From Sunflowers to Evening Primrose:
Cedar Breaks National Monument’s Annual Wildflower Festival
Written by Kenzie Lundberg, Cedar City • Brian Head Tourism Bureau
Cedar Breaks National Monument is tucked in the mountains just east of Cedar City, in the heart of southern Utah’s national parks. High atop the Markagunt Plateau, this giant amphitheater is over 2,500 feet deep and more than three miles across. Formed with an abundance of minerals, the colorful cliffs are awe-inspiring.
Each summer the color multiplies as a spectacular display of wildflowers fills the grassy meadows and lines the trails of Cedar Breaks National Monument. Starting in late June and peaking in mid-July, Cedar Breaks celebrates the stunning wildflower bloom with an annual festival.
Early bloomers such as Cushion Phlox, Kittentails, and Aspen Bluebells emerge in late June, but to join in the Wildflower Festival activities and catch the peak bloom, plan a visit between July 8 through July 23. As part of the Wildflower Festival, specialists offer guided hikes twice daily, 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Family-friendly activities are available each weekend from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Cedar Breaks Visitor Center.
With over 250 species of wildflowers blooming in the park, it is hard to see them all. Popular wildflower sightings are Colorado Columbine, Aspen Bluebells, Elkweed, Indian Paintbrush, Sunflowers, and Yellow Evening Primrose. Aster, Flax, Fireweed, Larkspur, Lupine, Pretty Shooting Star, and Marsh Marigolds are also on the commonly spotted list.
“One of the really fun things is that the flowers in bloom change from day to day, depending on where you are,” says Shannon Eberhard, Cedar Breaks National Monument Park Ranger. “It’s like if you sit and see the clouds move, but instead of the sky always changing, it’s the landscape. It really enlightens you to the diversity that’s out there.”
With so many sites to take in, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. Plan a scenic drive or a walk along the Alpine Pond Trail for an enjoyable, stress-free afternoon.
Take the Drive—The Summer Color Loop
A highlight of the fall season as well, this scenic loop is an easy way to see not only the wildflowers in Cedar Breaks, but also the summer beauty of the canyons. The loop offers beautiful views of the rock formations, meadows, and forests.
Beginning in Parowan, take Highway 143 through Parowan Canyon. Just after Brian Head take a trip to Brian Head Peak for an eagle-eye view of the wildflowers and panorama of three states. Heading back to Highway 143, continue into Cedar Breaks National Monument via Highway 148. Follow the road through the park, stopping at any of the four overlooks or trailheads, then continue south to Highway 14. To finish the loop, turn west onto Highway 14. Add to the experience by stopping at Navajo Lake and the Zion Overlook, and then continue into Cedar City.
Follow the Trail—Alpine Pond Loop
While there are multiple trails within the monument, a local favorite for wildflower spotting is the Alpine Pond Loop. This two-mile trail is a double loop through forest and meadows, offering excellent views of the Breaks, along with meadows of wildflowers, spruce-fir-aspen forest, and ancient deposits of volcanic materials. Located halfway through the loop is the natural, spring-fed Alpine Pond. Keep in mind that this is a high-country trail. Be prepared with a good supply of water, good hiking shoes, sun-screen, and plenty of time. For a shorter hike, take the cut-off at the pond to make the hike a one-mile loop.
The Cedar Breaks National Monument Visitor Center is open every day, mid-June through mid-October, from 8 p.m. to 6 p.m. The entrance fee for the monument is five dollars per person. The Visitor Center and Fee Station are located at Point Supreme.
The Cedar Breaks Campground is generally open from mid-June through September. Most sites are on a first come, first served basis; however, a few sites are by advance reservation at www.recreation.gov. Comfortable lodging, restaurants, and outdoor shops are located four miles north in Brian Head.
For more information on Cedar Breaks National Monument and the Wildflower Festival, visit www.nps.gov/cebr. Cedar Breaks also offers a free app to learn more about the wildflowers: The Wildflowers of Cedar Breaks National Monument. The app provides an easy way for visitors to identify over one hundred of the most common wildflowers. It is available for iOS and most Android devices.