Rattlesnake Creek & Ashdown Gorge
Description: A trail that takes you from the high elevation of the Markagunt Plateau down to the lower elevations of the mouth of Ashdown Gorge.
Distance: 9.5 Miles
Difficulty: Moderate is travelling from east to west (downhill); Difficult if travelling from west to east (uphill.)
Highest Elevation: 10,456 Feet Above Sea Level
Dangers: Potential Flash Flooding in Ashdown Gorge- do not go if there is possibility of storms.
Recommended Equipment: Wading Staff for hiking in the water.
Jurisdiction: Dixie National Forest
The trailhead for this hike is found by the following directions, starting in Cedar City, Utah.
Drive up Utah Highway 14 eastward up the mountain.
In 17.9 miles, turn left (north) onto Utah Highway 146.
In 7.5 Miles, look for a small parking area just beyond Cedar Breaks National Monument. The parking area is reached by means of a small gravel road that is somewhat hidden and is on the west side of Highway 146. Dixie National Forest is not as regulated and maintained as the Cedar Breaks National Monument or any of the National Parks.
This is a rather rough trail that is not nearly as heavily used as any of the trails within Cedar Breaks National Monument itself. The trail will begin by taking you on an old jeep road that borders the Cedar Breaks National Monument fence. You will turn away from the jeep road and begin following a hiking trail when you see that the jeep road veers away from the Cedar Breaks boundary fence. You will follow the walking trail from here that takes you down along the side of the Cedar Breaks amphitheater and will give you a fine view of Orange Ridge and Adams Barrier before descending into a meadow. Remain on the edge of the Cedar Breaks amphitheater and the Rattlesnake Creek trail will take you through the forest where your trai will be marked by cairns.
Once you arrive at the grassy meadow of Stud Flat, you will drop down into the Rattlesnake Creek area with steep walls on either side. You will follow Rattlesnake Creek for about a mile and a half before arriving at a junction with High Mountain Trail. At this junction, there is a lovely camping area. From here, you will head left, cross the creek at a small waterfall and climb upwards around a ridge that separates the Rattlesnake Creek and the Ashdown Creek. As you descend this ridge into Ashdown Creek, you will enter private land for a short while. Be sure to respect this private land and certainly do not decide to make camp there.
There is, at this point, a different route you may take. If you head upstream, you will pass an old sawmill and in about 4 miles you will arrive at the floor of the Cedar Breaks Amphitheater. If it appears that a storm is coming and there is a potential for flash flooding, this is the path you should take by means of the Long Hollow trail, which takes you uphill out of harm’s way until you arrive at Crystal Spring. However, if the weather conditions are not conducive to flooding, you may continue down the beautiful, and rather uncommonly travelled, Ashdown Gorge.
Inside the Ashdown Gorge, you will be surrounded by Navajo sandstone walls with pine trees growing all around. As you travel downstream, the walls will rise ever higher to both sides until they are several hundred feet above you. When you reach the confluence with Rattlesnake Creek, you will be greeted by several fascinating obelisks carved out of stone by the natural forces.
From these stone obelisks, you will continue downstream, beholding such awesome natural wonder as the vast pinnacles that rise above the north side of the canyon. Careful observers will have a fine view of Flanigan Arch high above them on the canyon wall. Not far from here, you will join with Crow Creek and will see the Highway 14 ahead. Continue until you see the trail that takes you up to the highway and your trek is completed.