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Monday, December 14, 2015


Payson Area Trails System
Snow hiking Monument Peak Loop: Dec. 13, 2015

Snow days in Payson are rarer than those in Flagstaff or the White Mountains, but when they do occur, getting to good snow hiking trails is a lot easier than at the higher elevations where deeper accumulations and unplowed forest roads can thwart access and frustrate even the most experienced trekkers. The Payson Area Trails System (PATS) network of routes winds around a through town with easy-to-find trailheads along residential streets so there's usually no need to chain up or kick in the four wheel drive to enjoy a wintery walk.
A good bet for a snow hike is the Monument Peak Loop. Because it runs through a mix of shady pine forests, manzanita scrub and sunny meadows with intermittent streams, you'll get a smorgasbord of deep drifts, gentle dustings, frost-kissed cypress trees and ice capped pools. The trail is well-signed and heavily traveled by locals so chances are the path will have already been packed down by time you arrive. However, it's smart to head out with equipment to keep yourself safe. Hiking poles, layers of technical fabric clothing (ditch the cotton jeans) and boots with good traction are essential. Some hikers insist that a pair of slip on crampons make all the difference. Additionally, keep in mind that snow and ice is most treacherous when it starts to melt. An early start means you'll face colder temperatures, but you'll also have a better chance of avoiding slips and muddy boots. The photos here are from a hike on December 13, 2015 following a storm on the previous day. It was 27 degrees when we started around 9 a.m. and 34 degrees at 10:30 a.m.
LENGTH: 3.3-mile loop
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 4,630' - 4,795'
From the intersection of State Route 87/260 in Payson, go less than a mile east on SR260 to Granite Dells Road (located just past the Safeway center). Turn right and go 3.3 miles on Granite Dells Road (which will turn into Forest Road 435 after 1.3 miles) to the Monument Peak trailhead on the left.
INFO & MAPS: Payson Area Trails System

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