Cedar Breaks National Monument

Cedar Breaks at Sunset showing bright red formations
Cedar Breaks at Sunset

Cedar Breaks amphitheater seen through the woods.
Cedar Breaks National Monument

Cedar Breaks is a small gem of a National Monument located near Brian Head, Utah. The centerpiece of Cedar Breaks is a giant amphitheater spanning some three miles that is more than 2,000 feet deep. It is a wonderful place.

Because Cedar Breaks is at about 10,000 feet in elevation, it gets considerably more precipitation, much of it snow, than the surrounding desert. This means that there are tress, grass for grazing, and a small alpine lake. The downside of all the precipitation is that the monument is closed to automobile traffic from about November to late May. It is open for snowmobile, cross country ski, and snowshoe traffic. These are major outdoor activities in the Brian Head area.

The area outside the national monument is open range used for livestock grazing. We saw several herds of sheep grazing in the area during our visit.

One of the interesting facts about Cedar Breaks is that there used to be a lodge here. The lodge was dismantled when the Park Service took over because it was not part of the natural environment. The fuss raised by dismantleing the lodge was so great, that the Park Service changed policy for all such buildings in National Parks and Monuments.

Hike to Spectra Point

Point Supreme Trail
Spectra Point Trail

Cedar Breaks Amphitheater
Cedar Breaks Amphitheater from Spectra Point Trail

The hike to Spectra point also takes you to Point Supreme. The trail leaves from the visitor center and takes you along the rim of the amphitheater. Much of the hike is in the open with no shade. So be sure to take plenty of water with you for the hike. Lucky for us the weather in September was perfect for hiking.

One thing we noticed about most of the hikes in Utah---they're uphill both ways--but not, at least in September, in 15 feet of snow. The Spectra Point Trail is no exception. The trail has several sections where you go up a few hundred feet and then back down a few hundred feet. One section goes up 500 feet and then down 500 feet. In the winter, the trail is uphill both ways and in 15 feet of snow.

The views of the amphitheater as you hike along the trail are spectacular.


A single chipmunk was the only animal we saw on the hike. He was busy getting ready for the long winter. He was running around gathering seeds. I was surprised that we didn't see any birds flying around. Guess they were taking the day off.

Bristle Cone Pines:Some of Oldest Living Things

Bristle Cone Pine Tree
Bristle Cone Pine Tree Cedar Breaks National Monument

The trail goes through a grove of bristle cone pines. Bristle cone pines are among the oldest living things on earth. The oldest one at Cedar Point is about 1,600 years old. The oldest known bristle cone pine isMethuselah. It is 4,789 years and is old located in White Mountains of California. So the trees here at Cedar Breaks are just children.

Bare limbs of Bristle Cone Pine
Exposed roots of Bristle Cone Pine

Several of the trees seemed to be in some distress. There roots have been exposed by wind and rain, yet according to the park service parts of the tree are still alive and producing cones. On the other hand some of the trees looked very healthy and full of cones.

Bristle Cone Pine loaded with cones

Alpine Lake at Cedar Breaks

Alpine Lake at Cedar Breaks
Cedar Breaks Alpine Lake
 Mule deer at Cedar Breaks
Mule deer

One of the nicest hikes at Cedar Breaks is the hike to a small alpine lake. The hike takes you through the forest and then down to the lake. We saw a deer on our hike to the lake. The deer here are mule deer--not the white tail deer we have at home.

One of the nicest things about this hike is that it's partly in the shade. So it's not as hot as the Spectra Point Trail. Another nice thing is that it's mostly level. The 10,000 feet elevation at Cedar Beaks is easier to take if you're not climbing up hill.

Many of the trees around the lake are dead victems of the Spruce Bark Beetles. The beetles have killed thousands of spruce pines throughout the west.

Dead pines
Dead spruce pines

Sunset at Cedar Breaks

Sunset at Cedar Breaks
Cedar Breaks Sunset
Sunset at Cedar Breaks
Cedar Breaks Sunset
Sunset at Cedar Breaks
Cedar Breaks Sunset
End of Sunset at Cedar Breaks
End of Cedar Breaks Sunset
twilight at Cedar Breaks
Twilight at Cedar Breaks

The highlight at Cedar Breaks is the sunset. As is the case at other places in the desert west, the way that the rocks react to changes in sunlight has to be seen to be belived. The dull red rocks become firely red.

The sunset at Cedar Breaks is awesome, spectacular, beautiful, etc. There really are no words to describe the effect of the setting sun on the formations in the amphitheater. It started with everything a deep orange and then the colors changed minute by minute until the whole amphitheater was lit up with deep saturated reds. It's hard to believe that the colors could be as saturated red as they were.

We stayed watching the sunset and the twilight until it was too dark to see anything. Turned out to be a really great day.

Early sunset Early Sunset at Cedar Breaks

sunset Sunset at Cedar Breaks

Additional photos from Cedar Breaks are in our Cedar Breaks Gallery