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Cedar Breaks National Monument in Utah: Forces of Nature

Utah is a fantastic state filled with natural wonders, including many beautiful state and national parks. We loved vacationing there!

Cedar Breaks National Monument

Cedar Breaks National Monument

Forces of Erosion

Cedar Breaks is a national monument dedicated to the forces of erosion. This monument was the first of many natural sites that my mother, niece, and I got to view and enjoy while on a Utah vacation trip in July of 1991.

We had first flown from Houston to Salt Lake City, spending some time exploring that area, and then with a rental car, we started our sightseeing in some of the rest of Utah in our allotted two weeks of vacation time. Our main objective was to view the National Parks and other natural sites in Utah in the time frame allotted.

Aerial Scenery

We first spotted Cedar Breaks from the air. Cedar City Air transports people to various sites in Utah, and we hired them to take us on an aerial view of a small portion of Zion National Park, Kolob Canyon, and Cedar Breaks National Monument. Forty minutes is the usual allotted time by air to view these sights, but the pilot of the small one-engine aircraft gave us an hour of sightseeing on that particular day.

What a crystal clear spectacular day and what terrific sites we got to see from that airplane! As seen from above, it was easy to see how this vividly multicolored amphitheater called Cedar Breaks fits into the green alpine landscape located in southern Utah. Many people liken the monument to a coliseum with the floor of it 2,000 feet below the summit. Fantastic shapes of arches, spires, and canyons catch the light of day.


"Breaks" was the word used for badlands that became a barrier to wagon trains in early settler days, and they mistakenly thought that the trees were cedar trees. Instead, most of them are junipers as well as pine, spruce, and other trees. Thus, the name Cedar Breaks came into existence. Mormon pioneers settled nearby in Cedar City around 1831.

The establishment of Cedar Breaks as a national monument took place in 1933. Before that, it was part of the National Forest system. It is a 10-mile square area where erosion from the effects of snow, frost, ice, wind, and rain has carved Cedar Breaks into something of outstanding beauty.

Man's efforts could never equate to nature's artistry of color and design. It took millions of years to accomplish this present look, and of course, it will continue to be ever-evolving as the forces of erosion continue the "work" seen here.

Plants and Animal Life

Surrounding this monument is endless views of mountains, desert sage, and trees. Wildflowers abound in nearby meadows, especially in July and August, after being watered by the melting snow.

Many ground squirrels, as well as chipmunks, pikas, and marmots, call this area home. The sky is full of various types of flying birds. Some of them are the following: Clark's nutcracker, swallows, blue grouse, white-throated swift, golden eagle, and bald eagle.

We saw a mule deer while on an Alpine Pond Trail hike, one of many known to live here. It is the largest animal in the monument.

Bristlecone pine trees can live over 5,000 years! According to a brochure I picked up, the oldest one in this national monument is about 1,600 years old. Dead trees of all types are not removed but left to decay, returning nutrients to the soil.

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The highly colored rocks in this area are primarily limestone. The white is pure limestone, and the other colors result from impurities such as iron and manganese in the formations. Iron oxides account for the colors orange, red, and yellow. Additional pigments are also there and are most vivid at sunrise and sunset.

Past volcanic eruptions uplifted parts of this area, and Point Supreme is at an elevation of 10,350 feet. Almost all of the monument is above 10,000 feet, so precautions should be taken for people not used to that height, especially when hiking the trails. Several trails range from easy to challenging. People can also drive to four scenic overlooks.

Are you a stargazer? If so, and you wish to see the night skies at 10,000 feet devoid of interfering city lights, then Cedar Breaks National monument is the place to be!

The park is open year-round except for ten holidays. From October 15th to May 26th, one can only access this park by using snowmobiles, snowshoes, or cross-country skiing. Camping is limited to the seasons with more moderate temperatures.

FDR and the CCC

On a sign posted near a path in Cedar Breaks National Monument is the following information.

"A Lasting Legacy

During the Great Depression of the 1930's, a large percentage of the American working class struggled to provide food and shelter for their families. To help the country, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the Civilian Conservation Corps. The CCC put young men to work improving on and restoring many public lands, including Cedar Breaks.

Cedar Break's CCC camp was located in the meadow across the road. Due to harsh winters, it was only occupied in summer and even then the weather was not always ideal. As CCC member Henry Bott Jr. put it: "We got hailed on and snowed on, but we had a lot of fun doing the job."

Single men ages 18-25 could enlist in this peacetime army. In exchange for hard work, they received a roof over their heads and three meals a day. They also had the opportunity to learn trades and complete high school. All while earning a significant wage, 1/4 of which was mailed to their families who often lived thousands of miles away.

From 1934-1938, the CCC at Cedar Breaks created fences, roads, trails, overlooks, buildings, and campgrounds. Many of these are still in use today."

Point Supreme Campground in Cedar Breaks National Monument

Fees and Passes

For information about fees and passes, click on the national park service site below for up-to-date information regarding costs. As of 2021, people 16 and older pay $10 to enter the park. That fee is valid for up to seven days.

Annual and lifetime passes can be a bargain if one enjoys visiting some or many recreational sites run by governmental agencies. There are senior and military passes and others.

Did you know those fourth graders and their families qualify for a free pass? It is called the Every Kid Outdoors. It is a wonderful opportunity for families to get outdoors and learn about the environment while creating great family memories.

The visit to this national monument was merely a prologue to the rest of our sightseeing vacation trip in Utah. We certainly enjoyed the impressions and vivid memories created here at Cedar Breaks National Monument. I hope you enjoyed this look at it as well.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Peggy Woods

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