Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Cedar Breaks National Monument, 10/04/2015

Today we visited Cedar Breaks National Monument, located about 60 miles from where we are staying, near the town of Cedar City. 

It is a huge natural amphitheater created by the erosion of variegated Pink Cliffs on the western edge of the Markagunt Plateau. Over millions of years, the steep bowl-shaped cliffs have formed fins, spires, and columns in an area about three miles wide and over 2,000' deep. 

We had a first view of the area at Point Supreme. It is spectacular with colorful rock strata and interesting rock formations.

The dark skies here are an attraction for those interest in astronomy. "Star Parties" are held here in the summer by park rangers with telescopes provided. 

It was about 80 degrees in Hurricane where we are staying, but was cold (40s) and very windy at this altitude! We wished we had brought gloves and warmer clothing, although we did have jackets. 

We stopped at the small Visitor Center to obtain information about the scenic drive here. There was a fire in the wood stove which was lovely after standing out on the overlook. There is also a small gift shop here. 

We continued along the scenic drive to Sunset View Overlook.   

Each overlook provides a different perspective on the badlands below. The term 'breaks" in the name of the monument describes the badlands where the edge of the plateau breaks away to a lower level. 

Our next stop was at Chessman Ridge Overlook

Along with the panoramic views here, many strange rock shapes can be seen as well. 

At the other end of the parking lot is the trailhead for Alpine Pond Trail. In the forested areas are Englemanns spruce, subalpine fir, and aspens. 

We did not hike the entire figure-eight, 2-mile loop, but wanted to see the bristlecone pines near the rim. These trees are one of the oldest living organisms on earth. There is one on Spectra Point that estimated to be 1,600 years old. The oldest known one is dated at 4,789 years. They are highly resistant to harsh weather and thrive in poor soil. 

The dead trees seen in the area are Engelmann spruce trees that have been killed by the spruce bark beetle. A major beetle outbreak occurs every 300 years beginning a natural cycle of forest renewal. The current outbreak began in 1992 and is almost complete. Healthy young Englemann spruce are now growing at Cedar Breaks. 

Surrounding many areas of the rim are broad meadows where wildflowers bloom in the summer. Wildflower tours are offered by park rangers in the summer. Check with the Visitor Center on more information about these programs.

The Winter Ranger Station is located at the other end of the Alpine Pond Trail. It is a yurt that is open from late October to April. With 15' of snow annually, visitors enjoy cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling here. 

The final overlook on the scenic drive is North View

The Dixie National Forest surrounds the Cedar Breaks National Monument. 

We stopped at a couple of overlooks to capture the beauty of the forest with autumn colors of aspen trees on our drive to Cedar City. 

I always like to check out what national monuments are nearby when we visit an area new to us. We have found them to be almost as interesting as the national parks. Cedar Breaks was no exception. The rock formations here in Utah continue to amaze us. 

The admission fee to Cedar Breaks is $4/person. Our senior pass gets us in for free. There are three hiking trails and a campground at the monument. See their website for additional information regarding hours of operation and seasonal activities. 

Website: www.nps.gov/cebr

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