Cedar Breaks National Monument may be relatively unknown, but it is a major natural wonder in itself. It features dramatic red rock formations and 1,600 years old Bristlecone Pine trees. Thunder and lightning made us shorten our hike to just three miles. But what awesome three miles they were.

 

The Campground & Ramparts Trail

Location: Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah

Start: Point Supreme Campground

Distance: 3 miles ( 4,8 km) roundtrip

Elevation gain: 380 ft

Time: 2 hrs 

Note: lightning hazard

Cedar Breaks National Monument

Cedar Breaks National Monument is a nice hideout from the crowds and the summer heat that you’ll experience at nearby Zion National Park. Located at 10,350 feet elevation, summer temperatures are low and camp sites are easy to find at Point Supreme Campground. We arrived early to find a choice of first-come-first-served sites.

Camping at this elevation can be surprisingly cold, even mid summer. At a stormy night we needed all our clothing (including woolen hat and down jacket) to get a comfortable sleep. The camping has very nice big spots, each with a picnic table and a fire pit. There are also restrooms with showers, chopped firewood, and water spigots.

From our campsite (#3) we could see the ridge of the Cedar Breaks Amphitheater. Except, we couldn’t actually see anything, because the natural wonder is lower than the ridge. We only learned this after we had followed the Campsite trail to the Visitors Center and Amphitheater.

 

The Amphitheater

The first glimpse of the Amphitheater was, for dramatic effect, hidden behind the trees until the last moment. The sun was just beginning to break through the clouds (but not for long) as we peeked into the ravine.
The Amphitheater reveals more than 200 million years of geologic history, beyond the Jurassic era. Cedar Breaks is actually located so high, that one the lowest strata, the Carmel formation, is found at the highest level in Zion National Park.
But more importantly, the view here was so impressive I did not think of all these facts at all. I stood there with my loved one and we could only respond to the majestic beauty in silence.

 

The Visitors Center and Point Supreme

Just a few steps further on the wheelchair accessible trail we found the Visitor Center, a tiny cabin constructed in 1937 by the famous Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). This historic building was designed to resemble the classic National Park Service rustic architecture.

The message board held a warning for us: When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!. But for the moment, our priority was Point Supreme Overlook, the main viewpoint of the Monument with equally inspiring views as the Amphitheater.
From Point Supreme we looked down into Jericho Canyon, where we made up names for the towering rocks, like The Pope, Santa Claus and many others. We tried to estimate the height of the rocks, comparing them to the trees, but the depths of the canyon was hard to imagine.
Speaking of trees, as many 75% of the trees in the monument – which are not Cedars at all but Juniper trees the early settlers mistook for Cedar – were killed by a spruce beetle outbreak in 1986–1998. 

Such a shame that most visitors to the park seemed only to glimpse through their smartphones and leave Point Supreme within minutes. On the other hand, this left us mostly all alone to enjoy the views – and the upcoming thunderstorm.

 

Spectra Point

We wanted to continue our trail to Spectra Point and came to this exposed cliff edges, with hazardous lightning nearby. And the Sign That Knew It All. We took shelter in the Visitor Center until the weather cleared.
We sat on the porch of the old cabin, bought posters and books in the shop inside and finally after an hour we made our way to Spectra Point.

Along the trail we came to the highest point of the trail (10,478 ft / 3.194 m) on the cliffs edges near a weather station.

A view of Ramparts Overlook from Spectra Point trail.

The Bristlecone Pines that grow on the cliffs edges are looking half dead, but are very much alive. These trees are a 1,000 to 1,600 years old. We took a moment to let that sink in.

The trail, which must be very easy in good weather, led us to Spectra Point. The bad weather made us the only visitors here.
The incredible view from Spectra Point, looking down Slip Canyon with Asdown Creek.
Mud made walking almost almost impossible. And dangerously slippery.

Although hiking on to the Ramparts Overlook would have been just two miles extra, the thunder and lightning came really really close again and the slippery mud began weigh heavy on our boots. Time to get back!

As for pure mileage, Cedar Breaks does not offer much for hikers. But nevertheless, the scenery, views and even the bad weather made this a very memorable trip. There is real solitude and peace to be found here.