Wilderness is the land that was
wild land beyond the frontier…
land that shaped the growth of the Nation
and the character of its people.
Wilderness is the land that is
rare, wild places where one can retreat from civilization,
reconnect with the Earth,
and find healing, meaning and significance.
Wilderness is an indispensable part of the American story. Native Americans depended on the bounty of wilderness for survival and held Earth and its wild places as sacred. The great western explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark were inspired by the untamed beauty of wilderness that became the forge upon which our uniquely American national character was created. But after just 200 years, the essential wildness of America virtually disappeared. As Americans realized that the long-term health and welfare of the nation were at risk, a vision for conservation emerged.
In 1964, our nation's leaders formally acknowledged the immediate and lasting benefits of wild places to the human spirit and fabric of our nation. That year, in a nearly unanimous vote, Congress enacted landmark legislation that permanently protected some of the most natural and undisturbed places in America. The Wilderness Act established the National Wilderness Preservation System " … to secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness.
A uniquely American idea, wilderness is part of our heritage and is passed on as a legacy to our children. Firmly attached to the American past, the legacy that is wilderness will remain indispensable to the American future.
Sharing the western and northern borders of the desert-like Cedar Breaks National Monument, Ashdown Gorge Wilderness displays eroded, multicolored Wasatch limestone, meadows, and forestland including a significant stand of bristlecone pine, known as the Twisted Forest, in the northern corner. Bristlecones are among the oldest living life-forms. The area is home to a diversity of wildlife that includes mule deer, yellow-bellied marmots, chipmunks, golden-mantled ground squirrels, voles, and mice. Creeks run year-round. Elevations range from 8,000 feet to 10,400 feet, and winter snows often add spectacular highlights to the colorful stone formations.
Within the Wilderness, you'll find less than 10 miles of trails. The Rattlesnake Trail (five miles) traces the northern boundary of the national monument and follows Rattlesnake Creek on an east-to-west path across the Wilderness to meet the Potato Hollow Trail. The latter trail continues south to a trailhead at Cedar Springs. The Potato Hollow Trail (2.5 miles) forks before the trailhead to become the Blowhard Trail, which climbs Blowhard Mountain. There is ample opportunity to find solitude, especially if you hike off-trail (taking care, of course, to create as little impact on the land as possible).
Vertical gray-orange walls of Navajo sandstone stand above two canyon tributaries of the Escalante River in Box-Death Hollow Wilderness. This is canyon country, home to numerous monoclines--places where fault lines have made layers of earth rise and fall sharply, exposing the colorful strata of sediment. The name Death Hollow gives reference to a number of livestock that plunged to their death trying to cross the steep canyon. Running north-south through a steeply dipping monocline, Pine Creek forms the area known as "The Box." Death Hollow Creek, east of The Box, has carved its way through a gently dipping monocline. Raging waters often flood these canyon narrows after a rain. Pinion and juniper cover many of the plateaus above the canyons. Brown and rainbow trout are plentiful in Pine Creek and in portions of Sand Creek. Along the creek banks, you may see mule deer, an occasional cougar, or even elk in winter. The BLM's Phipps-Death Hollow Outstanding Natural Area lies adjacent to the Wilderness. Nine miles of trail run the distance of "The Box", hiking in the remainder of this Wilderness area requires following drainages or undesignated routes.
Zion National Park's world-famous landscape of soaring cliff walls, forested plateaus, and deep, narrow gorges extends well beyond the boundaries of the park onto surrounding BLM and FS lands including the Cottonwood Forest Wilderness. The area is characterized by deep, narrow red rock canyons with intermittent surface water and seasonal flows. There are no designated system trails in the wilderness and travel is limited due to steep terrain. Seeps in the canyon walls provide water for bouquets of maidenhair fern, scarlet monkey flower, and columbine. Hawks, falcons, and eagles nest along the sandstone walls, while deer, and cougar live in the canyon bottoms.
A mountain island surrounded by desert, Pine Valley Mountain Wilderness preserves numerous lush meadows (up to 50 acres in size) and a beautiful forest of Engelmann spruce in the south, and spruce mixed with fir, pine, and large stands of aspen in the north. The Pine Valley Mountains rise through the entire center of the area and provide habitat for chipmunks, marmots, red squirrels, and a large herd of deer in summer. Elevations rise to a high point at 10,365 feet on Signal Peak in the southern portion. On a clear day at this site, you can see Zion National Park across Interstate 15 to the west, and some of Arizona's highest mountains to the south.
Several springs fill numerous perennial creeks. Snow falls October through March, followed by a relatively dry and pleasant period that ends with a season marked by typically violent storms from July through September.
The Summit Trail follows the crest of the Pine Valley Mountains in their north-south ramble for a distance of about 18 miles, and at least eight other trails climb the mountains to join the crest, including the easily accessible Whipple Trail (six miles). The Wilderness, Utah's second largest, lies within a much larger undesignated wild and free recreation area, bringing the total mileage of maintained trails to more than 151.
To Find Out More
In addition to the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, Fish & Wildlife Service, and National Park Service are charged with stewardship of these lands while providing for appropriate human use and enjoyment. To find out more about these special places, we encourage you to visit Wilderness.net, a Web site jointly managed by the University of Montana and the four federal agencies that manage wilderness.