You’ve heard the old saying, “it’s all about the journey and not the destination”. Luckily for those traveling in southern Utah, the journey is really part of the destination thanks to our scenic byways. Scenic Byways are officially designated highways that weave through vast landscapes connecting towns, national parks, monuments and forests along the way. Cedar City is fortunate to have not only one, but THREE scenic byways that loop into a seamless, picturesque drive perfect in the summer (think Wildflower Festival at Cedar Breaks National Monument) and fall (it is worth the second trip to see the fall colors)!
Cedar Mountain Scenic Byway SR-14
Your journey begins by heading east of Cedar City on Scenic Byway SR-14. The highway crosses through a thick scrub oak forest . There is a beautiful side trip at mile marker #5 to the Kolob Reservoir (see additional info below). The highway climbs through a narrow canyon looking in to the Ashdown Gorge Wilderness Area and pass the SUU Mountain Center, Wood’s Ranch Recreation Area and the Cedar Canyon Campground.
Upon entering the Dixie National Forest, you’ll glimpse into a sand- cut amphitheater similar to Cedar Breaks National Monument. The road climbs with twists and turns hugging the edge of the Markagunt Plateau and summits at 9,900 feet meeting up with Hwy SR- 148 junction, which leads to Cedar Breaks National Monument.
Cedar Breaks National Monument Scenic Byway SR-148
At the junction, turn left onto Scenic Byway SR- 148 and head north to the monument’s entrance and Visitor Center (stop and pay your entrance fee). Cedar Breaks National Monument is a large, natural amphitheater about three miles wide and 2,500 feet deep. The walls of Cedar Breaks are eroded into carved spires and dazzling rock formations. The byway traverses the natural wonder’s rim with several pull-off points and hiking trails along the way. Meadows surrounding the “Breaks” are famous for incredible variety of wildflowers in July and August; plus fabulous fall colors in late September (USA Today voted Cedar Breaks “One of the Top Eight Unusual Destinations for Fall Colors”).
Patchwork Parkway National Scenic Byway SR-143
At mile six, the road meets up with National Scenic Byway SR-143, also known as the Patchwork Parkway. From here you’ll continue north where you’ll find another great side trip along the Brian Head Peak Road. The peak is the top of the “Grand Staircase” geological formation and provides an astonishing view into the Cedar Breaks amphitheater. Back on the byway, continue into Brian Head ski and mountain bike town. Spend time downhill biking, hiking, fishing at the Bristlecone Pond, rent an OHV or take a scenic chairlift ride.
Departing Brian Head, the byway will descend quickly for the next three miles, so be sure to use the lower gears of your vehicle’s transmission (this part of the journey is not recommended for RV’s or semis). Cone shaped white cliffs rise above you as you follow the byway. The Hidden Haven waterfall hike is located between mile markers #7 and #8. First Right Hand turnoff is another great side trip that takes you through the strange cliffs of Vermillion Castle to serene Yankee Meadow Reservoir.
Byway SR -143 ends in the historic Parowan, so take a moment to visit the preserved buildings and historical monuments throughout town. To complete the loop back to Cedar City, you can head south on I-15, or add more to your journey by heading west on 400 North to the preserved dinosaur footprints and the fine display of ancient writings at Parowan Gap Petroglyphs. From the Gap you can follow SR-130 back to Cedar City.
By taking our scenic byway loop you will be rewarded with an eyeful of inspiring landscapes and vistas. Like Robert Frost wrote “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
*Always check road and weather conditions. Call #511 Road Conditions Hotline or check with the Iron County Visitor Center, 581 North Main in Cedar City or call 435-586-5124.
*Cell service can be limited.
* GPS directions are not always reliable. Get first-hand knowledge by checking with the local Visitor Center
*Learn more at www.hwy143.com or www.visitcedarcity.com.
Access Additional Scenic Routes
Kolob Canyons – North Zion Scenic Byway
Accessed from I-15 Exit #40 and only six miles long, this lesser known jewel of Zion National Park provides great opportunities to stretch your legs on several hikes amongst magnificent scenery and no crowds. Open year-round. 435-586-9548 or www.nps.gov/zion
Kolob Reservoir Scenic Backway
Road is located five miles east of Cedar City off SR-14 and ends at SR-9. The backway (gravel and dirt road) travels through a thick aspen forest to Kolob Reservoir and the backcountry of Zion National Park. Closed in winter/early spring and not suitable for travel in wet conditions.
Dry Lakes Scenic Backway
Backway begins eight miles up National Scenic Byway SR-143 and provides sweeping views of Parowan Canyon, Sugarloaf Mountain, High Mountain, and Cedar Breaks National Monument. This route is not recommended for passenger cars. Closed in winter/early spring and not suitable in wet conditions.