We had a couple of summer vacation ideas that were tentatively planned and then cancelled for various reasons, with the latest being we are in the process of buying a house. We decided the house would be our priority this summer and we would put our money and time resources toward that instead of travelling. However, there has been one delay on top of another and after over two months we are still not in our new house. As my birthday week approached, I began to get antsy and just really wanted to get out of town for a bit. Seeing as we were still not yet moving, we decided to take an impromptu weekend trip to Cedar Breaks National Monument, just 200 miles Southeast of here in Southern Utah.
The rim of Cedar Breaks sits at 10, 000+ feet in elevation, keeping the temperatures much milder than the surrounding areas. It is located in the vicinity of Zion National Park, but receives just a small fraction of the visitors. The comfortable weather and tolerable amount of people made it a very pleasant visit.
Our main objective for the day was hiking the Rampart’s Trail. Cedar Breaks is not a large park so this four- mile round- trip trail is the longest one entirely located inside the park.
The trail follows the rim of the canyon and after a mile you end up at Spectra Point. In the picture above, it is at the end of the white piece of land jutting out into the canyon. It seemed like this is where the majority of people stopped and headed back up, making a nice, short, not- too- exhausting walk.
This area had especially low soil quality, allowing only the hardiest of plants to grow: bristlecone pines. These trees are among the oldest life forms on Earth and some individuals in the park are 2,000 years old.
After a quick break we continued on the trail. This next section was more wooded and contained steeper switchbacks that took us farther down the slope of the canyon’s rim.
During the hike we saw a couple of mule deer and several marmots. We saw the first one right after I remarked at how I was disappointed that we hadn’t seen any yet. Then they all started coming out at around the same time. We deemed 2:15 pm to be Marmot Time. Maybe the sensed the bad weather approaching and they needed to get their errands done before then. I was so excited to see them, but never got any good pictures as they are fast little things and they always quickly darted behind a log or bush.
As we hiked we also admired all the different layers of color in the canyon and the variety of rock formations within it, such as the hoodoos in the picture below. (The rocks don’t move, unlike marmots, so I was able to get a few more pictures of them).
After hiking our two miles out we reached Rampart’s Overlook. We lingered here for a while, not looking forward to the trek back up. The trail was not the steepest I have ever been on and it was no problem going down. But, if I am to be honest, I was huffing and puffing all the way back up. Hiking uphill at over 10, 000 feet is no joke.
We knew we couldn’t linger too long as dark clouds start accumulating, threatening us with an afternoon thunderstorm. I was getting tired, but a glance at those clouds put a bit more incentive in my step.
Thankfully, the storm waited until we were done for the day and were driving back to Cedar City that evening. The clouds and the lower angle of the sun did put on an awesome show for us, though. The colors of the canyon seemed to constantly change as the clouds rolled across the sun.
My birthday week just happened to be during their Wildflower Festival. Adjoining the canyon is a high elevation plateau, featuring meadows with scatterings of forest. This area was so pleasant to stroll through in the late afternoon as we did part of the Alpine Pond trail.
After driving through the whole park, we continued on with one final excursion into Dixie National Forest. We took a drive up another 1,000 feet to Brian Head Overlook, the highest mountain in the area.
It was cool and breezy at the top, but we were awarded with a 360 degree view of canyons, mountains and forests. We even saw what we thought was Wheeler Peak from our own Great Basin National Park in Nevada. It was pretty cool to see pockets of rain surrounding us in every direction, but we stayed dry until we were safely off the mountain.
We were blessed with a fun little getaway to celebrate my birthday, to spend special time together as a family, and to take our minds off our long wait to move into our new home.
“God gave us the gift of life;
it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well.”