Livin’ on the Red Ledge

As I start my southerly migration down through Utah this fall, my intentions are to visit some new places I have not been before…places I read about and wanted to see, but the timing or logistics has just never lined up.   Two such places are in close proximity to Kanarraville.   I check the Passport America website to find there is an RV Park right in the heart of Kanarraville…little else…no restaurants, no grocery stores, but right there in the center of the tiny town is the Red Ledge RV Park.

Drive through canyon on the way to Cedar Breaks NM is very scenic!

Drive through canyon on the way to Cedar Breaks NM is very scenic!

View of the amphitheater comes into view on the drive up.

View of the amphitheater comes into view on the drive up.

Sunset Viewpoint Overlook

Sunset Viewpoint Overlook

I call the Red Ledge to see if they have availability, and Kevin, the friendly camp host tells me they are sold out when I want to arrive.   This comes as a bit of a shock that they have no space approaching the off season mid week. But it’s been two straight days of hellacious wind, so Kevin says they had a lot of big rigs come in wanting off the road.   I ask about dry camping, and he tells me sure, I can stay in the storage area.  It’s nice and quiet back there, and less crowded than the park itself.
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Driving down I-15, the highway is flanked on both sides by tall, “red ledge” bluffs that are bound to reveal secrets through eons of erosion.  One such place is on my list to visit, the anomaly of Cedar Breaks National Monument, a giant geological coral-colored concave carved out of the side of the mountain. I ask Kevin about road conditions.  He tells me it’s been unseasonably warm, so I should be okay, but “Don’t wait too long to visit.  They close that road at the first snowfall.”

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Nice arch just to the left of center.

Nice arch just to the left of center.

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I need some provisions, namely breakfast, so I swing through Cedar City on my way, just 15 miles from Red Ledge RV Park.   I stop at the French Spot Cafe which is nothing more than a tiny shack in a parking lot.    I mention this only because a visit to the French Spot Café should be a mandatory stop on any visit to Cedar Breaks NM!   It’s always a good sign when you approach the window of a French café, and the two people inside are speaking French!  BEST pastry tarts I have tasted since???

The drive from Cedar City up to Cedar Breaks National Monument is beautiful.  Steep canyon walls bracket the winding narrow road, offering up close and personal views with the sculptured sandstone and limestone until you make the turn and the view opens up to reveal the “amphitheater” up the hill.   It looks like a carved castle with pinnacles, parapets, and turrets precariously perched on the edge.

Formations remind me of the witches castle in the Wizard of Oz, with the walls, turrets, ramparts, etc.

Formations remind me of the witches castle in the Wizard of Oz, with the walls, turrets, ramparts, etc.

White section with narrow path leads to Spectra Point Overlook.

White section with narrow path on the left leads to Spectra Point Overlook.

The Visitor Center is closed at this time of year…not just closed, but boarded up.   They must get quite a bit of snowfall at this 10,000 ft + elevation, as even the kiosks and pit toilets have been fortified.  The Tracker is the only car in the parking lot.  Looks like another off season score, as I have the monument all to myself.

Bristlecone Pines at the Spectra Trail, estimated to be 1,200 years old.

Bristlecone Pines at the Spectra Trail, estimated to be 1,200 years old.

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Trees are quite tenacious in hanging on to the rim.

Trees are quite tenacious in hanging on to the rim.

The most popular hikes are the Spectra and Ramparts trails, four miles round trip. These trails and overlooks were built by the CCC, Civilian Conservation Group in the mid 30’s, for which they were paid $30 a month, $25 of which was sent back to their families. The trail follows the rim, offering incredible views. It’s just an absolutely gorgeous day…cold and crisp but no wind, plenty of sun, and some dramatic cloud formations in the distance.

View from the Ramparts Trail

View from the Ramparts Trail

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The first half to Spectra Point is gorgeous.  The trail follows right along the ledge, offering a full “spectra” of views down 2,000 ft into the amphitheater.   An added bonus, there is a group of Bristlecone Pines at the end of the Spectra Point trail.    There really are no “cedars” at Cedar Breaks…they are junipers.

Another nice arch in the wall.

Another nice arch in the wall just to the left of center.

Leaving the monument near sundown.

Leaving the monument near sundown.

I continue on to the end of the Ramparts Trail, but unlike the Spectra Trail which goes along the rim, there are no views down into the amphitheater.  The Ramparts Trail descends down a series of switchbacks through the juniper and pine forest.  The views at the end of the trail are interesting, as one is closer to the formations at the lower elevation.  However, unless you are wanting a workout of the uphill climb out, most of the beauty of “The Red Ledge” can be appreciated from the vista at the Spectra Point.

12 thoughts on “Livin’ on the Red Ledge

  1. It always amazes me how those trees manage to hang on to the edge. Their roots make it look like they are hanging on by their “fingernails”. Thought of you this morning as I dug my “old geezer” pass out to start making spring and summer reservations down at the Army Corps of Engineers campground we use at the river. One of the benefits of reaching “that age”.

  2. We loved this NM!! Our first attempt to visit was in May. There was so much snow all the way to the entrance road. They said they usually don’t open til late June. Our successful visit was the beginning of Nov. Everything was boarded up like you saw. Only two cars in the parking lot. Your photos are so beautiful. Thanks for taking me back:) We really enjoyed seeing the bristlecones but they don’t hold a candle to the Bristlecones in Great Basin! I have that exact photo of the flat tree with the hole and the cool design at the top:)

  3. My bestie, who lives in SLC, is quite the sophisticated traveler whilst hanging out in the woods in my ’69 Shasta is more my speed and cup of tea. She’s enticed me to Cedar City twice–once to attend the Utah Shakespeare Festival and the other to spend a week luxuriating at the Red Mountain Resort (ah! that spa!). Each quite nice and dandy but a “been there done that” sort of thing for me. Never thought about returning to that area until this blog post…now *you’ve* provided the enticement! What?! Gorgeous red ledge bluffs and twisting twirling bristlecone pines? That’s it…you’ve done it, now…I’m gettin’ the heck outta this lazy girl (female, not male) and hitching up the “cramper”! In June. When the visitor center opens at CBNM. Thanks, as always, for the resources…I’m gonna ring up the Red Lodge RV Park soon, soon, soon to carve that iten in stone. Your last photo…the blue and orange and green…oh, my! and, ps…I’m trying to figure out how to get my face into that gray box over there. If anyone can tell this tech dummy how to post a pic I’d appreciate it…:-)

  4. Love the remote, peace, and typical quiet at Cedar Breaks. Seems like a little known NM. Of course does have a short season. Your photos really capture the texture and colors of both rock and tree. Sounds like you scored at the Red Ledge.

  5. We stayed at Red Ledge this past March, next time you are in the area you HAVE to do the Kanarra Falls hike it is in our top 5 hikes for sure. We missed the NM, will have to check that out next time we are in the area.

  6. We stayed at that park in Kannarravile a few years ago. I think that was the tightest park we have ever stayed at! Maybe 3 feet between rigs! Anyhow, it was Oct and the place was practically full…apparently quite a few people WINTER there!!!

    You were fortunate to have such beautiful weather at the monument…too much snow for us to hike. Guess we need to go back some day to catch those gorgeous views!

    • Lisa, Kevin did say they are considering limiting the size of rigs they can accept due to “tightness.” There were several 40 ft diesel pushers in there while I was there, and they really were pushing the limits. Only two of us in the storage area, though. 😉

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