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 Peak; this 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.
This blog and website is my full-time job and I rely on the support of readers. If you like what you see here, please help me continue producing The Big Outside by making a donation using the Support button at the top of the left sidebar or below. Thank you for your support.
The Big Outside is proud to partner with sponsor Osprey Packs. Please help support my blog by liking and following my sponsors on Facebook and other social media and telling them you appreciate their support for The Big Outside.