Dixie National Forest near Cedar City is home to several hiking trails that are perfect for the whole family. A trip to the high country of this section of the Colorado Plateau can only be made better by stretching your legs and exploring ancient forests, walking to beautiful lakes and waterfalls, and taking in the breathtaking views.
What Makes it Great
Located high in the mountains above Cedar City these quiet trails are the perfect way to beat the summer heat. The forests of the Markagunt Plateau, the raised area of earth located in southern Utah between Interstate 15 and Highway 89, reside above 9,000 feet and are home to beautiful stands of ponderosa pines, bristlecone pines, spruce, and aspen trees. Extinct volcanoes have highlighted the surrounding land with volcanic rock and lava flows and created interesting and beautiful lakes and sinkholes.
Several trails in the area are short and well-maintained making for convenient, quick, and pleasant outings in the national forest. And unlike Zion National Park, its neighbor to the south, there are no crowds in this unique alpine setting.
Just east of the Zion Overlook you will find the Bristlecone Pine Trail. Bristlecone pine trees can live to be thousands of years old and it’s not uncommon for them to have bodies containing both living a dead sections. Following a well-worn path through spruce and aspen you will find a wood observation deck surrounded by bristlecone. You can observe their magnificent bodies from there and check out the view of Zion National Park to the south.
Duck Creek and Aspen Mirror Pond Trails are located right off of Highway 14 west of Duck Creek Village. Both of these trails take you along the shores of idyllic alpine lakes. The trails are flat and take little time to complete. The Duck Creek Trail connects the Duck Creek Campground with the pond. This footpath travels through towering yellow pines with basalt rocks lining the way. The Aspen Mirror Pond Trail takes you from the trailhead to the north side of this quiet mountain lake. Fishing and bird watching is excellent at both ponds.
Cascade Falls is the must do hike on the Markagunt Plateau. Located at the edge of the Virgin River Rim this hike will give you excellent views of Zion National Park and the headwaters of the Virgin River. The source of the cascade is Navajo Lake. After leaving the lake the water disappears beneath the earth into a lava tube. It travels over one mile before reemerging 20 feet below the orange, red, and yellow rock of the Virgin River Rim. The path to the cascade is a manicured trail just beneath the rim.
What You’ll Remember
Amazing views of Zion National Park, idyllic alpine lakes and the amazing sight of the Bristlecone Pines as their gnarled bodies twist and turn, somehow stretching their limbs skyward.
Who’s Going to Love It
The short trails of the Markagunt Plateau in the Dixie National Forest are a prize. They are mostly flat, less than one mile in length, and run along maintained routes. This makes them open up to people of all ages and abilities. Grab your shoes and camera and get out there.
GPS Coordinates, Parking, and Regulations
Bristlecone Pine Trail: 37.567, -112.846
Bristlecone Pine Trail: From Cedar City take Highway 14 east for 17 miles. The trailhead is located just east of the Zion Overlook at mile marker 17 where Highway 14 starts to flatten out. This is an easy loop hike that is 0.6 miles round trip.
Duck Creek Pond Trail begins on the east side of the campground and is less than .5 miles. From Cedar City 28 miles east on Highway 14. The campground entrance is adjacent to the highway across from the Duck Creek Visitor Center.
Aspen Mirror Pond Trailhead – .5 miles round trip. From Cedar City take Highway 14 east for 29.5 miles. One-half mile after mile marker 29 turn left at the Aspen Mirror junction.
Cascade Falls Trailhead: From Cedar City take Highway 14 East for 25.5 miles, turn right towards Navajo Lake on FS Road #30053, take your first left onto Forest Service road #30370. Follow this road until you reach the junction with FS road #30054. Follow the signs to Cascade Falls and turn right onto FS road #30054. This road will dead-end at the Cascade Fall trailhead.