We’ve hiked the trails in Zion. We “did” Bryce Canyon. We’ve visited the Grand Canyon—both rims, one in the winter and one in the summer. When it comes to traveling the national parks of the spectacular Southwest, we’ve made a dent.
Utah, in particular, is filled with gorgeous national parks. You leave Zion just to enter Bryce. When you leave Bryce, it’s easy to head for Capitol Reef. Drive just a touch further and you’ve reached Arches.
With all the excitement of bouncing back and forth between these national parks that are frequently cited as “must sees,” it’s easy to forget a small spot located only 56 miles to the west of Bryce and an even shorter drive north out of Zion’s Kolob Canyons area.
Cedar Break National Monument is as spectacular and breathtaking as either Zion or Bryce, and, in fact, looks a bit like the love child of the two. With its jagged rock formations interspersed with the magical hoodoos, it’s possible to believe that two of Utah’s most famous parks once spent the night here together, just to leave their illegitimate child to be forgotten among all the grandeur of Utah’s more famous national parks.
On our recent trip home from Bryce Canyon National Park, we took a different route and stopped by Cedar Breaks. As we rounded the corner of the road winding through the alpine forest, it appeared. Out there, in the middle of nowhere—like so many of Utah’s parks—is this incredible site that has been preserved as a national monument.
It may be small, but don’t be deterred. An observer once said of this park: “If Cedar Breaks were anywhere but in this region, it would be picked as one of the world’s greatest scenic wonders.” It’s a true statement. Cedar Breaks’ huge amphitheater is just as stunning as Bryce’s, and its jarring cliff faces are just as incredible as those in Zion. Unfortunately, it’s also overshadowed by both.
Cedar Breaks is located in the high country, and we stood among a rainbow of wildflowers, peering over the edge into the bowl, which drops more than 2,000 feet in places. It is a small park, with one campground and two hiking trails—one that meanders along the edge of the canyon and one that leads to a forest glade and pond. Cedar Breaks is not a park to spend a week in, or even more than a few days, but it is worth the stop.
The air is clean. The crowds are all but nonexistent. The peacefulness is real.
For a singular spot on the map, Cedar Breaks is truly a pleasant surprise.