At Ecophiles, we love discovering hidden gems in nature that inspire a sense of wonder and Southern Utah’s wilderness is brimming with endless marvels. Whether you’re a thrill seeker, a solo traveler or traveling with family, Cedar City makes an excellent base for exploring Bryce and Zion National Parks and other national monuments. Here’s our pick of incredible things to do in Southern Utah:

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon is a natural amphitheater encompassing an array of white and orange limestone columns and walls. Over millions of years, breaks have been chiseled into the plateau by wind, rain, and snow, creating curious shapes like the famous hoodoos and castles.

Hiking the unmissable Navajo Loop Trail will let you drop down into the amphitheater, pass through famed “Wall Street,” a narrow notch between soaring cliffs, and bow before “Thor’s Hammer” – a tall pinnacle, supporting a large hammerhead-like rock. Wield it, if you’re worthy!

Also, there are miles of ATV trails to be explored, offering incredible views of Bryce’s red rock formations.

Thor Hammer. Photo: daveynin CC via Flickr

Thor Hammer. Photo: daveynin CC via Flickr

Dark Night Skies at Cedar Breaks 

We simply cannot talk enough about the incredibly moving dark sky experience. Cedar Breaks National Monument offers some of the darkest night skies in the country for cosmic gazing.

This massive amphitheater is perched above the Markagunt Plateau, plunging 2500 feet deep and stretching three miles across. The remoteness of Cedar Breaks makes it perfect for being at one with the universe. and they certainly know how to throw a great Star Party! At the free Star Parties through summer, a laser light tour of the constellations precedes stargazing through telescopes at Point Supreme.

Cedar Breaks Night Sky. Photo: PC Mike Saemisch via Visit Cedar City

Dixie National Forest 

A two-million acre marvel, Utah’s largest national forest unfurls 170 miles across Southern Utah. Straddling the divide between the Great Basin and the Colorado River, its stars are Boulder Mountain (one of the largest high-elevation plateaus in the country), the jaw-dropping colored cliff canyon – Red Canyon, the serene Navajo lake and others. The majestic Cedar Mountain is the most visited section of Dixie National Forest.

Naturally, this wilderness is a magnet for thrill seekers and families alike, making it ideal for hikes, camping, picnics, ATVs, canoeing and of course, several selfies!

Cedar Mountain Fall Colors

Cedar Mountain Fall Colors. Photo: Visit Cedar City

Kolob Canyons at Zion National Park

The Zion National Park wilderness is a spectacular network of colorful canyons, forested mesas, and striking deserts spanning over 124,000 acres. The Kolob Canyons section is one of Zion’s best kept secrets. With red sandstone cliffs, splendid wildlife and the breathtaking Kolob terrace, Kolob is an unforgettable wilderness experience. La Verkin Creek Trail showcases the best of Zion’s rugged landscape and ends at the dramatic Kolob Arch – one of the world’s largest free standing arches.

Zion also offers the perfect playground for adventures like Canyoneering, which combines route finding, rappelling, hiking, and swimming.

Kolob Canyons Double Arch Alcove

Kolob Canyons Double Arch Alcove. Photo: Visit Cedar City

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

The Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument is a staggering 2 million acre multi-hued landscape divided into three regions: Grand Staircase of cliffs and terraces, the rugged, remote Kaiparowits Plateau and magnificent Escalante River Canyons.

Grand Staircase consists of the cascading Chocolate, Vermilion, White, Gray, and Pink Cliffs. Geologist Clarence Dutton poetically described it as ‘a grand stairway of sequential cliffs and terraces’ in the 1870s. Go wild here – try hiking, canyoneering, mountain biking, off-roading. For those seeking quality alone-time, the sheer splendor of the endless landscape can put life in perspective.

Islomania Dome or the ‘Cosmic Navel’. Photo: John Fowler CC via Flickr

The Parowan Gap

The three-mile long Parowan wind gap is a remarkable geological land form created millions of years ago. The Gap is also home to one of the richest collections of petroglyphs in the West. The Parowan site is recognized as a “gallery” of well-preserved American Indian rock carvings, some dating back almost 5,000 years. It boasts many deeply inscribed geometric forms, along with some human figures and animals. The most extraordinary being the massive petroglyph known as the “Zipper”-  believed by archaeologists to be a composite map (space) and solar calendar (time).

Parowan Gap petroglyph Zipper. Photo: Visit Cedar City

Parowan Gap petroglyph Zipper. Photo: Visit Cedar City

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