Cedar City, nestled against the stair-stepped Hurricane Cliffs, is the gateway to southwestern Utah’s natural wonders and national parklands. Besides being home to the famed Utah Shakespeare Festival, Cedar City is an adventure playground for hikers. Above the town, canyons drain down from the eroded 10,000-foot rim of Cedar Breaks National Monument while sprawling Dixie National Forest, a land of ragged mountains, ancient bristlecone pines, and rushing waterfalls, protects the beauty of the wooded Markagunt Plateau. Cedar City, sitting astride Interstate 15, makes an ideal basecamp to hike the region’s diverse trails.
Before hitting the trail, be prepared by bringing extra clothes, rain gear, sunscreen, and plenty of food and water. Follow Leave No Trace principles by packing out trash, properly disposing of human waste, following existing trails, and taking only photos and leaving only footprints. Here are our choices for nine of the best easy hikes near Cedar City.
1. Alpine Pond Nature Trail: Cedar Breaks National Monument
The two-mile Alpine Pond Nature Trail explores the lofty rim of Cedar Breaks Amphitheater, threading through spruce and fir forests and crossing open meadows splashed with summer wildflowers. The hike, making a double loop north of the trailhead at Chessman Ridge Overlook, passes a spring-fed pond and features gentle grades. Along the way you’ll find stunning views across the spacious amphitheater, a deep basin filled with bands of red-tinted sandstone eroded into cliffs, minarets, and hoodoos. Come at sunset for outrageous hues of salmon, rose, and pumpkin.
2. Spectra Point & Ramparts Overlook Trail: Cedar Breaks National Monument
This four-mile, out-and-back hike runs along the south rim of Cedar Breaks Amphitheater and features million-year-old views across the colorful 2,000-foot-deep basin from two scenic overlooks. Beginning near Point Supreme, the trail edges along the lofty rim past groves of twisted bristlecone pines before reaching stunning views below a fenced overlook at Spectra Point. Continue hiking west for another mile to the jaw-dropping Ramparts Overlook. A geologic wonderland of castellated ridges and tottering hoodoos spreads across the amphitheater below the viewpoint.
3. Sunset Trail: Cedar Breaks National Monument
Sunset Trail is one of Cedar Breaks’ best easy day hikes with a paved surface, gentle grades, riotous wildflowers, and scenic views galore. The ADA-accessible trail makes a perfect outing for seniors, families with strollers, and wheelchairs. The hike starts at the picnic area by the park campground and ends a mile later at Sunset View Overlook, which is, not surprisingly, an ideal spot to watch the sun sink behind the western horizon. Do the two-mile, round-trip hike in midsummer when meadows are festooned with colorful larkspur, columbine, primrose, and paintbrush and temperatures are cool at 10,400 feet.
4. Twisted Forest Trail
If you want to hike among the ancient pine trees, head north from Brian Head on a dirt road and take a short hike along Twisted Forest Trail on the northern edge of Ashdown Gorge Wilderness Area. The moderate trail climbs for a mile through an open forest of weather-sculpted bristlecone pine trees, including some of Utah’s oldest trees, to a spectacular overlook above the rainbow-colored vastness of Cedar Breaks. These bristlecones, growing in gravelly soil, were old-timers before Christ was born, with some trees well more than 2,000 years old. At trail’s end, enjoy the view across sandstone canyons and castles in the basin below, and then return back down the path to the trailhead.
5. Cascade Falls Trail
Cascade Falls pours from a lava tube cave in the Pink Cliffs on the southern edge of flat-topped Markagunt Plateau, forming one of southern Utah’s wet wonders. The 1.3-mile Cascade Falls Trail traverses below vertical cliffs, passing a shaded bench, to an overlook beside the plunging whitewater. The water comes from Navajo Lake above, seeping into the underground lava tube before bursting through a cliff crevice and forming the North Fork of the Virgin River. This popular hike also offers dramatic views south toward Zion National Park.
6. Bristlecone Pine Trail
The short Bristlecone Pine Trail, a 0.75-mile round-trip hike, explores an amazing forest of gnarled and twisted bristlecone pine trees, the world’s oldest tree species with some specimens living more than 5,000 years. High on the Markagunt Plateau, the trail crunches across gravel slopes among the sculptured trees to an overlook with panoramic views of distant Zion National Park’s sandstone canyons.
7. Hidden Haven Trail
The 0.75-mile Hidden Haven Trail twists through woods, crosses a footbridge over Benson Creek, and climbs a talus slope to Hidden Haven Falls above Parowan Canyon. The 40-foot waterfall plunges off a cliff from a lush slot canyon chiseled through a sandstone cliff. The falls runs best in late spring when snowmelt feeds the creek, but dries to a trickle later in the summer. The trail, located in Parowan Canyon Wildlife Management Area, begins a few miles west of Parowan on the Patchwork Parkway Scenic Byway. After your hike, stop for lunch at a picnic area along the creek near the trailhead.
8. Kanarraville Falls Trail
Kanarraville Falls, reached by a 1.9-mile trail up a steep valley and slot canyon west of Kanarraville and I-15, is one of Cedar City’s beauty spots. The narrow canyon is a place of falling water, towering sandstone cliffs, and verdant plants. The moderate hike requires wading through the sparkling creek and climbing slippery ladders past a couple waterfalls. Begin the adventure at a trailhead and parking area on the east side of Kanarraville. A paid permit is needed to hike the trail. Come on weekdays to avoid crowds and don’t hike if there’s any chance of rain and flash flooding.
9. Cedar Canyon Walking Trail
Cedar City is a walker-friendly place with plenty of trails to scenic canyons and mountains on the edge of town. The Cedar Canyon Walking Trail, one of the best easy hikes, is a wonderful outing on a paved path that heads east into Cedar Canyon. While you can start the hike at several points, the best trailhead is at Canyon Park. Head east into the deep canyon carved by Coal Creek on the wide trail, paralleling the creek and Highway 14. Turn around whenever you want for a hike up to three miles long. The wheelchair-accessible trail is also used by bicyclists and joggers.
Written by Stewart Green for RootsRated Media in partnership with Cedar City (Iron County).
Featured image provided by -ted