Monroe • One of my favorite things about central Utah is that I don't know it too well, so I can be totally surprised.
When people in Sevier County suggested I visit Monrovian Park, it was described as a nice side trip, pretty and shady. In Monroe, which is built up against dusty, west-facing slopes, I figured any place with tall trees and lush vegetation would be considered a point of interest. I went to the city park expecting to find picnic tables, a little walking path and some hills.
OK, well: Wow. There's quite a bit more to it than that.
The beauty of the Monroe Canyon blew me away. Sheer cliffs shoot directly up from the road. Jagged rock peaks tower overhead and continue for miles southeast of Monroe. The scenery reminds me quite a bit of Logan Canyon. A sign painted on a rock wall and dated Sept. 8, 1888, ominously declares: "Rasmussen fell here." A drawing of a hand points at the ground below.
The park is next to a stream, identified in some maps as Second Lefthand Fork but in other maps as Monroe Creek. It's run by the city and has picnic tables and a bathroom; see this Hike of the Week for directions.
The trail goes southeast from the park into a dramatic canyon and was covered in fresh snow when I visited in March. My daughter and I hiked a little more than a half-mile in, to a scree pile where we couldn't make out the trail anymore under the snow. Maps indicate the trail continues for miles into the Fishlake National Forest, joining ATV trails above — but rangers tell me ATVs cannot take the trail from Monrovian Park.
The park and trail make a lovely side trip for visitors to Fishlake National Forest or to Mystic Hot Springs or Red Hill Hot Springs in Monroe. Lodging is available at the Mystic resort as well as in Richfield. The canyon also is not far from Fremont Indian State Park.
I suspect traffic in the park will pick up when summer arrives, but it was peaceful when I visited. Scarlet backlit leaves of Oregon grape leaves and dogwood branches peeked up through the snow, and buds on the shrubs were waiting to unfurl.
The only human footprints belonged to my daughter and me.
We walked between the cliff faces back to the trailhead, seeing no trace of any other person and feeling as if we had wandered into a different world.
Find a hike from Monrovian Park and much more at www.sltrib.com/Blogs/hiking