Monday, May 1, 2017

Southern Utah, Part II: Cedar Breaks and Bryce Canyon

Next up are two more iconic spots in Southern Utah: Cedar Breaks National Monument and Bryce Canyon National Park.

I group these two together because… Well, because they're very similar. Though Bryce Canyon is much better known, Cedar Breaks is almost the same thing (but with smaller crowds.) They’re both “natural amphitheaters” that… Well, see for yourself:

Cedar Breaks

Bryce Canyon

Millions of years of erosion formed the steep drop-off and golden hoodoos and precarious formations that look like they could topple over at any moment (in fact, one of them recently did topple over.)

Cedar Breaks National Monument

After leaving Zion, we climb steadily upward along the Markagunt Plateau. In about 90 minutes we've moved from 3,000 feet (at Zion Canyon) to 10,000 feet at our next stop—Cedar Breaks. Up here the air is thinner - and pleasantly chilly.

Aside from the thinning air and the dropping temperature, you don't really realize how high you are. You also don't notice that there's a precipitous 2,000 foot drop from the fairly level ground you're standing on until you've come right to the edge of the formation. Then at once you see the whole amphitheater spread out before you (it's about 3 miles wide.)

It’s quite a sight... especially if you’ve never been to Bryce Canyon.

Unlike Bryce Canyon, there aren’t any paths that lead down, so we followed the rim trail for about a mile to an overlook. It’s only as you walk along that you realize how truly massive and wide this thing is.

(On a side note, due to the high elevation, there are multiple signs warning of the possibility of sudden thunderstorms. Briefly, you really don’t want to be caught up here if there’s lightning.)

It’s a worthwhile stop, but there aren’t many trails—so the options for activities are limited. You could probably spend an hour or ninety minutes here and see what you need to see.

A marmot doing marmot things on the edge of the abyss

A most likely very old bristlecone pine on the rim

After we’d gotten our fill of the view, we headed back to the car and back on to the road to Bryce Canyon.

A view of the road leading to Cedar Breaks

Bryce Canyon National Park

Next up is Cedar Breaks - but first, a detour to the tiny town of Tropic. An odd feature of this tiny town two hours from the nearest "city"? It has its own five-star restaurant. Upon hearing of this unusual feature, we simply had to go and try it out.

I don't have any pictures from here, unfortunately, but... It's located off a dirt road and up a little bluff. We sat on the balcony and enjoyed the incredible view of the sun setting over the distinct red rock formations in the distance—all while old-time swing music played on the restaurant radio. It was a memorable moment. Oh, and the food was exceptional.


The next morning we drove into Bryce Canyon—another “natural amphitheater,” but even bigger than Cedar Breaks. Even if you've never been there, you've almost certainly seen pictures.

Wait, this looks familiar...

Unlike Cedar Breaks, it's also a busy place—though fortunately nowhere as overwhelming as Zion. Also unlike Cedar Breaks, there are trails that lead down the "canyon" here, so you don't have to content yourself with the view from the rim. So after walking up top a bit and taking lots of pictures of the view from above, we mustered our energy and set off on one of the trails recommended to us by the park staff.

It's not long before you're walking among the hoodoos—and seeing them towering above you. There are rocks scattered on the ground, and you get the creeping fear that one of these precarious formations could topple and land on your head at any moment.

 I loved these tall and straight trees growing out of the rock.

Spoiler alert: We didn't die.


Of course, there's one drawback of hiking down a trail like this that leads straight down into a 1,000 foot canyon—it's that afterwards you have to hike straight back up.

A few hours later, we arrive back at the rim, hot and sweaty and ready to get back into our air conditioned car.

After driving to the end of the scenic route and admiring another part of the same formation, many miles further on - as well as this crow that didn't seem at all afraid of humans - we took some final photos and then headed out for one of Utah's most scenic byways.

1 comment:

  1. You certainly took some amazing pictures. Love all the exploring you did, you were sure brave to hike down into Bryce and then back up. Quite some crevices you went into. I have always loved Zion's, Bryce, And Cedar Breaks. The crow made me laugh.