The Boulders Loop Trail is a scenic hike on the outskirts of Payson that is part of the larger Payson Area Trails System. The loop is made up of Boulder Loop Trail North and Boulder Loop Trail south which intersect on both ends to form a loop. The Boulders Loop Trail is a multi-use trail open to hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and atvs. Both trails also connects with the Cypress Trail at the west intersection of the north and south trails.
The trail features seasonal Stewart Creek and the Granite Dells. Large granite boulders that give the trail its name adorn the trail along with a mixture of ponderosa pines, juniper, cypress, and occasional willows near the creek. You will need to cross the creek several times to complete the hike. The hike is rated as moderate, but it a relatively easy stroll through forest just below the Granite Dells. The trail is marked by PATS symbols, but it does get ambiguous at times due to side trails, and it does require some accent/decent in places.
The Boulders Loop Trailhead
The Boulders Loop Trailhead is located at the end of Granite Dells Road (FR 435) in Payson, Arizona. When following Granite Dells Road out of Payson, it will transition from asphalt to a dirt road that is maintained by the forest service and accessible for 2 wheel drive vehicles. At the end of the road you will come to a brown, Forest Service Gate. You will need to park along the side of Granite Dells Road without blocking the gate, and walk from this point. You will eventually see the sign for the trailhead. Continue walking down the road to reach seasonal Boulder Creek which you must cross to get to both the North and South Boulder Loops.
The Boulders Loop North Trail
The Boulders Loop North Trail is 1 mile long and follows along Stewart Creek and crosses the creek in several places. The North trail is well established and not rocky making it one of my favorite trails for trail running along with the connecting Cypress Trail. The trail is also shaded in many parts along the way and features some beautiful waterfalls as Stewart Creek winds through the massive boulders at the base of the Granite Dells.
The Boulders Loop South Trail
The Boulders Loop South Trail connects to the Boulders Loop North trail and loops about 2 miles through the forest at the base of the Granite Dells. The trail also connects to the Cypress Trail where it meets the North Trail at a junction of the three trails at the west end of the Boulders Trail Loop. The Boulders South Trail traverses hills and washes as it loops south through the scenic wilderness just below the Granite Dell Mountains. This South Trail is marked with PATS markers, but can get confusing at times as there are atv trails that deviate from the main trail. One of these confusing spots is right near the main trailhead just across Stewart Creek wash from Granite Dells Road.
The Cypress Trail
Where the North Trail and South Trail meet at the west end of the loop away from the Boulders Loop Trailhead, the Cypress trail connects to the loop at a signed junction. The Cypress Trail is a 2 mile trail which has trailheads on both Phoenix Street and Granite Dells Road (FR 435). The Phoenix Street trailhead is shorter hike from the Boulders Loop Trail than the the Granite Dells Road Trailhead, and along the Cypress Trail you will come to an intersection that gives you the choice. The Cypress trail is well marked and features tall ponderosa pines which provide plenty of shade. There are many granite boulders and Stewart Creek along the trail.
The Payson Area Trails System (PATS)
The Payson Area Trails System (PATS) is the beginnings of a world-class trail system established by the Town of Payson to offer enhanced recreational opportunities for Rim Country residents and visitors. It utilizes detached pathways, existing sidewalks, and bike lanes in Payson to form an interior trail network. This trail network mostly follows the perimeter of the town and connects to Forest Service roads and trails in the Tonto National Forest area on Payson’s periphery. The trails are open to hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders. Some trails are open to off-road vehicles. The completion of the entire trail system is still in process.