Ancient Bristlecone and Views of Zion
Located high in the mountains above Cedar City these quiet hiking trails are the perfect way to beat the summer heat and find a change of scenery. The forests of the Markagunt Plateau, the raised area of earth located in southern Utah between Interstate 15 and Highway 89, reside above 9,000 feet in elevation and are home to beautiful stands of ponderosa pines, bristlecone pines, spruce, and aspen trees. Extinct volcanoes have highlighted the surrounding land with volcanic rock and lava flows and created interesting and beautiful lakes and sinkholes.
Several of the national forest trails in the area are short and well-maintained making for convenient, quick, and pleasant hikes near Cedar City. You'll also see fewer people than at nearby Zion National Park, its neighbor to the south.
Just east of the Zion Overlook you will find the Bristlecone Pine Trail. Bristlecone pines are a unique type of tree that can live to be thousands of years old, and it’s not uncommon for them to have bodies containing both living and dead sections. Following a well-worn path through majestic groups of spruce and aspen you will find a wood observation deck surrounded by bristlecone. You can observe their magnificent bodies from there and check out the view of Zion National Park to the south.
Duck Creek and Aspen Mirror Pond Trails are located right off of Highway 14 west of Duck Creek Village. Both of these trails take you along the shores of idyllic alpine lakes. The trail system is flat and takes little time to complete. The Duck Creek Trail connects the Duck Creek Campground with the pond. This footpath travels through towering yellow pines with basalt rocks lining the way. The Aspen Mirror Pond Trail takes you from the trailhead to the north side of this quiet mountain lake. Fishing and bird watching is excellent at both ponds.
Cascade Falls is the must-do hike on the Markagunt Plateau. Located at the edge of the Virgin River Rim (also home to some great mountain biking) this hike will give you excellent views of Zion National Park and the headwaters of the Virgin River. The source of the cascade is Navajo Lake. After leaving the lake the water disappears beneath the surface of the earth into a lava tube. It travels over one mile before reemerging 20 feet below the orange, red, and yellow rock of the Virgin River Rim. The path to the cascade is a manicured trail just beneath the rim.
The Alpine Pond Nature Trail is a tranquil 2-mile loop near Cedar Breaks National Monument with a 1-mile cut-off option. In addition to the quiet pond, there's also a patch of the area's famous bristlecone pine along the hike.
The shorter-distance trails of the Markagunt Plateau in the Dixie National Forest are a prize. They are mostly flat, less than one mile in length, and run along maintained routes. This easy level of difficulty makes them open up to people of all ages and abilities. Grab your shoes and camera and get out there.
Finding the Trailheads
Bristlecone Pine Trail
From Cedar City take state Route 14 east for 17 miles. The trailhead is located just east of the Zion Overlook at mile marker 17 where Highway 14 starts to flatten out. The 0.6-mile loop is an easy round trip that can be completed in less than 30 minutes.
Duck Creek Pond Trail
Duck Creek begins on the east side of the campground and is less than .5 miles. From Cedar City 28 miles east on Highway 14. The public campground entrance is adjacent to the highway across from the Duck Creek Visitor Center.
Aspen Mirror Pond Trailhead
From Cedar City take Highway 14 east for 29.5 miles. One-half mile after mile marker 29 turn left at the Aspen Mirror junction. Aspen Mirror Pond is .5 miles round-trip.
Cascade Falls Trailhead
From Cedar City take Highway 14 East for 25.5 miles, turn right towards Navajo Lake on FS Road 30053, take your first left onto Forest Service road 30370. Follow this road until you reach the junction with FS road 30054. Follow the signs to Cascade Falls and turn right onto FS road 30054. This road will dead-end at the Cascade Fall trailhead.
Alpine Pond Loop
Actually part of Cedar Breaks National Monument, the Alpine Pond Loop gently descends into a verdant patch of forest to the north of the visitor center on S.R. 148.
Cedar Breaks National Monument
Hidden within the mountains above Cedar City is the brilliant geology and vibrant environment of Cedar Breaks National Monument. The geologic amphitheater and surrounding environs are home to cool hiking trails, ancient trees, high elevation camping, and over-the-top views along the “Circle of Painted Cliffs.”
Cycling the Parowan Gap Loop
Parowan Gap: A 50-Mile Adventure Brimming With History.
Hike Kanarraville Canyon Falls
The Kanarraville Canyon is ideal for travelers, because it is non-technical, and a great way to see a multi-hued canyon. A stunning slot canyon with one of the most photographed waterfalls in Utah