Cedar Breaks National Monument: An Alternative to Busy Bryce Canyon

Remember that completely spur-of-the-moment trip we took to southern Utah over Memorial Day? You know, the one where P forgot to take any shoes?  Today I want to start telling you about the trip itself and am going to start with Cedar Breaks National Monument.

Bryce Canyon

I first discovered Cedar Breaks while researching for my Suitcases and Sippycups article, "Avoiding Utah's National Park Crowds."  It is known as the "mini Bryce Canyon" with hoodoos standing at attention in uniform rows and lining an immense red rock canyon.  The two parks are a little over an hour driving distance apart with a climb of nearly 2000 feet.  The high elevation of the park (over 10,000 feet) makes for a very late spring, even after what we thought was a very dry Utah winter.

Bryce Canyon
Memorial Day and still covered in snow
hoodoos
Hoodoos
Cedar Breaks Elevation
10,000 feet, Junior Ranger book in hand, and a kid who could care less about shoes.
We pulled into the parking lot only moments before the entrance booth closed-we were very focused on getting Junior Ranger books before the park closed, so we paid the fee and ran up to the visitor's center.  It was a bit of a bummer as we realized we could have possibly avoided the fee if we'd rushed right to the cabin.  Yes, we still would have been asked to drop a fee envelope, and would have because that's honest, but technically nobody would have known.  It's questionable whether we got the full value out of our $10 by looking over the rim for 20 minutes, but we paid it and still have good consciences.

I absolutely loved the Cedar Breaks Visitor Center cabin.  It's small and authentic and perched right on the edge of the canyon.  Park visitor's centers are often located near the main roadway or in an uninteresting part of the park, but the rangers here have a true up-close view of the park they are there to share with you.  Looking at it, you can easily imagine the park the way it was 50 years ago.

national park cabins
Visitor center cabin perched on the canyon rim
While I do think Bryce Canyon National Park is one not worth missing, I have often been disappointed going there and driving from parking lot to parking lot only to look over the edge briefly.  There is a world beneath the rim of the canyon and one day I will have time to go down in there, but Cedar Breaks seemed much less intimidating.  Because of the time of day (and that pesky problem of a child wearing only socks running around in the snow), we did the same thing at Cedar Breaks on this trip but the hiking and other activities available there seem much more accessible to me.  You can amble around down into the canyon, but also find your way through pine forests, or relax while walking past wildflower meadows and mountain ponds.  The park has a wildflower festival mid-summer and star parties celebrating dark clear sky views.

Cedar Breaks National Monument is beautiful.  It is centrally located to primary Utah highways and could make a good middle-point for a trip between Bryce and Zions Canyons.  With the visitor center and lookout area located on the east side of the canyon, sunsets washing over the burnt red rocks are stunning.  The contrast of deep red with evergreen is stark, yet complimentary.  And the panorama capped with expressive blue sky is breathtaking.

southern utah

 Cedar Breaks truly is a "mini-Bryce" with all the beauty and none of the pretense.  I definitely would recommend going!