The natural amphitheater of Cedar Breaks
plunges to a depth of more than 2,000 feet.
The Paiutes called the natural amphitheater of Cedar Breaks National Monument in Utah un-cap-I-cun-ump, or "circle of painted cliffs," for the colorful spires and columns of rock carved into the mountain.
Shaped like a huge coliseum, the amphitheater plunges more than 2,000 feet, scooping away green alpine meadows. Millions of years of uplift and weathering carved this huge bowl into the western edge of the 10,400-foot-high Markagunt Plateau. Various shades of red, purple, and yellow are ribboned through the limestone, the result of iron and manganese in the rock.
When the first Utah settlers saw the amphitheater, they named it Cedar Breaks -- "breaks" to describe the badlands, and "cedar" for the trees, which were actually junipers.
The main route to the monument's scenic attractions is a five-mile road through the high country of Cedar Breaks. The road offers panoramic views of fantastic stone formations, fir and alpine forests, and rolling meadows. In the spring, the meadows rival the colorful rocks, as larkspur, lupine, penstemon, columbine, Indian paintbrush, and other wildflowers bloom.
Gnarled and weather-beaten bristlecone pines grow in the most forsaken spots, where the wind is fierce, the soil thin, and water scarce. Bristlecone pines are some of the oldest living things on earth; one Cedar Breaks specimen has survived for 1,600 years.
Cedar Breaks National Monument Information
Address: 18 miles east of Cedar City on Utah Highway 14, then 4 miles north on Utah Highway 148
Hours of Operation: Open daily from early June to mid-October, 8 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Learn about these other national monuments:
To learn more about national national monuments, memorials, and historic sites, and other travel destinations in North America, visit:
- National Monuments: Learn more about America's national monuments.
- National Memorials: Discover national memorials in the U.S.
- National Historic Sites: Read about American national historic sites.
- Utah State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Utah as well as other recreational activities.
Eric Peterson is a Denver-based freelance writer who has contributed to numerous guidebooks about the Western United States.