Beneath the Rim at
Dixie National Forest
Cedar Breaks appears as a magical world where sculpted hoodoos, fins and windows shine in vivid colors. Due to the extreme erosion at the monument the formations have no equal in color or composition. The amphitheater formed long ago, but today the molding and sculpting still continues as water runs down the maze of rock pillars, carving gullies along the way, making this one of the most beautiful and rapidly eroding places in North America. There is a plan to designate Cedar Breaks as a National Park. It certainly deserves that status.
At a Glance
Photo Album: Photos Trail Maps: Map Day Hike: Yes, but often done as a backpack. Camping: Backcountry camping is not allowed within the monument boundaries, but you can set up camp in the wilderness area. Distance: 14-18 miles depending on side trips Average Hiking Time : 10 hours Equipment: Water shoes are a must. Be sure to take at least 2-3 quarts of water for each person or equipment for filtering water and plenty of energy snacks for the trip. The best map to purchase for this hike is the "Cedar Mountain/ Pine Valley Mountain" National Geographic-Trails Illustrated. Difficulty: Moderate hiking plus river hiking. Sun Exposure: There is full sun during most of the hike. Trail Usage: Although many would love to hike to the bottom of the hoodoos, few ever do find a way down. Permits : Not required. Trail Conditions: Forest downhill path and river hiking. The water can be too high to hike if you hike too early or too late in the season.
Trailhead: Crystal Springs Trailhead. Trailend: Cedar Canyon Trail Access : Highway 14 is open during the times this trail is doable.
Elevation at Trailhead: 8800' Elevation at Trailend: 7000' Highest Elevation : 9100' Off the Beaten Path: Yes Best Season; The best time of the year is June - October, when the snow pack has melted and water levels are lowest, but be sure to call the Cedar Breaks Visitor Center for current conditions before doing this route.
Shuttle: Cedar Canyon Trailend - Station one vehicle near the mouth of Ashdown Gorge in Cedar Canyon, just off U-14, 7 miles east of Cedar City or 10.2 miles west of the intersection with U-148.
Shuttle: Cedar Canyon Trailend - Station one vehicle near the mouth of Ashdown Gorge in Cedar Canyon, just off Highway 14, 7 miles east of Cedar City or 10.2 miles west of the intersection with Highway 148. Look for concrete spillways below the highway in Coal Creek just after exiting from the narrowest part of Cedar Canyon or just before entering if you are coming from Cedar City. There is an east-west running dirt road that doubles back to the east just below the highway with parking above Coal Creek.
Crystal Springs Trailhead - Drive your other vehicle about 6 miles east on Highway 14 through Cedar Canyon bypassing the campground, and navigating the tight "S" curves. Just past the bend look for a gate and dirt road (FR361) on the north side of the highway. Park, but do not block the gate.
Depending on the side routes chosen, this hike will be 14-18 miles long and takes about 10 hours to complete. Walk around the gate and up the road for a quarter-mile, passing through a spruce and fir forest. The road begins a gradual descent for the next .75 miles, bypassing the Blowhard Trail and Crystal Spring, then ends at the Ashdown Gorge Wilderness Boundary. From the boundary follow the beaten path along the creek for a short distance then it will bear east, climbing a small ridge, it will then continue down the back side of the ridge. Locate the cairn at the end of the small meadow. The "trail" once again ascends 200 feet, leading to the top of the ridge overlooking Ashdown Creek to the north and Cedar Breaks to the east. Head downhill to the creek and Potato Hollow.
Potato Hollow - Once at Potato Hollow the path is faint. Hike along the wash, staying on which ever side has a visible beaten path, for the next .75 miles.
Old Road - Soon the "trail" meets an old road above the creek, turn right, and walk to the posted private property. Turn left, following the property boundary until you get to Ashdown Creek. Cross the creek, then head upstream to the old bunkhouse. . From the bunkhouse follow another road bearing east through the forest, toward Cedar Breaks. If you are not going to the hoodoos, go downstream toward the Ashdown Gorge Narrows
Ashdown Creek and Arch Creek - The next 3 miles are in Ashdown Gorge, crossing back and forth and walking along the banks. While hiking up creek, look for the dilapidated sawmill, about .75 miles north of the bunkhouse, at the confluence of Spring Creek and Ashdown Creek. At 1.6 miles, Adams Canyon Wash (usually dry) enters from the north. Both young and old Bristlecone Pines are a treat as you hike along the bank of the creek. Continue upstream, passing Meadow Hill on its southern flank, until Arch Creek enters from the left.
