Brian Head Peak and nearby Cedar Breaks are far more famous as a ski and mountain biking destinations. However Brian Head's Summit stands at 11,307' making it the highest point on the Markagunt Plateau and one of the highest summits on the Grand Staircase. Its worth the visit after Cedar Breaks
As I drove into Southern Utah, two previously undiscovered places (to me) caught my attention. Cedar Breaks National Monument is not far from Cedar City and I-15. Its like a smaller, less crowded version of Bryce Canyon and well worth a visit. Overlooking Cedar Breaks is Brian Head Summit, one of the highest points on the Grand Staircase. If you weren't aware, the Grand Staircase is a massive geologic region of the Colorado Plateau with successive cliffs dropping all the way to the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. So visited them both
Cedar Breaks National Monument
Though it was now late June by the time I visited, this high altitude plateau of Utah still had abundant snow. The park service closed most of the trails in the monument due to snow and mud but all the vistas were still open. Point Supreme at 10,350' lived up to its reputation with an entrancing view of the main amphitheater. The I-15 corridor off in the distance was a nearly 5,000' lower than this point. I hope to return in the future for some actual hikes!
Hiking Brian Head Peak
The conspicuous summit of Brian Head overlooks Cedar Breaks and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to hike it. In most summer months, you simply drive the road to the top but in this particularly rainy and snowy year (2018-2109), late June had conditions similar to April of normal years. The road was impassable.
So, I parked off the side of UT-143 (paved) and basically climbed a direct route to the summit. Here's an area map and my short hike:
Google Maps labels the road I parked off of as Forest Service Route 047 and its managed by Cedar City Ranger District of Dixie National Forest. Here's a free map/brochure of the area if you need it. You can call their helpful rangers during business hours for updates on road conditions and hikes.
In spite of its altitude, Brian Head is a gentle giant. I had no trouble finding the path of least resistance through thickets of scrub and some talus. I made an almost perfectly Northeastern line from my car to the summit, taking advantage of the road in some sections. Total distance, round trip, from my car was about 2.0 miles.
At Brian Head's Summit
Brian Head has a pancake flat summit that's treeless and has outstanding views in all directions. The Aquarius Plateu, Tusher Mountains, I-15 corridor and Western Deserts form a memorable panorama. Cedar Breaks also forms an artistic swath of colors to the South. From the perspective of a geological dilettante like myself, it was neat to stand at the top "stair" of the Grand Staircase.
I saw hoards of marmots at the top- they were like pigeons. Don't leave any food unattended.
For those who care, Brian Head Peak is #18 of Utah's most prominent summits. Should you visit during a warm, dry summer, you can just drive straight to the summit parking area and have a short walk to the highpoint. But where's the fun in that?