You may not have heard about Ashdown Gorge. That is understandable given the fact that it is encircled by Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park and Cedar Breaks National Monument. The fact is that there are many memorable hikes in Southern Utah and you will likely never complete them all.
Ashdown Gorge is a great hike that can be done in a long day hike and is one that will be a memorable hike even if you're a long time hiker in the area. It can be done in a couple of ways. You can begin near Cedar Breaks and do a one way hike that requires a shuttle.
For a more casual visitor there is a much simpler way to see the beautiful Ashdown Gorge and the waterfalls. Check your Utah map and you will see that you will find the intersection of Utah highways # 14 and #148 about 18 miles east of Cedar City. From this point you will continue another 10 miles on highway 14 until you come to a couple of very large turnouts on the left side of the highway. From the second turnout you can find ample room to park your vehicle and put on your hiking gear.
It is recommended that you wear hiking boots that can handle the water, neoprene or wool socks and, if you prefer, a walking staff. Be sure and take enough water (probably 2 or 3 liters per person) for 4 to 6 hours and a few snacks.
At the current time the biggest obstacle of the day will be getting down to the riverbed from the highway. There are a number of ways down, including a rocky culvert, but you may be more comfortable finding another route. Some of the scree can be a bit slippery so take your time. Butt-scooting is allowed!
Once you hit the bottom of the hill you will begin your hike to the right. It would be difficult to get lost since you'll be walking along the river bank or in the water almost the entire length of the hike.
There are places reminiscent of the famous Zion N.P. hikes of Subway and the Narrows. You will see amazing overhangs where the water has carved out the walls of the gorge. Some sections of the rocks and boulders may be completely covered with dried red mud - a reminder that you don't want to do this hike in inclement weather. As always, anytime you hike in a Utah canyon be sure to check the weather upstream. You can have clear skies above and be swept away by a flash flood caused by rains miles away to the north. When you see the high water marks on the canyon walls you will easily see that there is no place to seek safety in a flash flood.
Look for Flanagan's arch high above the canyon walls and Tom's Head - an impressive free standing monolith close to the water's edge. A wonderful treat awaiting you at the turn-around point are two waterfalls. Be sure and see them both since they are close to each other - one at each end of the fork near the end of your hike.
It's about a 5 mile hike each way and you will be rewarded by cool temperatures during the summer and cold water for your feet. Enjoy hiking in Southern Utah and Keep on Traveling!