40°F
weather icon Clear

Cedar Breaks offers plenty for snow lovers

A great winter activity for snow lovers is cross-country skiing or snowshoeing in Cedar Breaks National Monument. Once heavy snow hits the park’s main road, Utah Highway 148 (usually by mid-November), the road is not plowed, so skies and snowshoes become an exhilarating winter alternative to driving. Snowmobiles are also allowed, but many of us prefer the lovely quietness of traveling under the power of our own legs.

Furthermore, you’re guaranteed enough snow to make it fun for the next couple of months, because the park averages about 15 feet of snow a year.

You can join a guided snowshoe walk with a Cedar Breaks park ranger; the park offers guided snowshoe walks on Saturdays through February. Reservations are needed. The rangers provide snowshoes and instruct participants on how to use them.

If those dates don’t happen to fit your work schedule, though, it is an easy activity you can do on your own as long as you are very prepared for winter travel in remote country with unpredictable conditions. Georg’s Ski Shop in Brian Head rents snowshoes and cross-country skis.

From Brian Head Resort a 3-mile drive brings you to the trail head, a plowed parking area at the junction of Cedar Breaks Scenic Highway and Utah Highway 148. Here you just climb up the snow bank and you will find a wide, flat, snow-groomed road within a subalpine fir forest.

In winter the park operates a winter ranger station in a yurt — an American adaptation of the Mongolian nomad’s circular tent. The yurt is only 1 mile or so from the trail head. If you are cold, it is a great place to get a cup of hot chocolate and to warm up by the wood stove. It can be actually cozy in there; on my last visit the thermometer on the wall read 75 degrees. The yurt is staffed on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. through February.

Be sure to take in one of Cedar Breaks’ many viewpoints. Below the rim is a natural amphitheater 2,000 feet deep. It is filled with fanciful shapes of limestone such as hoodoos, arches, fins and columns. The vibrant colors of the canyon are a result of oxidized minerals. Iron results in the orange and red tones and manganese gives off the purple shades. Seeing these shapes and colors popping out of a landscape filled with snow is a sight even more striking than the same vista in summer.

The amphitheater was formed over millions of years, mostly through erosion. It is also still changing, because of frost wedging. When water gets into the cracks of the rock in cold weather, it then freezes and therefore expands the crack. Temperatures drop below freezing here an average of 250 nights a year. Many of those nights are followed by a day warm enough to melt some snow or ice and refill the cracks, which will freeze again within 24 hours. This means that the erosion is very fast as geology goes.

The weather here is much cooler than the surrounding area. January average temperatures are 49 degrees for a maximum with the overnight lows often below zero. Furthermore, the park elevation is about 10,000 feet, so strenuous outdoor activities such as snowshoeing and skiing can feel more exhausting than at other places. Especially with extra exertion, there is a risk of altitude sickness for some people.

Georg’s Ski Shop is open from 9 a.m to 5 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at 612 S. Highway 143, Brian Head. Call 435-677-2013 for more information or visit www.georgsskishop.com/.

Cedar Breaks National Monument is only accessible in winter by cross-country skiing, snowshoeing or snowmobiles. The yurt is open for day use only, when staffed on weekends, weather permitting. For guided snowshoe walks please make a reservation by calling 435-586-9451, ext. 4425, or visit www.nps.gov/cebr/.

If you plan on staying overnight, there are numerous lodging opportunities in Brian Head, Parowan and Cedar City. Visit www.brianhead.com/ or www.scenicsouthernutah.com/ for more information.

— Many of Deborah Wall’s columns have been compiled in the book “Base Camp Las Vegas, Hiking the Southwestern States.” She is also the author of “Great Hikes, a Cerca Country Guide” and a co-author of the new book “Access For All, Seeing the Southwest With Limited Mobility.” Wall can be reached at Deborabus@aol.com.

^

Directions

From Boulder City, drive about 25 miles north on U.S. Highway 93/95 to Las Vegas. Merge right onto Interstate 15 north and follow about 180 miles to Exit 75, at Parowan, Utah. Take Utah Route 143 for 16 miles to Brian Head.

 

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
THE LATEST
Saguaros at home in Sonoran Desert

Most people see their first saguaro (pronounced “sah-wah-roh) cactus on television, perhaps in a cartoon or a Western movie. The signature plants of the Sonoran Desert, towering saguaro cacti (Carnegiea gigantea) are also beloved symbols of the American West. These cacti can reach 40 feet tall and one was measured at almost 80 feet, although these are the granddaddies of the species.

Remote refuge home to palm oasis

If you feel the need for a very remote getaway, then the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona might be a good bet. Located pretty much on the road to nowhere, it is itself a wonderful destination for hiking, camping, wildlife watching and photography, as 80 percent of the park is designated as wilderness.

Snow-kissed landscapes make Zion winter wonderland

Zion National Park in Southern Utah is one of our favorite landscapes any time of year, but in winter its stark mountains, stripped of summer foliage, will be all the more breathtaking, especially if Mother Nature kisses her creation with snow. Yet this time of year is also the least crowded with other visitors. It’s about three hours away and, assuming an early start, even suitable for a day trip.

Holiday basketball camp set

The Boulder City Parks and Recreation Department is again offering a holiday youth basketball camp for children in grades 2-8.

Canyon home to many petroglyphs

Grapevine Canyon is one of the finest petroglyph sites in Southern Nevada. It is also one of the easiest to visit on a day trip, located in the southern part of Lake Mead National Recreation Area, near Laughlin, and approachable by roads fit for passenger cars. The short hike to the rock art itself is easy.

City Recreation, Nov. 25

Spragno volleyball team nets title

Landscape marked by giant designs

You might have seen aerial photos of geoglyphs in Peru and Chili or even those located in Great Britain and Australia, but here in the United States we also have equivalent cultural treasures.

Varied geology, history evident throughout Death Valley

You could spend months or even years exploring Death Valley National Park in California and never see it all, but for first-time visitors even a day trip can be more than satisfying, and now is a good time to do it.

Picturesque canyons draw visitors, photographers

There are thousands of colorful sandstone slot canyons in the Southwest and because no two are the same, exploring each is a unique experience. Some of the most picturesque canyons are found deep in the wilderness and only seen by those who hike many hours, even days, over rough terrain.

Pioneer spirit lingers in Grafton, Utah

Although Grafton, Utah, is just a few miles off the main road to Zion National Park, it seems worlds removed from the park’s bustle. It’s quite possible you’ll be the only visitor as you stroll among Grafton’s historic buildings, mature deciduous trees and open meadows with views of Zion.