The scientific name means "Bilbey and Hall's Cedar (Mountain) shield," with the genus named for the Cedar Mountain Formation and the animal's armored plates and the species named for Sue Ann Bilbey and Evan Hall, discoverers of the type locality.
Cedarpelta is known from remains recovered at the CEM and Price River II quarries (PR-2) in eastern Utah; these sites were originally thought to be within the Ruby Ranch Member of the Cedar Mountain Formation, but are now assigned to the base of the overlying Mussentuchit Member, dating to between 116 and 109 million years old (approximately the Aptian-Albian boundary).
Carpenter et al. (2001) diagnose Cedarpelta by the presence of a rostrocaudally elongate pterygoid with a caudolaterally oriented, trochlear-like process, a premaxilla with six conical teeth, and a straight ischium. The presence of premaxillary teeth is a plesiomorphic character because it is present in other, primitive ornithischians. In contrast, closure of the opening on the side of the skull behind the orbit, the lateral temporal fenestra, is an advanced (apomorphic) character only known in ankylosaurid ankylosaurs.
Two skulls are known, and the skull length for Cedarpelta is estimated to have been roughly 60 centimetres (24 in). Significantly, one of the Cedarpelta skulls was found disarticulated, a first for an ankylosaur skull, allowing paleontologists a unique opportunity to examine the individual bones instead of being limited to an ossified unit.
Carpenter et al. (2001) designated CEUM 12360 as the holotype specimen of Cedarpelta bilbeyhallorum (CEUM is the acronym of the College of Eastern Utah Prehistoric Museum in Price, Utah). CEUM 12360 consists of an articulated, incomplete skull lacking the snout and mandibles. Carpenter et al. (2001) also designated a long list of paratype material, mostly isolated bones that could be referred to Cedarpelta bilbeyhallorum.