Recently a reader wrote to ask about one of Utah hiking experiences (The Subway in Zion National Park). Responding to her questions launched some mental time travel and photo browsing for me. We’ve been privileged with a lot of terrific travel experiences, but our southern Utah trip remains a family favorite. Our last park stop before flying home was Cedar Breaks National Monument:
Leaving Capitol Reef National Park was difficult, partly because its stark beauty was unlike anything we’d seen before and partly because, when I reached for my credit card to fill the gas tank on our way out of town, it wasn’t in my wallet anymore. We quickly figured out that it had remained with our pizza waitress the night before, but it took a little longer to get hold of a staff member when the restaurant was closed! Thankfully, an employee at an adjacent restaurant tracked down some help for us, and we were on our way with only an hour delay.
We began our westward drive across open range country planning to sleep in St. George that night but unsure of what option we’d be drawn to along the way. There weren’t many places to stop for directions if I were to miss a turn, but on the positive side, there weren’t that many intersections to breeze past either. By the time we reached I-15 south, it was clear that everyone wanted another hike, however. Utah had revealed some lovely surprises during our week’s stay, and we were hoping for one last nature encounter in the western state.
We found lunch and a plan near Cedar City at a truck stop -one of those enormous retail meccas for travelers. I asked the cashier a few questions, and then we crossed I-15 to head on up Brian Head Peak and across to Cedar Breaks, described in travel literature as a “mini-Bryce Canyon”.
My internal debate had been the approach of rain and the late afternoon hour versus simple curiosity: we hadn’t seen Cedar Breaks yet, and it was right, er, up there… 1700 feet wasn’t a huge ascent, but it was the twisting kind of drive that kept everyone alert. The temperature did an expected steady dive the higher we climbed but with the added ballast of a sincere cold front. At 11,307 feet, we achieved the highest point, what we thought would be our coolest temperature (60-something), and Brian Head Ski Resort -a year-round destination for outdoor recreation.
Beyond its northern edge lay Cedar Breaks with a smattering of those mystical “hoodoos” plunked down amidst green pine-lined mountains. We would have been happy with that last inspiring view, but there was more to come…
We saw the first bright perky flowers along a trail overlooking the hoo doos. It was chilly, and the flowers were a surprise. A little further down the road, we found our reason to be there.
A vibrant rainbow of blooms speckled a carpet of green that stretched with lavish grace to distant stands of pines and aspens. It was a backdrop from the “Sound of Music” in our own American West.
Encapsulated breathtaking beauty.
It was only us (because it was getting too chilly for sensible people) and a spectacular view any way we spun to look.
Chilly rain sent us back to the jeep and into “backtrack” mode. Rain turned to hail, and we hit our ultimate low temperature of 50 degrees -a full fifty degree swing from the 100 degrees we’d had earlier in the day, and 61 degrees below our week’s high of 111 degrees!
We marked the occasion with our version of a “polar bear dip” by jumping out of the car for an exhilarating “photo op” before slowly winding our way back down the mountain.
Updated from July 2008.
Cedar Breaks National Park (Brian Head, Utah)
*Stunning hoodoos and serene alpine meadows, a mere five miles from Utah’s highest elevation ski resort.
*Outdoor recreation year-round…
Visitor Center Hours: 8AM -6PM (late May to mid Oct)
Park Entrance Fee: $4.00/Adults (over age 15) Annual passes available
Road Conditions/Visitor Information: 435-586-9451