was there and the strong winds were howling up through the canyon. The wind was icy cold and the light misty rain occasionally turned into brief snow flurries. Standing on the rim of a tall canyon and trying not to shiver and shake from the cold while aiming a camera is no easy task, so be sure to pack some warm clothes for the trip in case the temperatures drop without warning.
Fortunately the storm front passed by in a short time. The long rays of the setting sun started lighting up Cedar Breaks and the beautiful view grew more dramatic with each passing moment. The contrasting shapes of the cedar color sandstone and shadows create a unique visual effect. At that time of day, the lower sections of Cedar Breaks literally looked like splintered fragments of exploding red cedar. I just stood there and stared at the spectacular view while saying wow!
I was chatting with a National Park Ranger at the visitors center and I asked a few questions about Cedar Breaks. If I recall correctly, the ranger stated that he is a Chippewa Tribe member, so he likely knew about the legends that surrounds this place and the conversation went in that direction. The ranger started talking about some of the local Paiute Tribal lore concerning Cedar Breaks, which was fascinating to hear. Apparently the Paiute claim that those who do bad things in real life are condemned to an eternity of living as a stone statue hoodoo in the spirit world afterlife and Cedar Breaks certainly is loaded with these animated rock formations.
The animated hoodoos in Cedar Breaks certainly can have an evil look about them and thoughts of the Paiute tribal legend come to light with every hoodoo that is gazed upon. Before long, a visitor realizes that there are thousands of these odd looking animated hoodoos in this sacred place, so it use no use delling on the dark side. Some of the hoodoos look scary, but fortunately there enough funny looking ones to keep viewers from totally getting the creeps!
At Cedar Breaks, the layers upon layers of eroded multicolor ancient ocean bottom sandstone combined with pale color volcanic ash tuff creates panoramic views like no other place on earth! The Brian Head mountain ski area looms over the far end of the canyon, which adds another layer of color to the amazing view.
The towering amphitheater canyon rapidly descends downhill to a lush forested green environment below. There are hiking trails in the lower canyon that also offer spectacular views of Cedar Breaks that are well worth checking out. A few Dixie National Forest picnic areas and campgrounds are located nearby, so spending some extra time in this pristine wilderness area is an option. The nearby Duck Creek Village is another option for setting up a basecamp.
Cedar Breaks National Monument is a summer season high elevation destination that opens when the winter snow pack is cleared, so it is best to check the accessibility prior to arrival. During my end of May trip, the National Monument had just opened for the season and snow was still on the ground, but this was after an average winter. After a winter of heavy snow, it can be as late as July till the gate to Cedar Breaks is opened. The bonus for arriving early in the Cedar Breaks season is a chance to see this canyon while the slopes are still draped with some snow, which truly is a beautiful sight to see!
One look at the Cedar Breaks National Monument photos is all it takes to find the inspiration to make the trip happen! No other place on earth looks like Cedar Breaks, especially during the hours before sunset. Be sure to pack a picnic basket and bring a good camera, because the views are so captivating that plenty of time can be spent taking it all in!
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