Cedar Breaks National Monument is loosely sandwiched between two southwestern Utah national parks—Zion and Bryce Canyon. It towers 2,000 and 4,000 feet above these parks, respectively. The monument lies 22 miles west of Cedar City, Utah, about 60 miles east of Bryce Canyon, and about 80 miles north of Zion.
The visitor center rests at an elevation of more than 10,000 feet and stands next to the monument's main attraction, the amphitheater. This scenic marvel is three miles across and sports hoodoos, ridges and spires in various hues of red, purple and gold. Area facilities include 30 campsites, a five-mile scenic drive, picnic areas and hiking trails. The visitor center opens around Memorial Day and closes for the season in mid-October.
The monument gets its name from early Utah settlers. "Cedar" refers to the cedar or juniper trees that grow nearby, and "Breaks" is a word meaning badlands. In 1933, this 6,155-acre wonder was declared a national monument by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
At an elevation of over 10,000 feet, the average low temperatures at Cedar Breaks remain below freezing for approximately eight months of the year. From June through September, however, lows range from the mid-30s to 40s F, and highs reach the 70s and 80s F. Average precipitation at this time of year reaches the six-inch mark, but clear blue skies are the norm.
Various high-country wildflowers begin their colorful displays in late June, while late-bloomers peak in mid-August. A hike to Spectra Point reveals a bristlecone pine tree that began its growth during the Roman Empire, and another trail travels to Alpine Pond, a backcountry pool surrounded by a forest of spruce, fir and aspen.
Nothing can top the most glorious attraction of the monument, however—the Cedar Breaks amphitheater. The scenic drive has four pullouts for gazing deep into its interior. North View overlook faces south. Chessman Ridge and Sunset View overlooks both have views to the west, and Point Supreme has the only viewpoint that looks due north.
When photographing at the amphitheater, the weather often determines which overlook will set up the best image. If a dramatic summer thunderstorm starts rolling in from the west, the Chessman Ridge and Sunset View are the best locations for capturing the amphitheater below, with the rolling clouds in the distance. If the western sky looks relatively clear, a shot of the scenic from Point Supreme or North View will allow the sun's warm cross-light to give dimension and depth to the formations below.
Contact: Cedar Breaks National Monument, (435) 586-9451, www.nps.gov/cebr/.
If a snowmobile is available, photographs can be made at any time of the year, but for practical purposes, the photography season coincides with the opening and closing of the visitor center.
The best images of the amphitheater from Point Supreme are taken within 45 minutes of sunset and within three weeks before or after the summer solstice. By mid-July, the setting sun begins to creep behind the southern cliff of the opening to the amphitheater, casting an unwanted shadow on the scene.
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