Cedar Breaks National Monument is a natural amphitheater canyon, stretching across 3 miles, with a depth of over 2,000 feet. The elevation of the rim is over 10,000 feet above sea level. Cedar Breaks was established in 1933 and is located 21 miles east of Cedar City, Utah. Cedar Breaks is a spectacular world of rainbow hued rock formations millions of years in the making. The eroded rock of the canyon is similar to formations at Bryce Canyon National Park, but has its own distinct look. From its high vantage points, clear vistas extend hundreds of miles featuring lush alpine forests and serene wildflower meadows.
The Cedar Breaks amphitheater, located near the west end of the Colorado Plateau, covers the west side of the Markagunt Plateau, the same plateau that forms parts of Zion National Park. Uplift and erosion formed the canyon over millions of years, raising and then wearing away the shale, limestone, and sandstone that was deposited at the bottom of an ancient lake, known as Lake Claron about 60 million years ago. It continues to erode at a pace of about 2 inches every 5 years. Indian settlers called it the “Circle of Painted Cliffs” because of the many brilliant colors that the rocks of the eroded canyon contained. The area is another form of badlands-canyons, spires, walls, and cliffs so steep and confusing that the land, while of great aesthetic value, are of little utilitarian worth. Early settlers called them badlands or breaks and created its current name by combining breaks with cedar for the many juniper trees that grow in the area.
Cedar Breaks National Monument contains rock formations known as hoodoos. These are also known as tent rocks, fairy chimneys or earth pyramids. A hoodoo is a tall thin spire of rock that protrudes from the bottom of an arid drainage basin or badland. Hoodoos are composed of soft sedimentary rock and are topped by a piece of harder, less easily-eroded stone that protects the column from the elements. Hoodoos have a variable thickness often described as having a “totem pole-shaped body.” Hoodoos range in height from that of an average human being to heights exceeding a 10-story building. Hoodoo shapes are affected by the erosional patterns of alternating hard and softer rock layers. Minerals deposited within different rock types cause hoodoos to have different colors throughout their height.
Cedar Breaks provides many different types of activities. There is a scenic drive along The Cedar Breaks Hwy U-148 that offers beautiful views of the rock formations, meadows, and forests. There are four developed overlooks, and trail heads for two hiking trails located along the scenic drive. The Alpine Pond Trail is an easy two mile route that offers excellent views of the wildflower meadows. Spectra Points/Ramparts Trail leads for one mile to the Spectra Point Overlook. Hikers who are prepared for a slightly more strenuous hike may continue one mile further to the Ramparts Overlook. During the summer months, geology talks and evening campfire programs are offered by the park rangers. Campground sites are also available on a first come, first serve basis from mid June through September.
Cedar Breaks boasts some of the most spectacular wildflowers and fall colors in the nation. Hundreds of thousands of guests visit the park each year. During the winter months, the scenic highway through Cedar Breaks is closed and becomes a groomed trail for snowmobiles, x-country skiing, and snowshoeing.