Snowshoeing in Cedar Breaks and Around Bear Flat

My second snowshoeing outing came a couple days after my first. Ever since the first time I overlooked the miles of hoodoos in Cedar Breaks I’ve wanted to see them in the snow. The problem is that the road through the national monument closes after the first snow in late October and doesn’t reopen until June; at over 10,000 feet the snowpack can be pretty significant. With access limited to snowmobiles, snowshoeing, or cross—country skiing I had been previously out of luck – until now.

Much to my surprise Abby did not enjoy snowshoeing with me that first day. She was happy to play in the snow with me for awhile but I ultimately cut my trek short at about 4 miles because she was unhappy, alternating picking up her front paws and giving me The Look. She also didn’t like sudden sinking on the occasional breakthrough and at the time I was concerned she might have actually injured a foot. Once we had gotten back to the car and I watched her jump into the backseat I could tell she wasn’t hurt but she did a lot of foot licking all the way home. So ended her snowshoeing career.

And so on my second excursion I left Abby with Tom, headed up the mountain sans dog, and took off solo from the north side of the monument. I could have chosen to follow the designated snowmobile route which runs overtop the road but instead I decided to meander back and forth through the forest and along the rim since I’d get more views and I was familiar enough with the terrain. Incidentally this area of the mountains was particularly hard hit by the spruce bark beetle epidemic in the mid-90s which has left many downed trees so it turned out that snowshoeing here was actually easier than walking, which entails a good bit of climbing over the skeletons of dead spruce. Still, trekking on the loose powder here wasn’t all that easy though the near continuous views of the sandstone hoodoos below were just as wonderful as I’d hoped. Really just the sight of the fir and spruce trees in the snow really was quite beautiful to me and the solace of being out there without another person was perfect.

I made my way south for about 3 and a half miles gaining and losing a couple hundred feet in elevation until I made my way around the far side of Chessman Ridge Overlook. Continuing from there I knew views into the bowl would be obstructed until I reached Sunset View Overlook a mile and a half to the south and I was already beginning to feel the fatigue from breaking trail at this altitude so I decided this would be a good turn around point. After returning to the car my step counter had me at just under 7 miles – though it felt like double that.

As tired as my legs felt returning to the car I no sooner started the engine than decided to go out to Bear Flat for more. Located just to the south of Brian Head Ski Resort in the national forest, this area is one of my favorites for fall foliage and also offers views into the north side of the amphiteather. The trailhead for the Marathon Trail is located here too in my favorite section of aspen trees in the whole forest. It may sound odd but I actually have actual favorite trees, not just species of trees – and this mature grove of aspen is right at the top of my list. With their curving trunks and symmetrical canopies they have some of the best bones of any aspen around; it doesn’t hurt that in the fall their leaves turn that exact shade of yellow that glows in the sunlight. So after marching a half mile across the open area of the flat to enjoy the views, I turned back east into the forest wherein I wandered around, cocooned by plethora of healthy young firs and towering white aspen. Though I had been in quiet all day the denser forest here hushed even the wind, leaving me in silence whenever I paused from walking to indulge myself in it. It made me very glad indeed that I had decided to make my way out there.