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payson hiking – boulders loop trail
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Payson Hiking – Boulders Loop Trail
June, 2011, Page 56
Photo by Mare Czinar
From the looks of the deteriorating Tonto National Forest sign at the trailhead, this route was, at one time, an official Forest Service trail, which, after succumbing to neglect, has recently been absorbed into the Payson Area Trails System. However, even with its new patrons overseeing maintenance, this scenic trail has yet to attract much hiker love. Maybe that’s because erosion has taken a toll on the area, and the road to the trailhead is now blocked off a half-mile from the Forest Service sign. In fact, the old Tonto Boulder/Cypress trailhead is currently teetering on the edge of a gaping gorge and will likely fall away with the next strong monsoon. But fear not, a new trailhead has been relocated a few yards north and (for now) appears to be on stable ground.
As its name implies, this trail is all about boulders. The trek is an open-air art walk among the wind-and-water-worn pink granite sculptures of southeast Payson’s Granite Dells area. In addition, the trail weaves around Stewart Creek and various watersheds that sustain shady forests of ponderosa pine, cypress, juniper and riparian galleries choked with sycamores, alders and cottonwoods.
: 4-mile loop
: 4,550-4,750 feet
: From the intersection of State Route 87 and Highway 260 in Payson, go less than a mile east on the 260 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) and park at the Monument Peak trailhead on the left just before a roadblock. From here, hike down to the roadblock on FR 435 and continue for half a mile (crossing three concrete bridges) to the Boulder Loop trailhead. Look for a sign on the cliff wall on the left. The trail begins on the dirt road heading downhill to the right. Signs and cairns mark the way.
: Payson Area Trails System,
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