Blowhard Trail … Windy … Great Views of Cedar Breaks National Monument
We almost died on the way to the Blowhard Trail.
I had driven up and down Highway 14 several times looking for the end of the Blowhard Trail. Cindy was going to go hike around Cedar Breaks National Monument (while I did Blowhard), then come pick me up.
The trouble was … nothing I read in my guide or online told exactly where the trail dumped out onto the highway at it’s end.
Trying to Find Trail Exit
We figured it was one of three places; The slot canyon that intersected Highway 14 (about 1.5 miles below the Southern Utah University Mountain Center), the gate directly opposite the university campus, or the road leading to the Crystal Springs Trail head (2.4 miles above the university. We finally decided to meet up at Woods Ranch, a roadside park somewhat central to all three spots.
Blowhard Interactive Map
- Below you will find a map for Blowhard Ride.
- Click the green or red balloons for driving directions to the trailhead(s).
- Click Tracks or Icons for Specific Info.
Once we had picked a rendezvous point we headed up Highway 14 until we got to Highway 148. We made the left turn onto Highway 148 and were passing through a large green valley.
I was looking up to the left trying to identify exactly which peak was Blowhard Mountain when Cindy yelled, “Look out!” I quickly looked back at the road and saw them. Three sheep were just crossing the road. I slammed on the brakes and … we just missed them as they scooted off to the shoulder of the highway. Lucky she noticed them. I am not sure what 3 sheep will do to the front of a car traveling 50 mph … but I am glad I didn’t find out that day. Adrenaline kept my pulse over 100 for several minutes.
My heart was still pumping fast when we found the turn-off for Blowhard Mountain, a half-mile farther (almost exactly 2 miles from the Highway 14 junction). The dirt road was smooth as we wound toward the top of the mountain. Approximately a mile after leaving Highway 143 I passed a (well-marked) Blowhard Trail Head, telling Cindy I wanted to go check out the antennae at the very top.
On the very top of the mountain sat a giant green soccer ball, supported by scaffolding, like a ship in dry dock. As we pulled up in front of the antenna Cindy said, “What is all that stuff all over the ground?”
I had also noticed the strange matter scattered all over the flat surface. My mind flashed back to my latest brush with death and I stated, “I wonder if it is sheep crap.”
I was hard pressed to open my door as the wind exerted its force against me. Once I got it open I looked down before I stepped out. I had seen enough droppings at our school Ag department to recognize what I was looking at. I decided to step out anyway, for this sheep excrement looked well dried. I figured any kind of crap would dry quickly in that wind.
Starting the Ride
After looking over the antenna and checking out the views we jumped into the car and went back to the trail head. Upon exiting the car I noticed very little wind. I answered nature’s call, loaded up my bike, cameras, water bottles, fanny pack, set my Garmin 60 CSx GPS, gave Cindy a kiss, and headed down the Blowhard Trail.
The first hundred yards of the trail runs through a small stand of trees, a large portion of them dead or dying. We had read somewhere that 80% of all the spruce trees in the Brian Head area were dead due to some kind of beetle. I emerged from the shade and found myself under some power lines just to the north of the big antenna.
A half-mile from the start the trail turned into some nasty, steep, loose, short, sharp-turning switchbacks … the kind you have to slide down with your right hand compressing the brake and your fanny hanging over the rear tire, behind the seat. The trail then began to turn red and straighten into longer switchbacks, still quite steep with loose rock littering the surface … power lines overhead.
About 1 mile from the trailhead I slid to a stop … startled by the route traveling west up ahead and by the sudden gusts of wind from the south. The trail was going to take me 4-feet from the lip of a 300- foot pink canyon drop-off … and the wind was going to try to blow me off those pink cliffs.
This location also offered me my first glimpse of Cedar Breaks National Monument on my right. The Blowhard Trail skirts along the south border of the monument for the first couple miles. Not being scared of heights and confident in my balance … I rode down the trail … but not for very long. The rugged beauty of the cliffs ahead (to the west) backed by the distant valley overwhelmed me. I had to stop and do some photography.
The cliffs were large, so large I had to take photos … but when I looked at them on the back of the camera they didn’t look large. The problem … I had no perspective or scale. Because I was alone, there was no way I could take a picture of myself and also capture the cliffs. Nor could I use my shoe, a camera lens cover, or a ruler because they would not be large enough objects.
Then I thought of it … I could use my bike as a reference for size. I thought of standing my bike up using a stick and luckily found one the right size within a matter of minutes. After standing my bike on the cliff, I ran back up the Blowhard Trail to take the photo. It was very unspectacular. I needed to get the bike closer to the edge to capture the bike, cliff, and valley below. So I ran back down and moved the bike closer. My big worry at that point was whether the wind would gust hard enough to blow my bike off the edge. If that happened … my bike would be gone and I would be making the rest of my way on foot.
Three times I moved the bike closer to the edge … 3 times sprinting back up the hill to snap the photos, and 3 times hustling back down to my bike. I remember how good it felt to get my hands back on the handle grip and seat, knowing my ride was safe and secure … kind of like hugging your loved one that just escaped danger.
Coming Off the Ridge
Leaving the overlook, the Blowhard Trail immediately went back to nasty switchbacks, all on loose, rocky, pink soil.
About a quarter mile down I came to a gate to nowhere. Not rusted or old looking, the gate only had about two feet of fence attached to both sides, and was ten feet below the trail. It didn’t seem to have a trail approaching it from either direction.
I couldn’t help but think those beetles were experts when it came to felling trees (or the wind must have been real strong). I didn’t remember seeing anything like that except when I visited Mount St. Helens in 1985. Less than a mile of wicked switchbacks brought me to the bottom of the pink hill.
The terrain instantly switched at that point. The Blowhard Trail flattened, and the soil turned brown, and I entered a thick green forest.
To learn about what happened in that thick forest, continue on to Blowhard (page 2)