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One Photo, One Story: Hiking to the Stunning Monolith Valley in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains

One Photo, One Story: Hiking to the Stunning Monolith Valley in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains

By Michael Lanza

Our day’s primary goal—reaching the 10,470-foot summit of Horstman Peak, which had eluded us on a previous attempt—was already behind us when my friend Chip Roser and I descended south off Horstman to hike across a valley that lies just a few miles as the crow flies from the busiest spot in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains, and yet probably sees no more than a handful of hikers a year. We’d gotten distant views of the Monolith Valley before, but those glimpses hardly did justice to the spectacle of this stunning paradise of water and granite.

We boulder-hopped across a glacier-carved cirque to a rocky promontory overlooking a triad of clear, alpine lakes glistening in the sun at nearly 9,000 feet. An arc of razor-sharp spires and peaks stretched before us, forming an almost impregnable, natural fortress. The only ways in or out of the Monolith Valley are by hiking many hard miles off-trail over Horstman Peak or one of three passes that range from about 9,400 feet to nearly 10,000 feet high, or bushwhacking up a thickly forested tributary of Fishhook Creek, finding your way around and through numerous cliff bands. Not surprisingly, very few hikers have ever heard of the Monolith Valley, let alone seen it—even though, just a few hours after enjoying the view in this photo, Chip and I would finish our nearly 12-hour dayhike in the company of hundreds of tourists at Redfish Lake.

I’ll write about this hike and our climb of Horstman Peak in an upcoming feature story, with many photos and a video. Meanwhile, see all of my stories about Idaho’s Sawtooths at The Big Outside, including my previous One Photo, One Story posts from similar peak-bagging hikes of 9,860-foot McGown Peak and the highest in the Sawtooths, 10,751-foot Thompson Peakthis photo gallery from the Sawtooth Wilderness; this story about Chip and I climbing another prominent Sawtooths peak, Mount Heyburn; my feature stories “Going After Goals: Backpacking in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains” and “Jewels of the Sawtooths: Backpacking to Alice, Hell Roaring, and Imogene Lakes;” and this Ask Me post where I answer a reader’s question: What are the best hikes in Idaho’s Sawtooths? And click here for a menu of all of my stories about hiking at The Big Outside.

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About The Author

Michael Lanza

A former field editor for Backpacker Magazine, Michael Lanza created The Big Outside to share stories and images from his many backpacking, hiking, and other outdoor adventures, as well as expert tips and gear reviews to help readers plan and pull off their own great adventures.

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Welcome to The Big Outside

photo of Michael Lanza

Hi, I'm Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside and former Northwest Editor at Backpacker magazine. Click my photo to learn more about me and my blog. Sign up for my free email newsletter in the blue box above. Click on Subscribe Now! in the main menu (top right) to get full access to all of my stories on America's best backpacking, hiking, and outdoor adventures. And click on Ask Me in the main menu to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

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