Chessman Wash and Chessman Ridge - Head left, up Arch Creek, where almost immediately there is a half-mile scramble left, and up Chessman Wash leading to the base of Chessman Ridge. The erosion of limestone rock in this area is photogenic and usually only viewed from above the rim. If you have the time and energy, head back to the confluence of Chessman Canyon and Arch Creek, hiking up Arch Creek where you will find more hoodoos.
Utah's Dixie National Forest: Cedar Mountain
Cedar Breaks National Monument is surrounded by Utah's Dixie National Forest. From Mt. Carmel Junction, drive north on US-89 to the junction with U-14. SR-14 is known as Cedar Mountain which is the scenic byway to travel to Cedar Breaks. Once on Cedar Mountain, travel through the beautiful forest, and then turn at the signed highway to Cedar Breaks - U-148.
It's 22 miles from Mt. Carmel Junction to boundary of Dixie National Forest and 45 miles to Cedar Breaks.
Utah's Dixie National Forest: Red Canyon Red Canyon is a unique part of Dixie National Forest that is not only traveled through on the way to Bryce Canyon, but it has eroded hoodoos like Bryce Canyon and Cedar Breaks. It is found along U-12
Lodging and services are available on the gorgeous east side of Zion National Park, where guests are close to Zion National Park (12 miles), Bryce Canyon National Park (60 miles), Cedar Breaks National Monument (45 miles), Coral Pink Sand Dunes (12 miles), and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon (85 miles). It's where city traffic is absent and the skies are bright and clean.
Exit - Retrace the 3-miles from the Chessman Canyon confluence back to the bunkhouse. On return to the bunkhouse, if the weather looks threatening and if there is potential for flooding, hike back out the way you came in, otherwise continue down Ashdown Creek and Ashdown Gorge. A little more than a half-mile downstream a "trail" crosses the creek. This is the Rattlesnake Creek-Ashdown Gorge "Trail", descending from Cedar Breaks. Shortly the gorge will narrow and become a true slot canyon for the next 3-miles, so you will be required to cross the stream numerous times and navigate over slippery river boulders as you walk in the creek. Hiking poles are helpful in this section. Farther west the slot becomes deeper and more spectacular. Toms Head, a prominent landmark, is 1.5 miles downstream from the bunkhouse, and is located at the confluence of Ashdown Creek and a creek formed by Rattlesnake Creek and Lake Creek.
Rattlesnake and Lake Creek Waterfalls - It's just over a half-mile to the intersection of these two creeks. The creek entering from the left is Lake Creek and the one from the right is Rattlesnake Creek. It's about 100 to 200 yards to get to the picturesque waterfalls at the end of these two side canyons.
Flanigan Arch - Another mile downstream begin scanning the skyline, to the right, looking for a natural arch. Stay on the left (south) bank whenever possible. When you come to a house-sized black boulder on the left side of the creek, you should be able to see the arch up high.
Coal Creek - From the arch it is now about a mile down Ashdown Gorge to the trailend. Notice the 1940's vehicles that were once used for construction and mining. Crow Creek enters from the left joining Ashdown Creek where the walls begin to open up. It is now a short walk down Coal Creek to your vehicle.
Trail History - Ashdown Creek makes its way through Ashdown Gorge, originating in Cedar Breaks National Monument and it empties into the head of Coal Creek. The gorge is named after George Ashdown and family. In 1898 this family owned a ranch and two sawmills on the creek. This trail is also often called Cedar Breaks Bottoms.
Crystal Springs Trailhead
Ashdown Gorge Wilderness
Boundary at Crystal Springs
Trail Intersection with Road
at Ashdown Creek
Bunkhouse at Sawmill
at Spring Creek
Arch Creek intersects
End of hike up
Ashdown Creek and
Rattlesnake Creek Trail
Trailend on U-14
and Ashdown Creek
GPS coordinates are only references and may or may not be accurate. Do not rely on GPS coordinates as the sole method of navigation. Always have an accurate, detailed map at hand and have the proper map reading and navigation skills before setting out on any hike. Many of the hikes listed in this guide travel into canyons where a GPS has limited capabilities. Always check your position with a detailed map before dropping into a canyon.
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Written by the authors of the book: Favorite Hikes in and around Zion National Park
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