If all you know about Cedar City is that it’s home to SUU, the Shakespeare Festival and gas stations that sell cheese curds… well… you could be forgiven. That’s a good start. But we’re here to help broaden your view.
Cedar City sits on I-15 towards the southwest corner of Utah, so it’s reddish. It’s halfway up the central Utah highlands that you didn’t realize were so high, so it’s also forest-greenish and occasionally snow-white. The city itself is a major historical outpost that doubles as a jumping-off point for a long-weekend adventure up into the clouds. Ready to jump off?
Check out Frontier Homestead State Park to get a firm footing in Cedar’s 19th Century underpinnings. Learn about Mormon pioneers and the history behind the development of Iron County. Stop by the museum on site to see Indian and pioneer artifacts and lots of interactive exhibits and demonstrations.
Next stop, Old Iron Town to see the Mormon pioneers historic mining industry. Walk among the mining ruins and see old beehive-shaped charcoal ovens. A couple of short, easy hikes around there are a good way to see the ruins.
Try a half-day horseback ride with Rising K Trail Rides through different trails in Shirts Canyon at the base of Sugarloaf Mountain.
Centro Pizzeria. Pizza tastes better on vacation.
Kanarra Creek slot canyon, 14 miles south of Cedar City, is fun and photogenic with two waterfalls, ladders and climbing ropes. It might not be best for little kids or great-grandparents, but older kids and average grandparents will have a blast. Parking is $10. Be kind and leave no trace, of course.
For another brand of outdoor fun, head a few miles northwest of town to Three Peaks Recreation Area. It’s a contained little outdoor mecca with cool rock formations to explore, climb, hike, bike or 4X4. Stay for the afternoon or claim a camp site with a picnic table, covered pavilion, fire ring and bathroom facilities.
You’ll be tired, so it shouldn’t be hard to fall asleep early and rest up for a busy Day 2.
From Cedar City, drive 20 minutes north to see the Parowan Gaps Petroglyphs. Spend the rest of the morning there and grab lunch in Parowan.
Parowan Gaps Petroglyphs
Mountain Bistro and Hamburger Patty’s are good. Or grab some picnic supplies at Parowan Market.
From there, head south 12 miles on UT-143 to Brian Head Resort. If you’re there December to April, try a half-day of skiing against a red rock backdrop. In the warmer months you can hike or bike the same mountain.
Grab dinner at Pizanos Pizza and get a room at the resort or one of the nearby lodges. Settle in early enough to enjoy a beautiful mountain sunset, then break out the telescope you always travel with for some stargazing so good it’s sensual. At 9,800 feet you can almost grab ’em.
Get breakfast at the resort and then drive south a few miles to enter Cedar Breaks National Monument. There are easy viewpoints along the way as you drive through this mini Bryce Canyon, or you can take a proper hike to rarer sights. There are several hiking options ranging from super-easy to rugged. Most are doable in a morning. In summer: Wildflowers are off the chain in mid-to-late July; watch for the Chasing Light Plein Air Art Festival. In fall: Bring a coat and watch the leaves get turnt. In winter: Bring a coat and wool underwear and snow tires.
Grab your picnic lunch (closest provisions are at the Brian Head general store, so plan ahead), and find a sweet spot overlooking the hoodoos.
From Cedar Breaks, drive 18 miles to Duck Creek Village for lunch. Duck Creek is a quaint mountain resort town on Cedar Mountain with a variety of shops and restaurants.
If you chose Option 1 for lunch, drive to Cascade Falls (also located on Cedar Mountain) for an easy but spectacular one-mile hike with overlooks of Zion and the Kolob Terrace. If you went with Option 2 above, spend the afternoon exploring Duck Creek Village and one of its hiking/biking trails or fishing holes.
And that’s it. Fill up, grab some cheese curds and head home.