“Virgin River Rim Trail” may bring to mind images of a trail following the length of Virgin River on the rim of its canyon but that is not what this trail does. Virgin River Rim is a 32 mile long trail that follows the edge of Utah’s Markagunt Plateau to the east of Cedar City. The plateau is around 9000 ft high and is covered by a forest of Pine and Aspen trees. In its southwestern parts, the plateau creates a distinct rim where slopes drop thousands of feet down into the canyons below. Many of these canyons join to give rise to Virgin River, hence the trail’s name. Some of the slopes are made of colorful hoodoos similar to those found in the nearby Bryce Canyon National Park & Cedar Breaks National Monument.
Virgin River Rim Trail can be accessed via many spots along its 32 mile length. I had read that the western parts of the trail went in a forest where there were no hoodoos. A look at the map and aerial photos revealed that a hike from Cascade Falls Trailhead to beyond Lars Fork Road and back would create a day hike with many opportunities to see the colorful slopes/hoodoos.
Is a small waterfall 0.55 miles to the north of Cascade Falls Trailhead. Water from the nearby Navajo Lake is said to go through a sinkhole and then exit at a spot among the pink cliffs. I had thought of visiting the falls as a small side trip at the end of the day.
Virgin River Rim Trail is supposedly a popular place to do mountain biking, although I only saw one biker.
|Map of my hike
Left our vacation rental home in Cedar City, UT at 6:20 a.m. Sunrise was at 7 so it was still mostly dark. Got on I-15 south at Exit 62. I had thought that at Exit 59, I would see a sign for Route 14 and Cedar Breaks National Monument but I did not. I thought it must be the next exit. At Exit 57, I still saw no signs. I knew this was the end of Cedar City so I exited onto Route 130, pulled onto the side of the street and began looking at my map. Only then did I realize that Route 14 did not have a direct exit off of I-15. Continued 2 miles north on Route 130 to downtown and turned right onto Route 14.
The road headed east going into a tight forested valley among the mountains going up the slopes quickly. In about 15 miles or so, the road went from 5900 ft in Cedar City to 9900 ft. At the top, there was no “going down the other side”. A beautiful high plateau appeared. After 25 miles on Route 14, I turned south onto a dirt road to Navajo Lake. I do not remember the names of the roads. I had looked at aerial photos and found the route I needed to take. Took a left turn at the first intersection, left at the second and right at the third onto Duck Valley Road. These were all well-graded dirt roads passable by sedan. Went to the end of the road at Cascade Falls Trailhead.
Cascade Falls Trailhead to the Plateau to the Southeast of Lars Fork Road
|Cascade Falls Trailhead||8950 ft||zero miles
|High Point||9320 ft||-
|Willis Creek Road||9100 ft||3.30 miles
|High Point||9160 ft||-
|Lars Fork Road||8820 ft||0.40 miles
|End of my hike||9080 ft||0.90 miles
|Total Roundtrip||-||9.20 miles
Trailhead was on the edge of the plateau at an elevation of 8950 ft. To the southwest, I could see forested slopes dropping down thousands of feet into hilly canyons below. The sun had not risen over the lower slopes yet. Two people, who looked like they were preparing for a backpacking trip were at trailhead but I did not see them after that. In fact, I did not see any hikers today (except for the end of the day when I went to Cascade Falls). This trailhead is at a spot along the length of the 32 mile long Virgin River Rim Trail. I could go southeast or northwest. My plan was to go southeast. The car’s thermometer showed 50 degrees F.
Left at 7:30 a.m. and went on the well-established trail heading southeast. I was in the shade. Everything was wet from yesterday’s rain. The trail went into a pine forest and began going up a hill.
At an elevation of 9240 ft, I reached a plateau. The sun was shining directly into my eyes.
The trail continued southeast 20-30 ft away from the edge of the plateau. If I had been suddenly dropped off here, I would not have known that I was on the edge of a plateau with very dramatic views 20 feet away. I went to the very edge a few times. Sometimes colorful slopes could be seen below and sometimes only forested ones.
The trail then went into an Aspen forest and began to go down slowly. My maps showed 4 wheel drive roads coming close to this trail. At one spot I noted a road behind the trees.
The trail made a broad switchback and went down a hill. When it came back near the edge again, I had good views of pink cliffs to the northwest.
At 9:05 a.m., I reached a road again. I did not know it at the time but this was Willis Creek Road. For the next 15 minutes or so the trail went parallel to the road (or went on the road) at the edge of the plateau going further down to reach Lars Fork Road (8820 ft).
The road finally went away. I continued the trail on the surface of a small plateau until I reached an edge with a bunch of hoodoos below. Sat there for a short time.
I could see a hill in front of me. I thought I could go to the top of that hill and end the hike there. At 9:45 a.m., 9080 ft and 4.6 miles, I reached the top of the plateau. Found a pretty spot on the edge and sat down to rest and enjoy the views.
Left at 10:00 a.m. retracing the route I had come. I was soon back at the hoodoos again.
Now that the sun was up, the forest looked prettier. At Lars Fork Road, I saw 2 people who had driven there on an ATV. Later heard two loud annoying ATVs on a nearby road but never saw them.
On the plateau near the trailhead, now that the sun was up, the colorful slopes below were ready for picture taking. I saw one mountain biker there.
Went down the forested hill and reached the cascade Falls trailhead at 11:55 a.m. There were now many cars, ATVs and people there.
Cascade Falls Trail
After resting in my car for 20 minutes or so, I went on to Cascade Falls Trail. Ran into many people here. The trail headed northwest to a high point where I had a good view of the pink cliffs ahead.
It then went down under the pink cliffs.
At 0.55 miles, I reached Cascade falls. A small amount of water came out of an opening in the pink cliffs.
Looking back at the trail.
Virgin River Rim Trail Mountain Biking