The Cedar Mountain Wilderness Area was officially designated by Congress and the President in January 2006 and is the newest wilderness area to be designated in Utah. It encompasses approximately 100,000 acres of public land 50 miles due west of Salt Lake City, just south of Interstate 80. With the mountainous topography and large size of the new Wilderness Area, there are many opportunities to enjoy solitude, wild landscapes, and primitive recreation. From the Wilderness Area visitors can see spectacular views of the Great Salt Lake Desert, Skull Valley, and the Stansbury Mountains. The more distant Deep Creek Mountains, Bonneville Salt Flats, Pilot Mountains, and the remote Newfoundland Mountains can also be viewed from higher elevations.
The Cedar Mountain Wilderness provides visitors with an excellent example of the Great Basin ecosystem that stretches from the Wasatch Front in Utah to the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. This arid desert mountain range forms the western boundary of Skull Valley and got its name from the area's juniper trees which are sometimes referred to as cedars. Vegetation in the Cedar Mountains transitions rapidly from Great Basin salt desert shrub covered plains at 4,600 feet to sagebrush/juniper woodlands and native bunch grasses at elevations over 6,000 feet. Topography generally consists of flat plains and benches that rise rapidly to higher elevations characterized by rounded slopes and shallow canyons. Maximum elevation is 7700 feet. The wilderness area is long and narrow, running north to south for 32 miles along the length of the Cedar Mountains with a maximum width of only 7 miles. There are natural springs that support both native wildlife, livestock, and wild horses.
For centuries the Native Americans lived in and used the Cedar Mountains for hunting and gathering food. The first white European visitors were most likely trappers exploring the area around the Great Salt Lake. The first documented visit occurred with the John C. Fremont expedition sponsored by the U.S. Government in 1845. Lansford W. Hastings would later identify a portion of his shortcut route on the California emigrant trail across the northern portion of the Cedar Mountains, lending his name to Hastings Pass. This was an crucial part of the route of the ill fated Donner–Reed party and it is an important section of the California National Historic Trail. The last water available to pioneer parties before the 80 mile waterless crossing of the Great Salt Lake basin to Donner Spring is located in the Cedar Mountains.
The Cedar Mountains wild horse herd can be found within portions of the wilderness. There are approximately 250 head of wild horses that frequent the area, mainly in the south. This herd is known for its physically large horses and for their beautiful colors. More info on Wild Horses.
Other wildlife found in the Cedar Mountain Wilderness include golden eagles, bald eagles (seasonally), mule deer, pronghorn antelope, ferruginous hawk, Swainson’s hawk, spotted bat, black tail jack rabbit, desert cottontail, bobcat, mountain lion, badgers, and the Skull Valley pocket gopher.