At one of Cedar Breaks' four scenic overlooks, a dangerous path tempts visitors with the promise of more spectacular views.
The path juts out beyond the constructed observation area and seems to end where the sky begins. The path is brilliant with its reddish hues. The soil underfoot is loose and wide enough for only one-way travel.
To the left and right, fatally dramatic drops await the slightest misstep. Still, the path is beaten with footprints whose constantly changing patterns are a testament to the beauty of the park.
Of course, there is little need to take a dangerous step. Every turn at Cedar Breaks spoils the eye. The park sits at an altitude of 10,000 feet (10,662 at its highest point) and offers plenty to see for even the casual observer. Each of the park's lookouts provides a different and equally spectacular angle of the brilliant sandstone pinnacles featured in the 2,500-foot-deep canyon.
The views are best at sunrise and sunset, when the light brings out the deepest shades of the rock. Looking up to Cedar Breaks from Utah State Highway 14 puts the park's "natural amphitheater" appearance in perspective, but a drive-by alone won't do the trick.
The top of the canyon spans more than three miles and is worth the four-mile drive up State Route 148. Along the drive you'll see an array of wild flowers set in expansive green meadows. There also are patches of Englemann spruce, aspen and subalpine fir. Sadly, the bark beetle has left enclaves of dead trees along the route and throughout the area.
The park also features a simple 30-site campground and a visitor center. Two trails within the park offer distinctly different looks. The Alpine Pond Nature Trail is a double-loop trail for fans of the meadow and forest aspects of the park. In stark contrast, the Spectra Point/Ramparts Overlook Trail provides the dramatic views of the canyon.
Two more miles up the State Route 143 is the quaint resort town of Brian Head, which has a couple of country stores and a ski and bike rental shop. For those not camping, the town also features an array of vacation rental condominiums, The Lodge at Brian Head and the plush Cedar Breaks Lodge.
The town of Cedar City, which hosts the Tony award-winning Utah Shakespearean Festival, is 40 minutes to the west. Those traveling from Vegas will go through Cedar City on the way to Cedar Breaks.
The surrounding area also features several lakes, lava-flow formations and enough Dixie National Forest greenery to erase memories of Vegas brown.
For longer-term vacationers, Cedar Breaks is a natural scenic stop between Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park.
Heavy snow closes the roads to Cedar Breaks every winter. Spring and fall visitors are advised to bring winter clothing and to be prepared for winterlike conditions.
--Review by Paul Mello