Soon to be included in the Payson Area Trail System (PATS), a recently commenced project of the town, the Monument Peak Loop hike encompasses the area between the far south end of the town of Payson and a portion of the north end of Star Valley.
The bald, rocky peak that gives the loop its name lies almost in the center of the loop and it, along with a smaller version across a saddle to its south, are the true centerpieces of this stretch of land that separates the two growing communities.
Well-known and very popular with local residents, the loop offers easy access to the area for hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders alike. Off-road enthusiasts are especially fond of the loop because it affords them an opportunity to travel across a variety of terrain that will test their abilities, whether experienced or novice to the sport.
Off-road use is especially heavy on weekends and during the high season.
There are only minimal obstacles to deal with along its route and the terrain is relatively level as the loop exists at just about the same altitude no matter what part is traversed. The trail is much wider than normally experienced on regular hiking trails, because of the abundance of use by off-road equipment.
Access to the loop is via the Granite Dells Road and there are a number of short routes to the loop from this side. Currently, parking is limited to a few sites (one described below) for cars and other vehicles.
There is no public access from the Star Valley side, as the surrounding property is private.
The loop passes through dense sections, thick with junipers and pines intermixed with scrub brush and other forms of chaparral.
These often open up to patches of meadows dotted with freestanding trees and grassy humps.
Starting on the southwest side, a short section of side trail from the parking area leads off to the east to a junction with the loop itself.
The loop then heads off to the east as it makes its way along the south side of Monument Peak.
For about 3/4 of a mile, the trail parallels the peak as it makes its way towards Star Valley. Along the way, it passes by the remnants of a cattle tank that was once a part of a ranch that existed here in the past.
Eventually, the trail turns almost due south for the next quarter-mile before it reaches a road in an open area just below the ridge that contains Star Valley homes.
From here, the trail turns to the west as it proceeds on a dirt road for about 200 yards, while following a small stream bed. Gradually turning to the southwest, the trail returns back to the heavier-forested part of its route as it makes its way around to the other side of Monument Peak.
For the next 1 1/4 miles, the trail continues along the stream bed, occasionally crossing over it.
This is a semi-dry stream and isn't likely to have much water in it, except during the time of the monsoons. Again, the trail is paralleling the peak as it continues to pass through both open and dense stands of forest.
A visitor will have a better opportunity to view the peak from this side, as this part of the route is closer to it.
At the end of this section, the trail turns abruptly to the south and heads slightly downhill for the next 3/4 of a mile.
This section of the trail lies just east of the Granite Dells Road and parallels it for a distance. It eventually returns to the starting point of the trail and the short section to the parking area.
At this time, there is no designated trail to the top of Monument Peak. To reach it, you will have to bushwhack through forest to reach the saddle.
The best approach is from the Granite Dells Road side, although other routes are available along the loop.
The saddle is relatively easy to reach, if one is familiar with what can be encountered during bushwhacking; however the last third of the distance to the top of Monument Peak can be a different story.
It is steep, covered with a great deal of loose rock, and will often require moments of almost hand-over-foot climbing in order to get there. It is not recommended that a visitor should attempt to climb to the top of the peak unless they have had adequate experience in this kind of activity.
Like most of the Rim Country, there are no water sources available on this hike. It can be a hot one during the summer months and a wet one during the rainy season for those who are not adequately prepared.
Under no circumstances should one attempt to climb to the top of the peak if a thunderstorm is imminent. Lightning is naturally attracted to this exposed piece of property.