Although we didn't go on one of the Dixie National Forest Service
roads for those views of Zion National Park we did pass through some
great scenery on our way up and over Cedar Mountain AKA the Markagunt
Plateau on this state scenic byway.
The road itself rises from about 6,000
to 10,000 feet elevation and back down again. While you're up on the plateau you can get
to over 11,000 feet at Cedar Breaks National Monument and Brian Head by
turning off on Scenic Byway 148. I'll show photos from Cedar Breaks in
the next entry.
Here's a regional map with Hwy. 14 marked in yellow.
It includes parts of Hwys. 12 and 89 from our campground in
Red Canyon over to Cedar City:
We drove all or part of Hwy. 14 five times during the month we stayed at
Red Canyon Village RV Park. Two times were parts of scenic loops we
drove that incorporated Zion National Park and Cedar Breaks National
Monument. Three other times were to shop and/or get medical treatment
for Cody when he had a life-threatening bout of pancreatitis (he was
back to normal after staying two nights at the doggie hospital).
There were many recreational advantages to staying a month at Red Canyon,
with its proximity to a multitude of gorgeous state and national parks,
forests, and monuments.
It is fairly remote for shopping and services, however. The little towns
that were closer to us don't have well-stocked grocery stores or
veterinarians, despite all the nearby farms and ranches with critters.
We had a lengthy drive to Cedar City, the nearest town with a Walmart,
Home Depot, Lowe's, large grocery stores, and vets.
View from I-15 of the mountains
and high plateau east of Cedar City
As you can see on the map above, we had a choice of several routes
from our campground to "Cedar," as the locals call Cedar City.
Our favorite way is a 60+-mile drive south on US 89
-- that part is fast -- then up and over the plateau on
Scenic Byway 14. Because of the mountain grades and curves it
usually took us about 90 minutes to drive each direction. The good thing
was that it was so doggone interesting!
View of colorful canyons,
ranches, and the Sevier River along Hwy. 89
Large red rock amphitheater on
the descent to Cedar City
In the winter, or with an RV, it's definitely better to go another
route from Red Canyon (or Bryce) to Cedar City -- north on US 89,
west on UT 20, and south on I-15. It's a little shorter and definitely
faster than going over the plateau on Hwy. 14 because it is wider and
gets up to only about 8,000 feet
Although we went that way a couple
times during subsequent visits in 2016 we didn't go that direction
during our Fall 2015 visit. It was just too pretty, albeit slow, via
Scenic Byway 14.
Aspens on the high plateau
Two other slow but pretty routes incorporate Scenic Byways 143 and/or 148. The
latter is a connector that runs through Cedar Breaks National Monument
between Hwy. 14 and Brian Head. I drove, and Jim rode his
bike, from Brian Head down to Panguitch this
on Hwy. 143. We didn't go down to Cedar City on the part of Hwy. 143 below Brian
Head until the next year.
This entry shows photos from all five of our trips over the mountain
plateau to or from Cedar City and/or Cedar Breaks National Monument during
September and October, 2015. They are generally in order from east to
west but show views in all directions.
US 89 TO DUCK CREEK
Approximately the first 30 miles of Scenic Byway 14 are in the Dixie
National Forest, which has forests thick with juniper, oak, and aspen
trees. Cedar Mountain is a misnomer. What early settlers thought were
cedar trees are really junipers, but the name stuck.
When we first arrived in mid-September the aspens and box elders, a
type of maple tree prevalent in Utah, were beginning to turn color along
the lower elevations on Hwy. 14:
Within a few miles the road rises above the high desert terrain that
is found on the Red Canyon and Cedar City sides of the plateau. Much of
the highway travels through cooler mountain habitat with lots of trees,
wildlife, lakes, and streams. It feels very different than down in Red
Canyon or Bryce Canyon.
Visitors can enjoy camping, wildlife viewing, hiking, fishing,
cycling, horseback riding, ATVing, photography, and other recreational
activities in the national forest.
On our first trip across the plateau we were surprised to pass through
an area with black lava beds
in sharp contrast to the yellow and orange aspen leaves. You can see
some of the lava rocks at the lower left in the next photo:
According to a large, colorful National Forest brochure we picked up,
some of the lava is less than 2,000 years old. Some of it came
from a volcano but most welled up from cracks in the earth's surface.
Underground lava tubes formed that are like caves.
Deer and elk are often seen along the roadway but we sure didn't
expect to see a large flock of sheep on our first trip up to the
plateau! Fortunately, they weren't blocking the paved highway but were
on a little dirt side road:
We turned off onto the dirt road where the sheep were grazing so we
could see them up close:
That's me reflected in the rear
view mirror, taking pictures.
We didn't see any human herders that time, but did on one of our
trips across the mountain in 2016. Locals have told us they've sometimes
been late to work or appointments because they were delayed by stubborn
sheep that took their sweet time getting out of the roadway.
Duck Creek is a little alpine community in a beautiful setting on the
plateau. There is a visitor center, campgrounds, ponds, cabins, summer homes,
outfitters, and other small stores.
DUCK CREEK TO THE HEIGHT OF THE PLATEAU
Heading west, the road passes by some very pretty ponds and lakes, including
large Navajo Lake, which can be seen up close via a dirt road or from high
above at an overlook on the scenic byway:
Zoomed in on colorful aspens reflected in
the water on the lake's far shore
The lake was formed when lava flowed across the eastern end of
the valley in which it sits. Lava tubes run under the lake and
drain water into both the Great Basin and Colorado River
drainages. Visitors can boat and fish on the lake. We didn't go
down to lake level until our third trip here in Autumn 2016.
After passing Navajo Lake there are even more aspens along the
roadside. They were in peak color at the higher elevations during our
Note the snow pole on the right; Cedar
Breaks had snow in early October (see pics in next entry).
The vistas really open up for several miles over the highest part of the
plateau between 9,000-10,000 feet elevation:
The intersection with Scenic Byway 148 is at the high point on Hwy. 14
This road leads visitors a few miles to Cedar Breaks
National Monument and Brian Head, which is both an alpine ski
village and the highest peak on the Markagunt Plateau. Hwy. 148 is closed
when it snows.
HEIGHT OF PLATEAU THRU CEDAR GORGE
About a mile past the road to Cedar Breaks National Monument, Hwy. 14 begins
a breath-taking 4,000-foot descent over the last ten or twelve miles down to
There are great views down to large valleys as the highway switchbacks past a
colorful amphitheater reminiscent of Cedar Breaks and Bryce Canyon. You can
see the amphitheater best when going the other direction:
After passing the last National Forest campground on the west side of
the plateau the highway passes the Southern Utah University Mountain Center,
then enters the top end of Cedar Canyon, a deep gorge and creek that last
several miles down to the edge of the city. The first three photos are
on the descent:
The next picture shows the approach to the high-walled part of
the canyon on the ascent, going the other direction:
The mostly off-white rocks and green trees in those photos are
similar to some of the canyons in Zion National Park.
The rocks are more colorful after the road bottoms out on the
descent, before entering Cedar City:
The colors are pretty going out of town the other
direction and up toward Cedar
All the scenic byways in southern Utah are well worth the time
and effort to drive. I'll show photos from another one in the next entry.
Next entry: scenes from Cedar Breaks National
Monument and the two scenic byways that access it
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
Cody the ultra Lab, and Casey-pup
© 2015 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil