Because SUU is the university closest to all of southern Utah’s national parks, sometimes Cedar City’s own canyon can get overlooked. Ashdown Gorge and Rattlesnake Creek are connecting trails that often get ignored because of more popular neighbors.
The Rattlesnake Creek to Ashdown Gorge trail is 11.7 miles downhill. Though the hike can be completed in a day, many choose to backpack and spend the night. The first eight miles weave through alpine trees and offer many scenic views including an overlook from the north side of Cedar Breaks National Monument.
Eventually, the path drops into Rattlesnake Creek where hikers travel southwest downstream for about a mile. Continuing to follow the river will land travelers at the top of the Rattlesnake Creek Waterfall. There is a rappelling anchor on a nearby rock for those who are looking to enhance their canyoneering experience. However, most hikers opt to take the High Mountain Trail, just a couple hundred yards before the waterfalls.
The High Mountain Trail is where Rattlesnake transitions to Ashdown. The ridge spirals around the steep limestone walls and eventually drops down into the rushing water bed of Ashdown Gorge.
Upon reaching the river, it is highly suggested to change into appropriate water shoes. The last three to four miles are completely submerged in several stream crossings and slippery rocks.
The water trail leads downstream passing Toms Head, a narrow red rock tower. Eventually Flanagan’s Arch can be spotted by gazing at the north skyline of the cliffs. After reaching the Arch, the stream continues for over a mile until landing at the highway turn-off parking lot.
The true hidden treasures of the Gorge are found if hikers travel upstream upon reaching the riverbed. No less than a half a mile deeper up the canyon is an intersection of two creeks, the left being Lake Creek and the right Rattlesnake Creek. Only a couple hundred yards in either slot ends at a refreshing waterfall.
Hikers have several options for canyoneering, depending on desired time and experience levels. In order to complete the entire trail from Rattlesnake Creek to Ashdown Gorge, adventurers are encouraged to drive two cars and set up a shuttle. The first car can be parked off the Cedar Canyon highway, 10.2 miles west on SR-14. Then arrange a second drive to the Rattlesnake trailhead just north outside of Cedar Breaks Monument.
For those looking for a shorter day hike, begin at the Cedar Canyon side of Ashdown Gorge. This is an alternative three mile round trip hike upstream past Flanigan’s Arch and into the Rattlesnake Creek and Lake Creek slot canyons.
Story By: Ansleigh Mikesell
Photos By: Ansleigh Mikesell