Ashdown Gorge Wilderness Area
This moderately easy, yet dynamic hike will have you dropping roughly 3,400 vertical feet in elevation over 10 miles while tromping through alpine forests and desert canyons. The red rock geology of Cedar Breaks National Monument never fails to capture the imagination — park rangers have reported visitors asking how they did it. The answer, of course, is glorious Mother Nature. And you're going to get up close and personal with it.
Don’t forget to set up a car shuttle for this one for the best experience. More serious backpackers could opt for the overnight option and double down on this trail, catching the scenery missed the first time.
The Ashdown Gorge trail begins at Cedar Canyon in a parking lot located near the north entrance of Cedar Breaks National Monument. Hike westward, and enjoy several overlooks of the monument along the way. You will also chance upon a few healthy bristlecone pines, the oldest organisms on Earth. Note that the trail can be hard to spot at times, so pay close attention for blaze markers and cairns.
The trail continues past Stud Flat, and drops into Rattlesnake Creek before settling in to Ashdown Creek. The gorge is named after George Ashdown and family, who owned a ranch and two sawmills on the creek in the 19th century.
It’s a great idea to wear water shoes on this hike, because there are many river crossings along the route. Also, be sure you bring trekking poles, or create a makeshift hiking stick, because the crossings can be slippery. As you hike, the canyon walls appear to grow taller and taller around you as you descend.
Don’t miss a chance to sneak up the side trails at the confluence of Rattlesnake Creek and Lake Creek; within a few hundred yards, you’ll be rewarded with some fine waterfalls. Further downstream, keep your eyes to the right, and you’ll see Flanagan’s Arch, an epic structure.
From here, it’s a short walk to the trail end at Coal Creek, where your car will be ready to shuttle you back. Please note, that near the end of the hike, there are a number of abandoned 40s-era vehicles on the north side of the creek — it’s fun to try and find them!
Although it’s recommended as a one-way day hike, some people prefer to backpack overnight and return the way they came. Or if you prefer a shorter day hike, start at Coal Creek and hike uphill to the Rattlesnake Creek and Lake Creek waterfalls. This shorter option is the most scenic portions of the gorge so you’ll get some great views, but you’ll miss out on the expansive vistas afforded at the top of Cedar Breaks.
Trailhead: 37°39.762 N, 112°50.273 W
Trailend: 37°38.124 N, 112°56.798 W